Special Report

The Safest States in America

7. Idaho
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> Population: 1,634,464
> Total 2014 murders: 32 (9th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.8% (25th highest)

Idaho’s annual violent crime rate of just 212 violent crimes per 100,000 people is the seventh least of any state. Since violent criminals tend to be young, unemployed men, areas with high concentrations of such men often have higher crimes rates. In Idaho, however, just 37.3% of the population consists of males aged 25 to 54, the second lowest share of any state. Similarly, the 4.8% unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. Urban areas in a state can highly influence the overall crime rate. In Idaho, cities are fairly safe. Boise, the state’s largest city, reports a crime rate of 296 violent incidents per 100,000 people, lower than the national rate of 366 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans and exceptionally low compared with other large U.S. cities.

6. Kentucky
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> Population: 4,413,457
> Total 2014 murders: 160 (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 19.1% (5th highest)

Kentucky is one of only three states where the aggravated assault rate is below 100 incidences per 100,000 people. Relatively uncommon assaults contribute to a total violent crime rate of only 212 reported incidents per 100,000 people, one of the lowest in the country. While violent crimes tend be more common in areas with high poverty rates, Kentucky is an exception. Nearly one in five state residents live below the poverty line, one of the highest poverty rates of any state in the country. Additionally, while violent crime rates tend to decline as educational attainment goes up, Kentucky is an exception to this pattern as well. Only 22.2% of Bluegrass State adults have a bachelor’s degree, the fourth lowest college attainment rate of any state.

One factor that may partially account for the low violent crime rate in Kentucky is the state’s relatively safe cities. The violent crime rates in three of Kentucky’s large cities — Lexington, Bowling Green, and Owensboro — are well below the national violent crime rate.

5. Virginia
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> Population: 8,326,289
> Total 2014 murders: 338 (16th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.8% (12th lowest)

Virginia is one of just five states where fewer than 200 violent crimes are reported per 100,000 residents each year. Unlike other safe states, however, Virginia has a relatively large population, which explains why the number of murders reported each year, at 338, is actually greater than in most states. Virginia stands out among the nation’s safest states in another factor contributing to higher crime rates — large cities — as seven of the country’s largest cities are located in the state. And while the violent crime rate in Richmond, Norfolk, Newport News, and Chesapeake far exceeded the U.S. rate, Alexandria and Virginia Beach are two of the safest metro areas in the country and help lower the state’s overall crime rate. Financial stability also helps to lower the incidence of crime as Virginians are relatively wealthy. The typical household earns $64,902 annually, the eighth highest in the nation.

4. New Hampshire
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> Population: 1,326,813
> Total 2014 murders: 12 (2nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 9.2% (the lowest)

Strong economic conditions and low population density largely explain the low violent crime rate in New Hampshire. At 9.2%, the state’s poverty rate is the lowest in the nation. New Hampshire residents are also well educated — an education, as well as the opportunities for higher incomes a degree usually offers, help drive down violence in an area. Of adults in the state, 92.2% have at least a high school diploma, and 35% have at least a bachelor’s degree, each among the highest such rates nationwide. Also, like a number of other states on this list, New Hampshire is relatively rural and is home to relatively few people — although the population is well more than double that of neighboring Vermont, the nation’s safest state.

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