The Safest Cities in America

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The FBI reported Monday that 1,197,704 violent crimes were committed in 2015, up 3.9% from 2014. While the increase is discouraging, it is by no means a crime wave. Some areas have serious crime problems, but there are a number of U.S. cities where violence is a rare occurrence.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates in major U.S. cities from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report. Violent crime includes all offenses involving force or threat of force and are broken into four categories: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. For every 100,000 U.S. residents, 373 violent crimes were committed in 2015.

Cary, North Carolina is the safest city in the nation with just 51 reported violent crimes per 100,000 city residents. By contrast, St. Louis, Missouri, leads the nation with 1,817 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

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Relatively crime-free cities can be found just a few hundred miles from some of the most violent places in the country. California is home to cities such as Irvine, Murrieta, and Sunnyvale, which have among the 10 lowest violent crime rates of all U.S. major cities. California is also home to some of the most violent cities in the country, including Oakland, which is just 40 miles from Sunnyvale.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at nonprofit economic and social policy research organization the Urban Institute, noted the highly localized nature of violence in the United States. “We see no connection between state policies and where these [crime] trends are up or down,” La Vigne said.

Because many diverse and complex factors can affect violence in a community, it is very difficult to predict and address violent crime. For example, some cities attempt to curb gang violence by increasing enforcement. These efforts, however, are usually unsuccessful, “if you don’t look at issues around structural inequality and reasons why kids may be compelled to join gangs to begin with,” La Vigne explained.

For example, in many cases, the reason for the lack of violence is the presence of more lawful activities, including — La Vigne noted — employment opportunities. The unemployment rate is below the national rate of 5.3% in 20 of the 25 cities with the lowest violent crime rates.

Several other social and economic factors have been tied to low violent crime. The vast majority of cities with the lowest violent crime rates tend to also report very high incomes, low poverty, and high educational attainment.

To identify the 25 safest U.S. cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates in cities with at least 100,000 people from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report released Monday. The total number and rates of murder, non negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, which are included in the violent crime rate, as well as burglaries, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson — all classified as property crime — also came from the FBI’s report. We also considered these data for each year from 2011 through 2015. Annual unemployment rates for 2015 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Median household income, poverty rates, the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, population, and the percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).

These are America’s 25 safest cities.