Special Report

The Safest States in America

Violence in the United States has steadily declined for several decades. While the violent crime rate has fallen considerably — from 685 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Americans in 1995 to the current rate of 383 incidents per 100,000 — the national violent crime rate rose 3.0% last year.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates in each state from data collected through the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report Program. 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. These crimes are more common in some states than in others.

Vermont is the safest state in the country with a violent crime rate of 118 incidents per 100,000 state residents.

Click here to see the 10 safest states.

Click here to see the 10 most dangerous states.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Nancy G. La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at public policy research organization Urban Institute, said, “crime clusters not just within major metropolitan areas but even within cities.” For this reason, La Vigne noted, it is very difficult to draw conclusions from statewide trends alone.

Violent crime is considerably more common in urban centers than in rural regions. While it is not always the case, violent crime rates across the 10 states on this list can be largely attributed to either low levels of violence reported in the states’ cities or to the absence of major cities in these states. Of the dozens of cities tracked by the FBI in the nation’s 10 safest states, only a handful report crime rates higher than the national rate. Cities such as Provo and West Jordan, Utah; Stamford, Connecticut; Boise City, Idaho; Lexington, Kentucky; and Fargo, North Dakota all report below average violent crime rates.

On the other hand, some states on this list remained among the nation’s safest despite containing cities with staggeringly high violent crime rates. Manchester, New Hampshire; Bridgeport and Hartford Connecticut, as well as Salt Lake City, Utah, for example, all have violent crime rates well over 600 incidents per 100,000 people.

Economic prosperity and the presence of job opportunities in communities can lower the likelihood of crime at the local level, and the states with the lowest violent crime rates tend to also have better economic and social conditions than more violent states. The poverty rate is lower than the national rate of 14.7% in eight of the 10 states with the lowest violent crime rates. The annual unemployment rate is lower than the national 2015 rate of 5.3% in eight of these 10 states.

Explaining these economic factors as just some of the many drivers of crime, La Vigne said, “People who engage in criminal behavior often may do so because of an absence of opportunity.”

The violent crime rate, while relatively low, decreased in only three of nation’s safest states. The violent crime rate in four of the 10 states increased slower than the nationwide uptick of 3.0% between 2014 and 2015. In the remaining three states — Vermont, Wyoming, and Utah — violent crime rates actually increased considerably faster than across the nation.

To identify the 10 safest states, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of violent crimes reported per 100,000 people (the violent crime rate) in each state from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report. The total number and rates of murder, nonnegligent 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 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 2015 American Community Survey.

These are the safest states in America.

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