Safest Cities In America 2024: Violent Crime Rate Increases Drive Per Capita Cost of Crime

ByDeb Gordon
Edited byMegan Hull

Updated: December 14, 2023

ByDeb Gordon
Edited byMegan Hull

Updated: December 14, 2023

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

Despite progress overall, crime still impacts America’s communities. Crime and safety are intertwined with prosperity, income and economic opportunity. Crime is costly to individual victims, perpetrators, communities and society at large.

MoneyGeek’s annual analysis looks at the most recent crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to estimate the cost of crime in 302 cities with populations greater than 100,000 across the United States. The analysis pairs reported crime statistics with academic research on the societal costs of different types of crimes to estimate the cost of crime for each city. Using these same methods, MoneyGeek also found the safest small cities in the U.S. in a separate analysis.

Key Findings:
  • The cost of crime per capita in U.S. cities was $2,221 in 2022. Violent crime costs over $2,000 per capita, while property crime costs an average of $198. For context, violent crime accounted for 18.5% of all crime analyzed in this study, while property crime accounted for 81.5%.

  • Thousand Oaks, California, ranks as the safest city in the U.S. ($241 per capita); Birmingham, Alabama, ranks as the most dangerous city, with the highest per capita crime ($11,392).

  • In larger cities (those with populations greater than 300,000), the average cost of crime per capita is $3,325 — 74% more than the average for medium-sized cities ($1,906).

The Safest (and Most Dangerous) Cities in America

MoneyGeek ranked 302 cities with populations over 100,000 people from most to least safe in this analysis. The following summaries show the safest cities overall, the safest large cities and the most dangerous cities from the analysis, along with their total and per capita cost of crime.

Thousand Oaks, California, leads as the safest city in the country, with a crime cost of only $241 per capita. Following closely are Fishers, Indiana, at $296 and Pembroke Pines, Florida, at $322, ranking them in the top three for low crime costs nationwide.

The 15 Safest Cities in America
City
Crime Cost per Capita

1.

Thousand Oaks, CA

$241

2.

Fishers, IN

$296

3.

Pembroke Pines, FL

$322

4.

Pearland, TX

$328

5.

Gilbert, AZ

$356

6.

Irvine, CA

$364

7.

Coral Springs, FL

$375

8.

Naperville, IL

$402

Are Larger Cities Safer or More Dangerous?

In our analysis, 10 out of the 15 most dangerous cities were large cities, while just one larger city (population of 300,000 or more) made the top 10 overall safest list. However, safer urban living can be found in some large cities. A standout is Irvine, California, where the crime cost per capita is $364, ranking as the No. 1 safest large city and the No. 6 safest city overall.

15 Safest Large Cities
City
Crime Cost per Capita

1.

Irvine, CA

$364

2.

Henderson, NV

$673

3.

Virginia Beach, VA

$773

4.

Honolulu, HI

$832

5.

El Paso, TX

$983

6.

San Diego, CA

$1,206

7.

Mesa, AZ

$1,404

8.

San Jose, CA

$1,472

The Most Dangerous Cities in America

At the other end of the list, Birmingham, Alabama, ranks as the city with the highest crime cost per capita in the U.S. at $11,392, coupled with a high violent crime rate of 1,682 per 100,000 residents. New Orleans and St. Louis follow closely, with crime costs of $11,094 and $11,055, respectively.

15 Most Dangerous Cities
City
Crime Cost per Capita

1.

Birmingham, AL

$11,392

2.

New Orleans, LA

$11,094

3.

St. Louis, MO

$11,055

4.

Detroit, MI

$9,281

5.

Memphis, TN

$9,056

6.

Baltimore, MD

$8,160

7.

Little Rock, AR

$7,781

8.

Cleveland, OH

$7,397

Safety and the Cost of Crime

The direct economic costs of crime to individuals and society include victim medical and mental health care needs, damage to and loss of property and police and corrections costs. Aside from the imminent danger of crime, people living in higher crime areas see depressed home values and pay higher prices for crucial needs, including home insurance, renters insurance and auto insurance.

To assess the safest cities, MoneyGeek analyzed crime data, including violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault and property crimes such as home burglary and motor vehicle theft. MoneyGeek calculated each city's cost of crime and ranked the cities based on the cost of crime per capita. Additionally, researchers have quantified how much more violent crimes cost a community than property crimes.

While perceptions of safety are vital, crime statistics do not capture any city or community's whole story.

"Behind all these averages that people like to cite about the crime rates in different communities are individual people and their decisions about how they choose to engage in their community," says Jesse Bruhn, Annenberg assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University who researches education issues and inner-city gang violence. "There's a lot more heterogeneity in these patterns that we just can't measure."

Despite genuine threats, Bruhn says, it may be surprising how safe people can feel in neighborhoods with high crime rates.

Expert Panel: The Impact of Crime on Communities

Though the relationship between crime rates and poverty levels is well established, experts caution against oversimplifying the relationship between socioeconomic indicators and real or perceived safety in communities.

"We live in an unequal society," said Geoffrey T. Dancy, associate professor of political science at Tulane University. "One often overlooked indicator of that inequality is who gets to engage in the politics of safety. Those who are objectively safe often fear crime and act on it in the counterproductive policies they support. Those who are actually victimized by crime and terrorized by gun violence pay the price and are rarely heard."

  1. How do you define safety in a city or community? Are there factors beyond crime rates?
  2. How does the correlation between crime rates and income factor in our assessment of the safety of communities? Should it?
  3. What role do social unrest, protests over structural racism, the Black Lives Matter movement or calls to defund police play into safety perceptions? How about in the actual safety of a city or community?
  4. How does crime impact a community's economic well-being? How about individual wealth?
  5. What programs, strategies or interventions have been shown to reduce crime or improve real or perceived safety in communities?
Tracy L. Tamborra, Ph.D.
Tracy L. Tamborra, Ph.D.Professor at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven
Megan Ranney
Megan RanneyEmergency Physician and Researcher
Geoffrey T. Dancy
Geoffrey T. DancyAssociate Professor of Political Science
Angela P. Christiana
Angela P. ChristianaMassachusetts Chapter Leader, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
Jesse Bruhn
Jesse BruhnAssistant Professor of Economics at Brown University
Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.Owner of CrimeInAmerica.net

Methodology

To rank the safest cities in the United States, MoneyGeek started with standardized crime statistics reported to the FBI from 2022, the latest year of available data. The population of each city was added to the analysis to determine crime rates per 100,000 people, and this information was also accessed via data provided by the FBI and the Census Bureau 1-year American Community Survey.

When cities with more than 100,000 people or more did not have data available in the FBI dataset, MoneyGeek conducted individualized research on standardized crime statistics for each specific city. Please note that 2022 data was limited for cities in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. MoneyGeek omitted any cities that did not report murder and rape.

MoneyGeek’s analysis includes 302 cities.

MoneyGeek relied on research by professors Kathryn McCollister and Michael French of the University of Miami and Hai Fang of the University of Colorado, Denver, to determine the cost of crime to society. MoneyGeek then integrated their findings into the broader dataset to better understand the societal cost of crime within individual cities.

Full Dataset

The data points presented are defined as follows:

  • Crime Cost per Capita: Societal cost of crime per resident.
  • Violent Crime Rate: Composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, per 100,000 residents.
  • Property Crime Rate: Includes burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft offenses per 100,000 residents.
  • Cost of Crime: Economic losses attributed to crime and its cost to society (individuals, community and nationally) in millions.
Rank
City
Crime Cost per Capita
Violent Crime Rate
Property Crime Rate
Total Crime Cost (in millions)

1

Thousand Oaks, CA

$241

58

1,106

$30,087

2

Fishers, IN

$296

78

750

$30,461

3

Pembroke Pines, FL

$322

107

1,509

$54,679

4

Pearland, TX

$328

93

1,709

$41,338

5

Gilbert, AZ

$356

117

1,017

$98,607

About Deb Gordon


Deb Gordon headshot

Deb Gordon is the co-founder and CEO of Umbra Health Advocacy, and author of The Health Care Consumer’s Manifesto (Praeger 2020), a book about shopping for health care based on consumer research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government between 2017 and 2019. Her research and writing have been published in JAMA Network Open, the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics, TheHill, and Managed Care Magazine.

Deb previously held executive roles in health insurance and health care technology services. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow and an Eisenhower Fellow, for which she traveled to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to explore the role of consumers in high-performing health systems. She was a 2011 Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree, and a volunteer in MIT’s Delta V start-up accelerator, the Fierce Healthcare Innovation Awards and in various mentorship programs.


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