PEABODY — Longing for peace? If so, you've come to the right place.
The Institute for Economics and Peace, a nonprofit group based in Australia, has named Peabody the fifth most peaceful metropolitan area in the United States. The Peabody heading refers to a geographical region designated by the U.S. Census Bureau that includes Danvers, Salem, Marblehead, Swampscott, Nahant and even Lynn.
Nevertheless, it's Peabody that is being listed across the country, including in the national newspaper USA Today, as the fifth most peaceful spot on the American map.
The annual listing, called the United States Peace Index, is made on the basis of five indicators: number of homicides, number of violent crimes, incarceration rate, number of police employees and availability of small arms. Those numbers come from statistics recently released by the U.S. government and covering 2010.
For comparison, the most peaceful area on the list is Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, followed by the Edison, N.J.; Seattle; and Minneapolis regions. At the bottom is greater Detroit.
Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt was quick to give credit to the peacekeepers.
"We are very fortunate to have outstanding police officers both in Peabody and surrounding towns," he said.
He added that he was proud to get the recognition, particularly for his city.
"It really is peaceful here," said RoseMary O'Connor, a member of the Mack Park Neighborhood Association in Salem, a city whose very name means peace. There is crime, but O'Connor noted, "We have a very responsive Police Department."
"The North Shore is a very peaceful place to live," said the Rev. Thea Keith-Lucas of the Cavalry Episcopal Church in Danvers.
She's in a unique place to judge the area, working here but commuting from Lexington. She said there's no neighborhood she's hesitant to visit.
More than that, this is a community where neighbors are eager to help each other out, she said. "I've been impressed."
"I'm not surprised," Peabody City Councilor Mike Garabedian said about seeing his city rated so highly. "I think there are very few issues (of serious crime) in the city of Peabody. Other than the one a few months ago."
Police suspect that two cousins, Richard Duran and Jonathan Ramos, shot and killed each other on Dec. 18, 2011. No other suspects have been named.
Even so, Garabedian said, former Mayor Michael Bonfanti did well to avoid layoffs in the Police Department during the economic downturn.
"I'm in West Peabody, and I always see one or two cruisers every night. I feel secure in Peabody."
The prime mover behind the Institute for Economics and Peace is Steve Killelea, described by a spokesman as an Australian citizen, peace activist, surfer and Buddhist. Commenting on the December killings in Peabody, Killelea said the incident wasn't included in the ranking, which encompass 2010 figures.
"Any murder is a tragedy," he said. "But if you take the figures and aggregate them over a year, they might not be as significant."
Killelea explains that the ranking is achieved by giving a different weight to each indicator. Crime statistics weigh most heavily. The number of people incarcerated tends to lower the ranking.
Killelea describes the institute as a nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage peace by determining which countries are the most pacific.
Currently at the top of the list is Iceland, with Somalia at the bottom, he said. The United States ranks in the middle, dragged down in part by deaths on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
States are also ranked, with Massachusetts seventh and New England well-represented with Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont topping the list. Coming in last is Louisiana.