Special Report

The Safest States in America

Distant Oil Rig on Bakken Road, Fracking, North Dakota
Source: Thinkstock

10. North Dakota
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 239.4
> Total population: 756,928
> Total 2015 murders: 21.0 (5th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.0% (9th lowest)

While nationwide the violent crime rate rose by 3% in 2015, in North Dakota it declined by a near nation-leading 11.5%. Today, the state is 10th safest in the country. There were 239 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 state residents last year, much lower than the nationwide rate of 383 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans.

The economic benefits from North Dakota’s oil boom seem to have contributed to less violence in the state — but not in all areas. In some parts, violent crime levels have actually risen. For example, crimes such as drug trafficking, homicides, and prostitution have spiked in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in northwestern North Dakota. And although the oil boom has been waning, North Dakota’s annual unemployment rate of 2.7% remains the lowest in the nation.

St. George Temple, Utah
Source: Thinkstock

9. Utah
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 236.0
> Total population: 2,995,919
> Total 2015 murders: 54.0 (11th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.3% (12th lowest)

Violent crime increased in Utah in 2015. Driven by a spike in the aggravated assault rate, which increased by 12.4%, the violent crime rate in the state rose by 7.5% last year — more than double the nationwide increase in the violent crime rate of 3.0%. Unlike most states with low violent crime levels, property crime is relatively common in Utah. At nearly 3,000 incidents per 100,000 people, Utah’s property crime rate is ninth highest of all states. By contrast, the national property crime rate is less than 2,500 per 100,000 people. Still, violence is not especially common in Utah and the state is one of the safest in the country. With above average incomes and one of the nation’s lowest annual unemployment rates, economic prosperity could partially explain why violent crime levels remain relatively low.

As is the case in every state, violence in Utah is by no means evenly distributed. While West Jordan and Provo report violent crime rates well below the national average, Salt Lake City — the state’s largest — reports 855 violent crimes per 100,000 people, one of the higher rates of all cities tracked by the FBI.

Welcome to Wyoming
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8. Wyoming
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 222.1
> Total population: 586,107
> Total 2015 murders: 16.0 (3rd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.1% (10th lowest)

Wyoming, which has one of the lowest crime levels, is one of the few states to report a spike in crime last year. The state’s violent crime rate rose by 13.7% in 2015, the fifth largest jump of all states and several times greater than the national increase of 3.0%. Specifically, the number of aggravated assaults per 100,000 Wyoming residents jumped 16.9%, third largest in the nation. Still, the state’s aggravated assault rate, at 180 incidents per 100,000 residents is considerably lower than the national rate of 238 incidents per 100,000 people. Just 10 robberies, which are included in the violent crime rate, were reported for every 100,000 Wyoming residents last year, the lowest of all states and one-tenth the national robbery rate.