U.S. Domestic Security Worse Than France, Belgium: Study

  • International Police Science Association issues global ranking
  • Singapore best in world at tackling domestic security concerns

The U.S. is less capable of managing security issues within its borders than 32 other nations, including France and Belgium, according to a new global ranking.

Singapore is the most capable of maintaining domestic security in the world, while Nigeria is least able, according to the inaugural World Internal Security and Police Index. Researchers at the Institute for Economics and Peace scored 127 countries on a scale of 0 to 1, using 16 indicators such as the number of police and internal security officers, the ratio of prisoner to official prison capacity, and public safety perceptions. Higher scores indicate better capacity.

Best PerformingScoreWorst PerformingScore
1Singapore0.898Nigeria0.255
2Finland0.864Democratic Republic of the Congo0.272
3Denmark0.859Kenya0.298
4Austria0.850Uganda0.312
5Germany0.848Pakistan0.349
6Australia0.841Mozambique0.349
7Netherlands0.840Bangladesh0.375
8Norway0.832Cameroon0.376
9Sweden0.830Venezuela0.381
10Switzerland0.825Mexico0.394

Singapore’s top ranking was a result of having one of the world’s highest rate of police and armed-services personnel per 100,000 people, and some of the lowest crime and homicide rates, according to the report. Plus, the city-state has not had a recorded terrorist incident since 1998.

The U.S. scored 0.724, behind Belgium’s 0.793 and France’s 0.777, nations recently targeted by Islamic State for major terror attacks.

One explanation for the poor U.S. showing may be the size of its population, estimated at about 321 million in 2015. Countries with fewer people performed better on the index than larger ones. Germany was the only one in the top 10 that had more than 25 million, according to the report commissioned by the International Police Science Association and the U.A.E.’s Sharjah Police Department. Conversely, Cameroon was the only nation among the bottom 10 which had fewer than 25 million.

Source: Institute for Economics and Peace
Source: Institute for Economics and Peace

Having a high ratio of security resources to citizens doesn’t guarantee a better score. “A certain baseline level of police capacity is necessary to achieve good processes, to be seen as legitimate, and to achieve good internal security outcomes,” but excess capacity beyond this baseline is detrimental, according to the report.

Spending on policing and criminal justice has dramatically increased over the past five decades. For example, the U.S. spent five times more on police and 10 times more on the prison system last year than it did in 1961, while per-capita gross domestic product increased 191 percent in the same period, according to the report.

The surge in spending reflects a shift in the nature of violent conflicts. Since the end of World War II inter-state clashes have become less common while the frequency of intra-state turmoil, such as insurgencies, civil wars, social unrest and crime steadily rose, data cited by the report show. That trend is expected to continue as more refugees flee fighting inside Syria and Iraq and more people continue to die in terrorist attacks, according to the report.

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