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Safest cities in the U.S.

The safest large, midsize and small cities, ranked

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Written by Jon Bortin
Edited by Justin Martino

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    Polls show that Americans’ worries about crime and violence are at the highest levels since 2016. ConsumerAffairs used data from the FBI and U.S. Census Bureau to rank the safest large cities (more than 250,000 people), medium-size cities (100,000 to 250,000) and small cities (50,000 to 100,000) based on crime levels, certain economic indicators and police officers per capita.

    Gilbert, Arizona, about 20 miles southeast of Phoenix, is the safest city with a minimum population of 250,000 in the U.S., joining three other suburbs of the country’s fastest-growing city in the top 10, according to a new study by ConsumerAffairs.

    Here are some of our other main takeaways from the data:

    • Four cities in Arizona — all suburbs of Phoenix — rank in the top 10 safest large cities. They include Gilbert (first), Chandler (third), Scottsdale (seventh) and Mesa (10th).
    • Naperville, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, is the safest midsize city. Texas is the only state with multiple cities in the top 10 safest midsize cities.
    • Tinley Park, Illinois, also a suburb of Chicago, is the safest small city, and it has the highest score of all cities in our rankings. Three other Chicago suburbs — Schaumburg, Arlington Heights and Palatine — are part of the top 10 safest small cities.
    • The top 10 safest small cities all have higher final safety scores than any large or midsize city.
    For our rankings, we scored each city based on crime, economic indicators that have correlations with crime, and the number of police officers per 100,000 people, using data from the FBI and U.S. Census Bureau. The economic indicators include high school graduation rate, unemployment (see definition below) and income inequality. Property crime and violent crime rates together make up 50% of the score, followed by economic indicators (40%) and police officers per 100,000 people (10%).

    Safest large cities in the U.S.

    1. Gilbert, Arizona

    Of the 10 safest large cities in America, only Gilbert ranks in the top five for lowest violent crime (third) and property crime (second) rates. In 2020, there were only 40 robberies and 150 motor vehicle thefts in the city — both the lowest in the country among big cities. The city also ranks in the top 10 for economic indicators, including first in income equality.

    2. Virginia Beach, Virginia

    Virginia Beach has the second-lowest violent crime rate of all large cities, and it ranks in the top 10 for all economic indicators. Violent crime there has been steadily decreasing over the past 50 years, according to the city. Virginia Beach is the largest city in one of the safest states in the U.S.

    3. Chandler, Arizona

    Chandler’s violent crime rate is the sixth-lowest among large cities, and it has the best unemployment score among all the places in the top 10. Chandler is just a few miles southwest of Gilbert, which has the top spot on our list.

    4. Plano, Texas

    Located about 20 miles north of Dallas, Plano has the fourth-lowest violent crime rate among large cities. It also ranks in the top 10 for high school graduation rate.

    5. Madison, Wisconsin

    Madison is the only large Midwestern city to make the top 10 safest list. Wisconsin’s capital ranks in the top 10 for low violent crime rates, high school graduation and low unemployment rates.

    6. Henderson, Nevada

    Henderson, on the southern rim of the Las Vegas Valley, has the seventh-lowest violent crime rate and sixth-lowest property crime rate of big cities in the U.S.

    Four of the top 10 safest large cities are in Greater Phoenix.

    7. Scottsdale, Arizona

    About 96.3% of Scottsdale residents over 18 have graduated high school — the highest rate of any large city in the country. Scottsdale also has the fifth-lowest violent crime rate.

    8. Irvine, California

    Irvine’s violent crime rate in 2020 — 51.2 per 100,000 people — is the lowest of any large city in the U.S. 2020 was the 16th consecutive year Irvine had the lowest per-capita violent crime rate among cities with a population of at least 250,000, according to the city. It's also second in high school graduation rate and ninth in property crime rate.

    9. Jersey City, New Jersey

    Jersey City, across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, is the only Northeastern city in the top 10 safest large cities. It’s also the only city in this list to rank in the top 10 in number of police officers, with 381.7 per 100,000 people, which is seventh in the country among large cities.

    10. Mesa, Arizona

    Mesa is the fourth city in the Valley of the Sun in the top 10 safest large cities. It ranks 15th in both violent crime and property crime rates, and 12th in income inequality.

    Next 10: Raleigh, North Carolina; Chula Vista, California; San Diego, California; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Lexington, Kentucky; San Jose, California; Arlington, Texas; Reno, Nevada; Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio

    Safest large cities, ranked

    map of the safest large cities in the united states
    Property crimes/100,000Violent crimes/100,000Unemployment rate#High school graduation rate^Income inequality (Gini coefficient)*Police officers/100,000Final score
    Gilbert, Arizona1,081.5109.417%95.7%0.383111.35.53
    Virginia Beach, Virginia1,517.898.716.9%93.8%0.431654.71
    Chandler, Arizona1,860.9205.616.1%93.3%0.431120.43.88
    Plano, Texas1,649155.418.2%93.4%0.449130.73.67
    Madison, Wisconsin2,784.5320.516.2%96.1%0.459192.23.05
    Henderson, Nevada1,433.9207.921.6%93%0.455141.12.95
    Scottsdale, Arizona1,888.2178.719.1%96.3%0.504144.12.89
    Irvine, California1,501.351.224.3%96.2%0.47473.42.84
    Jersey City, New Jersey1,500443.319.4%88.6%0.507381.72.27
    Mesa, Arizona1,850.5371.719.7%89.4%0.4381572.21
    #Unemployment rate is the percentage of people ages 20 to 64 who are not in the labor force. ^High school graduation rate is the percentage of people 18 and over who have graduated high school. *Income inequality is measured by the Gini coefficient, which ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 indicating perfect equality (everyone has equal share) and 1 indicating perfect inequality (one person receives all income).

    Safest midsize cities in the U.S.

    1. Naperville, Illinois

    Naperville, a Chicago suburb located about 30 miles west of the Windy City, is the safest midsize city in America by our rankings. It has the lowest property crime rate in the country and the third-lowest violent crime rate.

    2. Carmel, Indiana

    The northern Indianapolis suburb of Carmel finishes just behind Naperville, even though it has the lowest violent crime rate of any midsize city in the country (49.5 per 100,000 people). Carmel also ranks fourth in lowest property crime rate and fourth in high school graduation rate.

    3. Pearland, Texas

    Pearland, a 20-minute drive from downtown Houston, isn't just one of the safest midsize cities in America; it’s also one of the fastest-growing. It has the ninth-lowest violent crime rate and ranks eighth in income inequality.

    4. Cary, North Carolina

    Cary is in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, just a short distance from Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. It has the fourth-lowest violent crime rate of all medium-size cities and the 12th-best high school graduation rate.

    5. Allen, Texas

    The northern Dallas suburb of Allen has the eighth-best violent crime and property crime rates of similar-size cities in the U.S. In 2020, it had the lowest number of motor vehicle thefts (55) of any city in the top 10.

    Three of the safest midsize cities — Pearland, League City and Meridian — are also among the fastest-growing in the U.S.

    6. League City, Texas

    League City, about 25 miles southeast of Houston, ranks 11th in both violent crime rate and income inequality.

    7. Meridian, Idaho

    Meridian is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country — and one of its appeals is safety. The property crime rate is the sixth-lowest of any city with between 100,000 and 250,000 people.

    8. Lee’s Summit, Missouri

    Only one medium-size city in our top 10 had zero murders in 2020, according to FBI data: Lee’s Summit. The Kansas City suburb also has low unemployment and a high rate of high school graduation. It does, however, rank lowest on this list for property crime, with 2,048 property crimes per 100,000 people.

    9. Olathe, Kansas

    Olathe makes for two consecutive Kansas City suburbs on our safest midsize cities list. It doesn’t make the top 25 in violent crime rate (60th) or property crime rate (26th), but in 2020 it had the third-best unemployment score and ranked fifth for low income inequality.

    10. Centennial, Colorado

    Centennial, part of the Denver metropolitan area, ranks 18th in violent crime and sixth in high school graduation rate.

    Next 10: Frisco, Texas; Coral Springs, Florida; Round Rock, Texas; McKinney, Texas; Alexandria, Virginia; Overland Park, Kansas; Sugar Land, Texas; Miramar, Florida; Simi Valley, California; West Jordan, Utah

    Safest midsize cities, ranked

    map of the safest mid-sized cities in the united states
    Property crimes/100,000Violent crimes/100,000Unemployment rate#High school graduation rate^Income inequality (Gini coefficient)*Police officers/100,000Final score
    Naperville, Illinois166.366.416.6%96.4%0.424116.75.93
    Carmel, Indiana587.849.514.6%96.5%0.452124.25.73
    Pearland, Texas1,427.399.116.5%94.9%0.3821385.49
    Cary, North Carolina949.966.516.1%95.8%0.41799.75.45
    Allen, Texas920.49718.3%95.3%0.390133.15.44
    League City, Texas1,350.9114.916.3%95.3%0.3861055.33
    Meridian, Idaho849159.415.1%96.1%0.4181045.33
    Lee’s Summit, Missouri2,048.5128.713%96.5%0.408139.65.32
    Olathe, Kansas1,371.7249.612.6%93.4%0.378129.45.29
    Centennial, Colorado1,775.1128.516%96.5%0.405127.65.04
    #Unemployment rate is the percentage of people ages 20 to 64 who are not in the labor force. ^High school graduation rate is the percentage of people 18 and over who have graduated high school. *Income inequality is measured by the Gini coefficient, which ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 indicating perfect equality (everyone has equal share) and 1 indicating perfect inequality (one person receives all income).

    Safest small cities in the U.S.

    1. Tinley Park, Illinois

    The southwest Chicago suburb of Tinley Park has the highest safety score of any city with at least 50,000 people in the U.S., according to our formula. It ranks fifth in property crime and 18th in violent crime. Tinley Park is one of four Chicago-area communities on the list of safest small cities.

    2. Apex, North Carolina

    Apex is the second community in North Carolina’s Research Triangle to make a safest cities list. It has the sixth-lowest violent crime rate of small cities and ranks in the top 25 in education and unemployment.

    3. Flower Mound, Texas

    Flower Mound, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, has the 11th-lowest violent crime rate and 26th-lowest property crime rate, and it ranks 23rd in income inequality.

    4. Schaumburg, Illinois

    Schaumburg is one of the safest small cities in the U.S. in large part because of its low property crime rate, which is eighth-best among similar-size cities. Its violent crime ranking, at 49th, is relatively low, but the Chicago suburb didn’t record a single murder in 2020.

    5. Royal Oak, Michigan

    Royal Oak, about 14 miles north of Detroit, ranks in the top 30 in property crime, violent crime, high school graduation and employment rates.

    Four Chicago suburbs, including three northwestern suburbs, are on the list of safest small cities.

    6. Arlington Heights, Illinois

    The Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights has the fourth-lowest property crime rate and 12th-lowest violent crime rate of small American cities.

    7. Palatine, Illinois

    Three northwestern Chicago suburbs made the list of the safest small cities in the U.S. Of all three, Palatine has the lowest rate of violent crime (eighth in the country) and property crime (first). However, it ranks far below the other two in high school graduation rate.

    8. Wylie, Texas

    Wylie has the least income inequality of all small American cities, making it the second Dallas-area community on this list. It's also in the top 35 for low property crime, violent crime and unemployment.

    9. O’Fallon, Missouri

    The St. Louis-area city of O’Fallon has higher violent and property crime levels than others in the top 10, but it’s 21st-best in income inequality and 36th-best in unemployment.

    10. Herriman, Utah

    Herriman, about 25 miles south of Salt Lake City, is the only Western city to make this list. It ranks third for low income inequality, 16th in violent crime rate and 21st in high school graduation rate.

    Next 10: Noblesville, Indiana; Parker, Colorado; Mansfield, Texas; Ankeny, Iowa; Bowie, Maryland; Weymouth, Massachusetts; Waltham, Massachusetts; Maple Grove, Minnesota; Bolingbrook, Illinois; Pflugerville, Texas

    Safest small cities, ranked

    map of the safest small cities in the united states
    Property crimes/100,000Violent crimes/100,000Unemployment rate*High school graduation rate^Income inequality (Gini coefficient)*Police officers/100,000Final score
    Tinley Park, Illinois102.468.314.3%95.6%0.404142.66.68
    Apex, North Carolina1,121.648.113.7%96.6%0.382152.46.65
    Flower Mound, Texas682.355.616.1%96.3%0.3764118.76.39
    Schaumburg, Illinois188.4107.215%95.1%0.402148.56.35
    Royal Oak, Michigan675.670.613.8%96.3%0.418131.16.21
    Arlington Heights, Illinois99.157.615.2%96%0.43135.26.2
    Palatine, Illinois41.64913.3%90.7%0.432157.46.03
    Wylie, Texas688.675.314.5%91%0.328117.55.98
    O’Fallon, Missouri1,140.5121.514.6%95.1%0.3741255.97
    Herriman, Utah87965.716.4%96.7%0.33265.75.95
    *Unemployment rate is the percentage of people ages 20 to 64 who are not in the labor force. ^High school graduation rate is the percentage of people 18 and over who have graduated high school. *Income inequality is measured by the Gini coefficient, which ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 indicating perfect equality (everyone has equal share) and 1 indicating perfect inequality (one person receives all income).

    Bottom line

    Whether you’re deciding where to put down roots with a family, weighing job offers in different places or figuring out the best location to retire, safety is a major consideration. Our rankings can help you find cities with low crime rates, as well as economic conditions associated with low crime and strong law enforcement presence. Regardless of where you live, we recommend taking steps to protect yourself, your family and your property, like installing an alarm system and insuring your home and car against theft and vandalism.

    Methodology

    We ranked cities for safety based on three factors, with each assigned a specific weight.

    • Crime (50%), including violent crime (two-thirds of crime score) and property crime (one-third) rates per 100,000 people
    • Economic indicators (40%), including rate of high school graduation among people over 18 (one-third of economic indicators score); unemployment rate (one-third), defined as the percentage of people ages 20 to 64 who are working; and income equality, using the Gini coefficient (one-third)
    • Police officers per 100,000 people (10%)

    We calculated a z-score for each factor using the population-weighted mean and standard deviation. Z-scores were limited to a range of -2 to 2. The final score (using the weights shown above) is scaled to a range of -10 to 10.

    The formula used to calculate the final score:

    0.5 * ((property crime z-score * ⅓) + (violent crime z-score * ⅔)) +
    0.4 * ((rate of high school graduation z-score * ⅓) + (unemployment rate z-score * ⅓) + income inequality z-score * ⅓)) +

    0.1 * (police officers per 100,000 people z-score) =
    Pre-final score * 5 = final score

    For the purposes of this article, we defined big cities as those with populations above 250,000, medium cities as those with 100,000 to 250,000 people and small cities as those with 50,000 to 100,000 people.

    We collected crime data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program using the law enforcement agency’s Crime Data Explorer. Data from all states is from 2020 (the most recent annual release), except for Hawaii, Maryland and Pennsylvania (2019) and Alabama (2018), which did not have completely reported 2020 data. Economic indicators and police officer data come from the U.S. Census Bureau and its American Community Survey (2016 to 2020) five-year data release.

    We chose the three economic indicators based on research showing relationships between each factor and crime. See the sources section for links to these studies.

    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.
    1. FBI, “Crime Data Explorer.” Accessed June 6, 2022.
    2. U.S. Census Bureau, “American Community Survey (ACS).” Accessed June 6, 2022.
    3. Gallup, “Worry About Crime in U.S. at Highest Level Since 2016.” Accessed June 6, 2022.
    4. American Economic Review, “The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports.” Accessed June 6, 2022.
    5. Journal of Law and Economics, “Inequality and Violent Crime.” Accessed June 6, 2022.
    6. Journal of Law and Economics, “Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime.” Accessed June 6, 2022.
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