Safest states in America
Eight of the top 10 are in the Northeast, including the top six
According to polls from Axios/SurveyMonkey and The Economist/YouGov, around 9 in 10 Americans feel very or somewhat safe in the communities where they live. At the same time, Gallup polling shows the gap in perception of growing crime in the U.S. versus crime in one’s own neighborhood has never been wider.
Against that backdrop, the ConsumerAffairs Research Team set out to determine which states are safest. We used recently released data from the FBI and the U.S. Census Bureau to score each state based on violent and property crime rates, the number of law enforcement officers per capita and law enforcement budgets.
Here are some of our key takeaways from the data:
- New Jersey is the safest state, according to our scoring system. It separated itself from other leading states with a significantly higher score for law enforcement officers per capita.
- Eight of the 10 safest states are in the Northeastern region of the U.S. (as defined by the Census Bureau), including the top six states on our list. The list also includes one state from the Midwest and one from the South. No states from the West made the top 10.
- Maine had the best score of all 50 states for violent crime per capita. Massachusetts had the best score for property crime per capita. New Jersey had the best score for law enforcement officers per capita, and Ohio had the highest score for estimated public safety budget per law enforcement employee.
Methodology: For our rankings, we compared each state's violent crime, property crime, number of law enforcement officers and law enforcement spending using data from the FBI and Census Bureau. Each factor was scored according to its relation to the national average and added together for a total score.
The 10 safest states
We ranked the 50 states for safety based on the amount of violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault), property crime (burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson), estimated budget per law enforcement employee and number of law enforcement officers per capita. Here are the top 10, with a further breakdown of each state’s safest large city, safest medium-sized town and safest small town.
1. New Jersey
New Jersey’s distinction as the safest state in the U.S. in our rankings is in large part due to its runaway score in the law enforcement officers per capita category, which is over 100% greater than the national average. In 2020 the state had 38,628 total law enforcement officers, or approximately one for every 230 people. It is fifth best in violent crime and fifth in property crime, but 47th in budget per law enforcement employee.
- Safest small town: Mantoloking
- Safest midsize town: Matawan
- Safest large city: Toms River
2. New Hampshire
New Hampshire is the second-safest state in the U.S. and has the second-best scores for violent crime and property crime. There were just 2,000 violent crimes reported in the state in 2020, or 146.4 per 100,000 people. It ranks 27th in law enforcement employees per capita and 18th in budget per law enforcement employee.
- Safest small town: Jackson
- Safest midsize town: Hollis
- Safest large city: Nashua
3. Rhode Island
Rhode Island has the fifth-highest score for budget per law enforcement employee at $159,528. It also has the seventh-best scores for violent crime and property crime. It ranks 17th in the number of law enforcement officers per capita.
- Safest small town: New Shoreham
- Safest midsize town: Bristol
- Safest large city: Warwick
Maine gets the best score of all states for violent crime per capita, which is the most important factor in our rankings and counts twice as much as each of the other three. There were only 1,466 violent crimes reported in Maine in 2020, or 108.6 for every 100,000 people. Maine also has the fourth-best score for property crimes. It is 44th in law enforcement employees per capita and 27th in budget per law enforcement employee.
- Safest small town: Ogunquit
- Safest midsize town: Kennebunk
- Safest large city: No city with minimum population
Vermont rounds out the top five safest states, scoring the third best for violent crime and sixth best for property crime. In 2020, there were only 14 murders in the state, or 2.2 per 100,000 people — the second-lowest absolute number in the country after New Hampshire (12). It is 38th in law enforcement employees per capita and 17th in budget per employee.
- Safest small town: Winhall
- Safest midsize town: New Canaan
- Safest large city: No city with minimum population
Eight of the 10 safest states are in the Northeastern U.S.
Connecticut ranks fourth in violent crime with 181.6 crimes per 100,000 people. But it gets only the 14th-highest score for property crimes. It is 28th in law enforcement employees per capita and 14th in budget per law enforcement employee.
- Safest small town: Groton Long Point
- Safest midsize town: Middlebury
- Safest large city: Danbury
No state outside the Northeast is safer than Ohio, based on our calculations. It’s only 18th in violent crime and 23rd in property crime, but it has the highest budget per law enforcement employee in the U.S. at nearly $215,000. That’s over $20,000 more than the second-ranking state in the category. Still, Ohio is just 26th in law enforcement officers per capita.
- Safest small town: Hunting Valley
- Safest midsize town: Perrysburg
- Safest large city: Columbus
8. New York
Like New Jersey, New York earns a spot among the safest states because of its ratio of law enforcement employees to residents, which is the third highest in the U.S. at one per every 335 residents. New York also has one of the lowest property crime rates, ranking 10th. It has the 25th-best score for violent crime and is 13th in spending per law enforcement employee.
- Safest small town: East Hampton Village
- Safest midsize town: Town of Mamaroneck
- Safest large city: Yonkers
Virginia is the only state in the South that makes our rankings of the top 10 safest states. It is sixth best for violent crime and 11th best for property crime. It ranks 23rd in law enforcement employees per capita and 29th in spending per employee.
- Safest small town: Cape Charles
- Safest midsize town: Purcellville
- Safest large city: Virginia Beach
Massachusetts had the lowest rate of property crime in the U.S. in 2020 with 1,053.2 crimes per 100,000 people. The state ranks 19th in violent crimes per capita, 12th in law enforcement employees per capita and 22nd in spending per law enforcement employee.
- Safest small town: Aquinnah
- Safest midsize town: Weston
- Safest large city: Newton
Safest states, ranked
|Violent crimes score||Property crimes score||Law enforcement officers per population score||Law enforcement budget per employee score||Total score|
|1. New Jersey||15.1||14.1||21.4||6.0||71.6|
|2. New Hampshire||16.3||14.4||10.4||10.6||68.0|
|3. Rhode Island||14.2||13.6||11.3||13.0||66.3|
|8. New York||10.9||12.8||16.0||11.1||61.7|
|24. West Virginia||11.1||12.9||9.6||7.6||52.2|
|27. North Dakota||11.7||9.2||11.3||7.3||51.3|
|36. North Carolina||9.5||8.6||10.9||8.3||46.7|
|45. South Dakota||7.4||10.0||9.8||5.9||40.6|
|46. South Carolina||6.7||6.1||11.1||7.1||37.6|
The ConsumerAffairs Research Team used 2020 data from the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer and 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances to determine the safest states and cities in the country. We ranked states and cities for safety based on a formula including four factors:
- Violent crime per capita
- Property crime per capita
- Number of law enforcement officers per capita
- Estimated public safety budget per law enforcement employee
Each factor was weighed against the national average and assigned a score from 0 to 20, with a score of 10 if the factor was equal to the national average, 0 if it was 100% worse and 20 if it was 100% better. The violent crime score was given twice as much weight as other factors. Each of the four scores was then added together for a total score. Thus, a perfectly average state or city was assigned a score of 50.
In ranking the safety of cities, the research team divided them into three categories based on population: large urban and suburban areas with populations of 80,000 or greater, medium and small towns with populations between 8,000 and 80,000 and rural towns with populations less than 8,000. New Mexico was excluded from state rankings because of a lack of data. Washington, D.C., was not included in the state rankings.
- Article Sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page.
- FBI, “Crime Data Explorer.” Accessed Oct. 17, 2021.
- U.S. Census Bureau, “Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances.” Accessed Oct. 17, 2021.
- SurveyMonkey, “Axios|SurveyMonkey poll: Black Lives Matter update.” Accessed Oct. 17, 2021.
- YouGov, “Most Americans feel safe in their own community, big cities still scare many.” Accessed Oct. 17, 2021.
- Gallup, “Perceptions of Increased U.S. Crime at Highest Since 1993.” Accessed Oct. 17, 2021.
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