Small Cities and Towns Are Getting Safer, While Violent Crime in Large Cities Is On the Rise

ByDeb Gordon
Edited byMegan Hull

Updated: March 31, 2024

ByDeb Gordon
Edited byMegan Hull

Updated: March 31, 2024

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Crime takes a toll on communities — not just emotionally but also economically. In addition to direct costs from loss of property, services for victims and policing and corrections, residents of higher-crime locales often pay higher rates on car insurance, homeowners insurance and renters insurance.

Seeking respite in America’s smaller cities and towns has its appeal, but how much safer are small towns in reality? MoneyGeek analyzed crime statistics by quantifying the cost of crime and ranking 1,010 small cities and towns nationwide and in every state. Data on violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault are included, as well as property crimes such as burglaries and car theft. This analysis is conducted annually and follows MoneyGeek’s ranking of the safest cities in America.

Key Findings:
  • The safest town in the U.S. is Monroe Township, located in New Jersey’s Middlesex County, a suburb of New York City.

  • The average cost of crime in small cities was $1,155 per capita in 2022. Violent crime costs over $1,000 per capita, while property crime costs an average of $132. For context, violent crime accounted for 13.9% of all crime analyzed in this study, while property crime accounted for 86.1%.

  • Overall, small cities and towns have 48% lower crime costs than larger cities.

  • Some small towns still bear costs of crime comparable to large cities. Monroe, Louisiana, has a higher crime cost per capita than 297 of 302 large cities analyzed. Similarly, New York City has a crime cost comparable to two Arkansas cities, Springdale and Benton.

7 of the 10 Safest Small Cities Are in the Northeast

More than 50 million Americans live in small cities and towns, but how safe is small-town America? MoneyGeek analyzed crime statistics and quantified the cost of those crimes to identify the safest and least safe small cities and towns — those with 30,000 to 100,000 residents.

Most of America's safest small cities and towns are in the Northeast, with six of the top ten cities in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Cities and towns in Indiana, Ohio, Utah and California round out the rest of the top ten. The least safe towns are distributed primarily across the South, with Monroe, Louisiana, at the top of the list.

15 Safest Small Cities and Towns in America
City
Crime Cost per Capita

1.

Monroe Township, NJ (Middlesex County)

$31

2.

Hillsborough Township, NJ

$40

3.

Zionsville, IN

$51

4.

Wallingford, CT

$55

5.

Shrewsbury, MA

$59

6.

Mason, OH

$65

7.

Lone Peak, UT

$66

8.

Westfield, NJ

$71

Navigating the landscape of America’s small cities and towns reveals a diverse picture of safety. From Alabaster, Alabama, with a crime cost per capita of $245, to Laramie, Wyoming, at $664, these areas represent the safest small locales for residents in each state.

The Safest Town in Each State
City
State
Crime Cost per Capita

Alabaster, AL

Alabama

$245

Juneau, AK

Alaska

$2,164

San Luis, AZ

Arizona

$113

Bella Vista, AR

Arkansas

$509

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

California

$81

Windsor, CO

Colorado

$81

Wallingford, CT

Connecticut

$55

Newark, DE

Delaware

$546

Are Small Cities and Towns Safer Than Big Cities?

Lining up the data for large and small cities, MoneyGeek found that small cities and towns tend to be safer than large cities. In fact, the violent crime rate in large cities was nearly double that of small cities. However, the distribution of crime costs also shows a significant overlap between crime costs in large cities and smaller cities and towns. In that overlap, small and large cities may have the same per capita cost of crime.

The data show many unsafe small cities and towns with crime levels comparable to their big-city counterparts.

For example, the per capita cost of crime in the least safe small and large cities is comparable. In Monroe, Louisiana, the least safe small city, the per capita cost of crime is $8,902. That’s higher than in large cities like Baltimore, Maryland, and Cleveland, Ohio, where the per capita cost of crime is $8,160 and $7,397, respectively. Benton, Arkansas, (pop. 36,282) has a cost of crime per capita of $1,727, comparable to New York City (pop. 8.2 million), which has a crime cost per capita of $1,722.

While the safest places to live tend to be smaller, there is not a perfect correlation between population size and crime levels.

Expert Insights

What makes a city or town safe? MoneyGeek consulted experts from a range of disciplines for their insights on the factors that impact safety in cities big and small and contribute to a community’s real or perceived safety. All views and opinions expressed are those of the contributors.

  1. Why are small cities and towns perceived to be safer than large cities? Are those perceptions accurate?
  2. What programs or strategies do smaller cities and towns use to maintain safety and reduce the cost of crime in their communities?
  3. Why are some smaller cities and towns less safe? Beyond the size of a community, what factors influence safety?
  4. How are changing demographics and trends such as urban flight likely to impact life in smaller cities and towns in the future?
John W. Lipford, J.D.
John W. Lipford, J.D.Affiliate Professor in Grand Valley State University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Program
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
Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.Owner of CrimeInAmerica.net
David Dixon
David DixonVice President Stantec Urban Places Fellow, FAIA
Chelsea Collier
Chelsea CollierFounder of Digi.City
Timothy Scanlan
Timothy ScanlanRetired Deputy Chief of Police in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana

Methodology

To rank the safest small cities and towns in the United States, MoneyGeek started with standardized crime statistics reported to the FBI from 2022, the latest year of available data. To determine crime rates per 100,000 people, population data accessed from the FBI was added to the analysis. For purposes of this analysis, MoneyGeek focused on cities with a population between 30,000 and 100,000 residents and included 1,010 cities in the ranking. Please note that 2022 data was not available for small cities in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. When cities did not have data available in the FBI dataset, MoneyGeek conducted individualized research on standardized crime statistics for each specific city or town.

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. Their findings were integrated into the broader data set 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

Monroe Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey

$31

10

220

$1,471

2

Hillsborough Township, New Jersey

$40

14

301

$1,695

3

Zionsville, Indiana

$51

15

359

$1,655

4

Wallingford, Connecticut

$55

18

637

$2,444

5

Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

$59

10

649

$2,346

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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