The Cities Where Americans Don’t Feel Safe

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According to polling service Gallup, 72% of Americans surveyed in 2012 said they felt safe walking home at night. This is a slight uptick from 2011, when 71% of respondents said they felt safe.

In some cities, far fewer people felt safe at night. In Stockton, Calif., where Americans felt the least safe, less than half of respondents were comfortable outside of their homes after dark. Based on Gallup’s survey, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 cities where Americans feel the least safe at night.

Click here to see the 10 cities where Americans don’t feel safe

Of the 10 metropolitan statistical areas where the fewest people felt safe walking home at night, eight had crime rates above the national rate of 383.6 per 100,000 as of 2011. Among these cities was Memphis, which had the nation’s worst violent crime rate at just over 980 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Stockton, with more than 820 violent crimes per 100,000 people, and Rockford, at more than 700 crimes per 100,000, also ranked high.

However, not all places where people felt unsafe had particularly high violent crime rates in 2011. For example, while residents reported feeling unsafe in the McAllen, Texas, and Yakima, Wash., metropolitan areas, both had violent crime rates below the national rate of 386 per 100,000 people.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., managing editor of the Gallup poll Jeffrey Jones explained that has to do with perception. Residents’ sense of safety can often be dictated by how well-publicized crime is in their city, instead of simply the incidence of crime. People are less likely to notice falling crime rates than rising ones, as worsening crime is more likely to receive media coverage.

Based on a review of other Gallup surveys, the areas where people feel least safe at night are less likely to be able to afford basic necessities. In eight of the metropolitan areas, more than 20% of the people surveyed through 2012 were unable to buy food at all times within the past 12 months. In many cases, the figure grossly exceeded the nearly 18% national rate. Included in this were the three metropolitan areas with the lowest percentage of people who could always afford food: Mobile, Ala.; McAllen, Texas; and Modesto, Calif.

All these metropolitan areas suffered from high poverty rates as well. Each of the 10 had a poverty rate above the U.S. rate of 15.9%. In Visalia, Calif., and McAllen, 25.7% and 37.7% of the population, respectively, lived below the poverty line. That was among the highest percentages for all metro areas in the nation.

Not surprisingly, in many of these metropolitan areas, residents are also unhappy with where they live. Nationwide, 85.5% of individuals surveyed by Gallup felt satisfied with the area in which they lived. In Rockford, Ill., just 70.2% were satisfied with the area, the lowest percentage in the nation. Immediately following Rockford was Stockton, at just 70.3%.

To determine the 10 metro areas where people felt most unsafe walking alone at night, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures from the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index for 2012. To determine how recorded crime rates actually aligned with citizen’s opinions of these areas, we also used figures published in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2011. Unemployment rates were obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for December 2012 and are seasonally adjusted. All figures covering poverty rates, education and income are from the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey.

These are the 10 cities where people felt most unsafe walking alone at night.