Safest states in America
Eight of the top 10 are in the Northeast, and none are in the West
Americans say crime levels near home are getting more dangerous. Gallup reported in October that 56% of U.S. adults thought crime was worse in their local area than a year ago — the highest number in 50 years. A Politico-Morning Consult poll released the same month found over half of U.S. residents (54%) view violent crime as a major problem in their state, and about the same number (56%) said they thought violent crime was increasing. And if Americans think crime is bad on the local level, they think it’s even worse nationally: 78% told Gallup they believe there was more crime nationwide than a year ago.
ConsumerAffairs analyzed crime and law enforcement data from the FBI to determine which states are safest. Our team used this data to give each state a score based on violent crimes, property crimes and law enforcement presence.
Here are some of our key takeaways from the data:
- New Jersey is the safest state, according to our scoring system. It has the lowest number of rapes per capita of any state (20% of the score) and the largest law enforcement presence (10% of the score).
- The top seven safest states are in the Northeast, and 8 of 10 are in the region. One Western state and one Southern state made the top 10. Idaho (eighth), Virginia (10th) and Wisconsin (12th) are the safest states in the West, South and Midwest, respectively.
- Maine had the lowest violent crime rate per capita, and Massachusetts had the lowest property crime rate.
Methodology: Using data from the FBI, we examined rates of individual violent crimes and property crimes and the number of law enforcement officers in each state. Each state received a score for each factor based on the number of standard deviations from the mean, and each score was weighted, with the violent crimes of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter and rape assigned the highest percentage. Weighted scores were added together for a final score.
The 10 safest states
We ranked the 10 safest states based on their per capita rates of four types of violent crime (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault), per capita rates of three types of nonviolent crime (burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft) and the number of law enforcement officers per capita.
1. New Jersey
New Jersey is the safest state in the U.S., according to our results. Data from the crime reporting period we studied showed that the state has the lowest number of rapes per 100,000 people (14.4) and the fourth-lowest number of aggravated assaults. It ranks third in lowest number of burglaries per capita, third in larceny-theft and sixth in motor vehicle theft.
Where it really stands out, though, is in the number of law enforcement officers (452 per 100,000). It gets the top spot despite ranking 15th overall in murder and nonnegligent manslaughter (3.7 per 100,000).
2. New Hampshire
New Hampshire recorded the lowest murder rate in the U.S. during 2020, at less than 1 per 100,000 people. It was also second in lowest rates of aggravated assaults, and sixth-lowest in robberies. In the property crimes categories, New Hampshire had the lowest number of burglaries per capita, the third-lowest motor vehicle thefts and the fourth-lowest larceny-thefts. Still, it ranks in the middle for rape (25th) and law enforcement officers (28th).
Maine has the lowest violent crime rate of any state: It ranks second-lowest in murder, 19th in rape, first in aggravated assault and fourth in robbery. It also is in the top 10 in each of the three property crimes. But it’s also 45th in number of law enforcement officers.
Massachusetts is fifth in lowest rate of murder and rape, but it’s closer to the middle in the other two violent crimes. It does have the lowest property crime rate of any of the 50 states, though, with the lowest number of larceny-thefts (804 per 100,000), and the fifth-lowest number of burglaries and motor vehicle thefts. Massachusetts is also 12th in officers per capita.
Vermont is in the top five in three violent crime categories: It has the third-lowest murder rate, the second-fewest robberies and fourth-fewest aggravated assaults. (The state is 13th in lowest rapes.) Property crimes in Vermont take place at the sixth-lowest rate in the country. Its motor vehicle thefts are by far the lowest of any state, at 42.4 per 100,000.
Eight of the 10 safest states are in the Northeastern U.S.
Connecticut has the lowest number of rapes per 100,000 people of any state (16.7). It’s also second in fewest aggravated assaults (85.3). In property crime rate, it ranks 14th overall and has the ninth-lowest burglary rate.
7. Rhode Island
Rhode Island ranks eighth for fewest murders and aggravated assaults, but it falls outside the 20 states with the lowest number of rapes per capita. It ranks in the top 10 for fewest burglaries and larceny-thefts. Rhode Island’s 237 law enforcement officers per 100,000 people is the 17th-highest in the U.S.
Idaho is the first state outside the Northeastern U.S. to show up on our list of the safest states. Only New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont have lower murder rates, but Idaho is all the way down at 34th for fewest rapes. Idaho has the lowest robbery rate of any state (9.5 per 100,000) and is second-lowest in larceny-thefts and fourth-lowest in motor vehicle thefts. It’s dragged down a bit by a relatively sparse law enforcement presence (48th, 165 officers per 100,000).
9. New York
New York is 18th in murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate (4.2 per 100,000), but it has the seventh-lowest number of rapes and is 10th in fewest property crimes overall, including seventh in burglaries and sixth in motor vehicle thefts. Its 339 law enforcement officers per 100,000 people is third-highest in the country.
Virginia has the fourth-lowest number of rapes per 100,000 people. It’s sixth in fewest aggravated assaults and 13th in robberies, but it’s all the way down at 27th in murders. The only state from the South in our top 10 has the second-lowest rate of burglaries and ninth-lowest rate of vehicle thefts. It’s 24th in law enforcement officers per capita.
Safest states, ranked
|State||Murder score||Rape score||Robbery score||Aggravated assault score||Burglary score||Larceny-theft score||Motor vehicle theft score||Officers per 100k score||Final score|
|1. New Jersey||-1.15||-2.02||-0.96||-1.64||-1.55||-1.71||-1.18||-3.71||-1.71|
|2. New Hampshire||-2.29||0.11||-2.11||-2.11||-1.95||-1.64||-1.54||0.36||-1.33|
|7. Rhode Island||-1.43||0.01||-1.66||-1.32||-1.36||-1.58||-0.93||0.04||-0.97|
|9. New York||-0.94||-0.85||0.69||-0.42||-1.37||-0.86||-1.31||-1.72||-0.86|
|14. West Virginia||0.04||0.69||-2.10||0.03||-0.38||-1.36||-1.07||0.63||-0.28|
|23. North Dakota||-0.94||1.12||-2.14||-0.28||0.95||0.14||0.23||0.01||-0.07|
|31. North Carolina||0.62||-0.91||-0.17||0.39||1.45||0.57||-0.47||0.18||0.14|
|38. South Dakota||-0.82||2.42||-1.70||1.31||0.24||-0.13||0.13||0.57||0.36|
|43. South Carolina||1.64||0.14||-0.54||1.54||1.23||2.05||0.33||0.10||0.83|
|48. New Mexico||0.53||1.44||1.02||3.66||3.09||1.27||1.66||0.22||1.49|
Crime is present everywhere — whether you live in New Jersey (first on our list of safest states), Alaska (last) or anywhere in between. There are steps you can take to minimize your chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime or property crime, like installing a home security system. It’s also important to carry and regularly review your homeowners insurance (or renters insurance) and auto insurance.
If you’re considering moving to a new state and want to find out more about crime statistics and trends in a state or town, check online reports published by the FBI, your state and your municipality.
The ConsumerAffairs Research Team used 2020 data from the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer to determine the safest states in the country. We ranked states based on eight total factors, including four violent crime factors and three property crime factors:
- Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter per capita
- Rape per capita
- Robbery per capita
- Aggravated assault per capita
- Burglary per capita
- Larceny-theft per capita
- Motor vehicle theft per capita
- Law enforcement officers per capita
We calculated a score for each factor based on the number of standard deviations from the national mean, with a more negative score associated with greater safety. We then multiplied each score by weighting as follows: murder, 20%; rape, 20%; robbery, 10%; aggravated assault, 10%; burglary, 10%; larceny-theft, 10%; motor vehicle theft, 10%; law enforcement officers, 10%. The resulting weighted scores were added together for a final score.
- 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. Specific sources for this article include:
- FBI, “Crime Data Explorer.” Accessed Dec. 16, 2022.
- Gallup, “Record-High 56% in U.S. Perceive Local Crime Has Increased.” Accessed Dec. 16, 2022.
- Morning Consult and Politico, “National Tracking Poll.” Accessed Dec. 16, 2022.
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