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MoneyGeek Analysis:

Safest Cities In America 2023: Violent Crime Rate Increases Drive Per Capita Cost of Crime

Advertising & Editorial DisclosureLast Updated: 1/19/2023
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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 263 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 $1,836 in 2021, up 6%, or $100 per capita since 2020.
  • Naperville, Illinois, retained its No. 1 rank as the safest city overall ($156 per capita); St. Louis, Missouri, also kept its rank as the most dangerous city, with the highest per capita crime ($8,457).
  • Mass shootings represented 4% of the total cost of crime in 2021, but are up 33% compared to 2020. Boulder, Colorado, had the highest societal costs due to mass shootings ($108.6 million).

The Safest (and Most Dangerous) Cities in America

MoneyGeek ranked 263 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 and their total and per capita cost of crime. The full data set including the city's population, cost of crime and crime rates by type of crime are included at the end of this study.

There's an ongoing stereotype that larger cities are more dangerous. Based on our analysis, we found that stereotype to be true: 9 out of the 15 most dangerous cities were large cities, while no larger cities (population of 300,000 or more) made the overall safest list.

The 15 Safest Cities in America

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  • City
    Crime Cost per Capita
  • 1.
    Naperville, IL
    $156
  • 2.
    Sunnyvale, CA
    $156
  • 3.
    West Covina, CA
    $181
  • 4.
    Carmel, IN
    $205
  • 5.
    Glendale, AZ
    $210
  • 6.
    Meridian, ID
    $230
  • 7.
    Provo, UT
    $245
  • 8.
    Joliet, IL
    $247
15 Safest Large Cities

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  • City
    Crime Cost per Capita
  • 1.
    Honolulu, HI
    $528
  • 2.
    Virginia Beach, VA
    $550
  • 3.
    Henderson, NV
    $805
  • 4.
    El Paso, TX
    $837
  • 5.
    New York, NY
    $863
  • 6.
    San Diego, CA
    $963
  • 7.
    Mesa, AZ
    $1,069
  • 8.
    Charlotte, NC
    $1,073
15 Most Dangerous Cities

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  • City
    Crime Cost per Capita
  • 1.
    St. Louis, MO
    $8,457
  • 2.
    Mobile, AL
    $8,014
  • 3.
    Birmingham, AL
    $7,900
  • 4.
    Baltimore, MD
    $7,230
  • 5.
    Memphis, TN
    $7,184
  • 6.
    Detroit, MI
    $6,780
  • 7.
    Cleveland, OH
    $6,491
  • 8.
    New Orleans, LA
    $6,444

Mass Shootings in American Cities Are Getting Worse

Mass shootings are a particular scourge on American life. According to Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as any single incident in which four or more people are shot, there were 648 mass shootings in 2022 and 18 as of January 9, 2023.

Mass shooting events are included in our safest and most dangerous cities rankings. Though they are relatively rare, MoneyGeek did not adjust our rankings for these events. The emotional impact of mass shootings is incalculable, traumatizing families and entire communities. To quantify the economic impact, MoneyGeek calculated the total cost of mass shootings in 2021 to be $8 billion — that’s about 4% of the total cost of crime in the 263 cities analyzed and a 33% increase in costs from 2020 to 2021.

Worst Cities for Mass Shootings in 2021

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  • Location
    Societal Cost
  • 1.
    Boulder, CO
    $108,651,414
  • 2.
    San Jose, CA
    $108,393,140
  • 3.
    Indianapolis, IN
    $98,457,785
  • 4.
    Atlanta, GA
    $86,843,649
  • 5.
    Colorado Springs, CO
    $75,875,198

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?
Jesse Bruhn
Jesse Bruhn

Assistant Professor of Economics at Brown University

Angela P. Christiana
Angela P. Christiana

Massachusetts Chapter Leader, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

Geoffrey T. Dancy
Geoffrey T. Dancy

Associate Professor of Political Science

Megan Ranney
Megan Ranney

Emergency Physician and Researcher

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 2021, 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.

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 2021 data was limited for cities in California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania. MoneyGeek omitted any cities that did not report murder and rape.

MoneyGeek’s analysis includes 263 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. Lastly, MoneyGeek used data provided via Wikipedia on the number and nature of mass shootings in the United States in 2021.

Full Data Set

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 the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson 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
State
Crime Cost per Capita
Violent Crime Rate
Property Crime Rate
Cost of Crime

1

Naperville, IL

IL

$156

42

461

$23,220

2

Sunnyvale, CA

CA

$156

39

286

$23,793

3

West Covina, CA

CA

$181

49

415

$19,417

4

Carmel, IN

IN

$205

48

655

$21,177

5

Glendale, AZ

AZ

$210

62

135

$52,405

About the Author


expert-profile

Deb Gordon is 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 health care 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. She earned a BA in bioethics from Brown University, and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.


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