Special Report

Cities Where Crime Is Plummeting

7. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
5-year decrease in violent crime rate:
Violent crime per 100,000 (2010): 451.8
Violent crime per 100,000 (2014): 293.4
Total murders (2014): 16

Few cities with improving crime rates are on the West coast, and California actually saw some of the biggest increases in crime in cities like San Luis Obispo. However, Santa Maria, just a 30 minute drive from San Luis Obispo on California’s Southern coast, had a significant reduction in violent crime. While the number of murders, robberies, aggravated assaults and rapes in San Luis Obispo increased from 717 to 1,177 over a five year period, that number fell from 1,841 incidents to 1,294 over that time in Santa Maria. While murders and property crime increased in the metro area, the number of aggravated assaults fell by close to 40%.

6. Bremerton-Silverdale, WA
5-year decrease in violent crime rate:
Violent crime per 100,000 (2010): 422.9
Violent crime per 100,000 (2014): 272.6
Total murders (2014): 7

Violent crime fell by 35.5% in the Bremerton metro area, located across the Puget Sound from Seattle. The Bremerton metro area’s decline in crime has not been even, however, as the number of murders increased from just one in 2010 to seven in 2014. Bremerton is also the only metro area on this list that has also seen an uptick in property crime, from 6,618 incidents to 7,382 over that period. Still, the number aggravated assaults — the most common violent crime — dropped by nearly half. Crime tends to correlate with socioeconomic conditions such as income and poverty. Also, while the relationship is complicated, those who have completed an education are less likely to turn to crime. Just under 95% of the metro area’s adults have at least a high school diploma, one of the highest shares among major metro areas considered.

5. Houma-Thibodaux, LA
5-year decrease in violent crime rate:
Violent crime per 100,000 (2010): 384.6
Violent crime per 100,000 (2014): 242.3
Total murders (2014): 9

Louisiana has one of the worst violent crime rates in the country, but the Houma-Thibodaux metro area’s rate is well below both the state and national rates, particularly after a 37% decline over the past five years. That the metro area — located roughly an hour Southwest of New Orleans — is an outlier is somewhat surprising given several demographic indicators. For example, just 14.6% of area adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, and only 77.3% have a high school diploma, each among the lowest rates in the country. The city’s job market, on the other hand, fits the profile of a city with declining crime. The metro’s unemployment rate of 4.8% is one of the lowest among U.S. metro areas.

4. Lexington-Fayette, KY
5-year decrease in violent crime rate:
Violent crime per 100,000 (2010): 434.2
Violent crime per 100,000 (2014): 260.4
Total murders (2014): 22

Violent crime tends to be more common in areas with greater poverty. Kentucky — which has the fifth highest poverty rate in the country but the sixth lowest violent crime rate — is an exception to this rule, as is Lexington-Fayette. The city’s poverty rate of 18.2% is worse than the majority of metro areas. And yet the region’s violent crime rate fell by 40% over five years to 260.4 crimes per 100,000 residents compared to a national rate of 365.5 per 100,000. The metro area had just 88 aggravated assaults last year per 100,000 citizens compared to a national rate of 232 per 100,000 people.

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