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MoneyGeek Analysis:

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

Advertising & Editorial DisclosureLast Updated: 1/31/2023
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Crime takes a toll on communities — not just emotionally but economically as well. 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? To test the theory that small cities and towns are the safest places in America, MoneyGeek analyzed crime statistics by quantifying the cost of crime and ranking 660 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 followed MoneyGeek’s ranking of the safest cities in America.

Key Findings:
  • The cost of crime in small cities decreased by 5% from 2020 to 2021, while the cost in larger cities (100,000+ residents) increased by 6%.
  • The safest town in the U.S. is Yorktown, New York, a suburb of New York City.
  • Small cities and towns have 42% lower crime costs than larger cities.
  • However, a small city or town can bear the same costs of crime as a large city. Pine Bluff, Arkansas, has a higher crime cost per capita than St. Louis, the large city with the highest cost of crime. Similarly, New York City has a cost of crime comparable to Cedar City, Utah.

7 of the 10 Safest Small Cities Are in the Northeast

More than 50 million Americans live in small cities and towns, but just 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 the safest small cities and towns in America are in the Northeast or Midwest, with three of the top ten cities in New York or New Jersey, three in Massachusetts and one each in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas. The least safe towns are more distributed, with Pine Bluff, Arkansas, at the top of the list.

15 Safest Small Cities and Towns in America

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  • City
    Crime Cost per Capita
  • 1.
    Yorktown Town, NY
    $43
  • 2.
    Mason, OH
    $47
  • 3.
    Andover, MA
    $51
  • 4.
    Southlake, TX
    $64
  • 5.
    Arlington, MA
    $65
  • 6.
    Princeton, NJ
    $65
  • 7.
    Hampden Township, PA
    $69
  • 8.
    Carmel Town, NY
    $74
  • 9.
    Needham, MA
    $77
  • 10.
    Greenwich, CT
    $81
The Safest Town in Each State
City
State
Crime Cost per Capita

Vestavia Hills

Alabama

$158

San Luis

Arizona

$152

Bentonville

Arkansas

$812

La Mesa

California

$778

Erie

Colorado

$139

Are Small Cities and Towns Safer Than Big Cities?

Many people assume that small cities and towns are safer than big cities. MoneyGeek sought to test that assumption.

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 degree of 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 Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the least safe small city, the per capita cost of crime is $9,071, even higher than St. Louis, Missouri — the most dangerous city on our large city list — where the per capita cost of crime is $8,457. Cedar City, Utah (pop. 36,903), has a cost of crime per capita of $867, comparable to New York City (pop. 8.4 million), which has a cost of crime per capita of $863.

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?
Chelsea Collier
Chelsea Collier

Founder of Digi.City

Timothy Scanlan
Timothy Scanlan

Retired Deputy Chief of Police in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana

David Dixon
David Dixon

Vice President Stantec Urban Places Fellow, FAIA

Methodology

To rank the safest small cities and towns in the United States, MoneyGeek started with standardized crime statistics reported to the FBI from 2021, 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 660 cities in the ranking. Please note that 2021 data was not available for small cities in Alaska, Hawaii and Nevada.

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 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
Crime Cost per Capita
Violent Crime Rate
Property Crime Rate
Cost of Crime ($000s)
Population

1

Yorktown Town, NY

$43

8.3

606.1

$1,553

35,970

2

Mason, OH

$47

14.4

510.7

$1,619

34,660

3

Andover, MA

$51

18.8

515.9

$1,888

37,216

4

Southlake, TX

$64

18.2

929.9

$2,110

32,905

5

Arlington, MA

$65

41.5

295.0

$2,963

45,767

About the Author


Deb Gordon headshot

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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