by Tom Berg
Article originally appeared in the Irvine Standard
Irvine is America’s safest city, it turns out, by a lot.
Newly released FBI statistics show that Irvine is America’s safest city of its size for the 14th straight year. And that’s not all. Irvine is twice as safe as the next safest big city – Virginia Beach, Virginia.
That’s a comfort to Irvine families.
“Safety is everything,” says Kristi Blazier, walking through Jeffrey Open Space Trail with her 9-year-old son, Kellan. “It gives us freedom to live the lives we want.”
Blazier, a banking executive who lives in Woodbury Village with her family, says she knew the city was safe, but never realized how safe it was – or for how long.
“I guess it’s so safe here, we take it for granted,” she says.
Safety lifts home values
Safety also translates to property values. Research since the 1970s shows that safe cities maintain higher property values than other cities, which helps explain why Irvine new-home values have tripled Orange County’s overall appreciation rate since 2005.
“One of the benefits of living in a master- planned city is that everything works together – it’s balanced,” Blazier says. “Yes, our parks, schools and shopping centers are beautiful, but they’re also safe. As a mom, there’s nothing more important to me.”
You might not associate planning with safety, but the connection is strong.
“Drive down any street in Irvine and you see a vibrant, clean, well-maintained community,” says former FBI agent Steve Gomez, now chief executive of B2G Global Strategies. “That’s a major deterrent to crime.”
Security experts refer to this as the “broken windows theory.” It’s based on the premise that disorder attracts crime, whereas well-maintained homes, shops and parks attract engaged citizens who prevent crime – due to civic pride.
How does planning fit in?
Master-planned for safety
Irvine was master-planned to create a city that instills civic pride. That includes nationally recognized parks for recreation; nationally recognized schools to educate children, and nationally recognized business centers to employ adults.
The city’s retail properties fund a large portion of the city’s annual budget and help keep the city in balance – in other words, to prevent broken glass.
“One reason Irvine is safe is how well-planned it is,” Police Chief Mike Hamel says.
Another is teamwork.
Irvine continues to be a safe community due to the collaboration among police, city leaders and residents, Hamel says, adding: “These efforts have been critically important to preserving the quality of life we have all come to appreciate.”
Kristi Blazier, banking executive: “Safety is why we moved here. It holds everything together. Our parks, our schools and our shopping centers are all great, and one reason is that we all feel safe in these places.”
Nada Lena, business owner: “I love living in Irvine. It’s a safe environment that allows me to connect with the outdoors. I can walk freely day or night and always feel safe.”
Troy Witt, business owner: “Our kids can walk and bike to school like I did years ago. Walking the beautiful greenbelts to school in the morning is a great way to start the day.
I’m convinced that it enhances our kids’ education as well.”