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2022 SmartAsset Study: Safest Cities in America

For the first time in four years, violent crime in the U.S. increased in 2020. A steep rise in murders fueled this overall uptick in violent crime, as homicides surged 22% from a year earlier, according to FBI crime data. Unfortunately, that trend continued in 2022, as major cities recorded an additional 5% increase in homicides, a report from the Council on Criminal Justice found.

The rise in violent crime underscores the importance of finding a safe place to call home. Keeping this in mind, SmartAsset set out to identify and rank the safest cities in America. We examined data from 200 of the largest cities across the following five metrics: violent crime, property crime, vehicular mortality rate, drug poisoning mortality rate and the percentage of the population engaging in excessive drinking. We also discuss of the top 35 safest cities, the ones that are most affordable. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, read the Data & Methodology section below.

For an earlier SmartAsset study on the safest cities in America, read the 2021 version here.

Key Findings

  • Safest cities are concentrated in Texas and California. Frisco, Texas ranks at the top of our study, and eight of the 10 safest cities are located in the Lone Star State and the Golden State. In fact, 80% of the 25 safest cities are in either Texas or California.
  • Four of the 10 safest cities are relatively affordable. On average, housing costs are just 19.16% of the median household income in these four cities. These include Frisco, Texas; McAllen, Texas; Cary, North Carolina and Plano, Texas.
  • Mid-size cities offer the most safety. The 10 cities at the top of our rankings are all mid-size cities with between 140,000 and 286,000 residents. Larger cities did not fare nearly as well. Only one city with a population in excess of 500,000 appears in the top 35: San Jose, California, at No. 12.

Image is a map by SmartAsset titled "Top 10 Safest Cities in the U.S."

Top Five Safest Cities

1. Frisco, TX

With just over 200,000 residents, Frisco is the safest city in America according to our metrics. Located approximately 30 miles north of Dallas, Frisco has the fifth-lowest violent crime rate across our study, with 86 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents. The city also has the sixth-lowest property crime rate (972 crimes per 100,000 residents) and sixth-lowest drug poisoning mortality rate (7.3 deaths per 100,000 residents).

2. McKinney, TX

McKinney, located about 15 miles northeast of Frisco, is home to the fourth-lowest property crime rate in our study, as 936 crimes were reported per 100,000 residents in 2020. This city of just under 200,000 people is also tied for the sixth-lowest drug poisoning mortality rate (7.3 deaths per 100,000 residents) and 18th-lowest for violent crime rate (134 crimes per 100,000 residents).

3. Santa Clarita, CA

With 907 property crimes reported per 100,000 residents, Santa Clarita has the third-lowest property rate in our study. This suburb of Los Angeles also has the 16th-lowest violent crime rate (131 per 100,00 residents) and 20th-lowest drug poisoning mortality rate (10.5 per 100,000 residents) of the 200 cities included in our analysis.

4. Sunnyvale, CA

Sunnyvale, home to more than 150,000 residents, has a drug poisoning mortality rate of 9.4 deaths per 100,000 residents, 13th-lowest for this metric. Meanwhile, 16.9% of the population in this Silicon Valley city engage in excessive drinking, the 18th-lowest across our study.

5. Glendale, CA

Located in Los Angeles County, Glendale is ranked among the five safest cities in America in large part due to the eighth-lowest violent crime rate across our study (103 per 100,000 residents). The city of approximately 200,000 people is also tied for the 20th-lowest drug poisoning mortality rate across our study with 10.5 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Image is a table by SmartAsset titled "Safest Cities in the U.S."

Most Affordable Safe Cities

Of the top 35 safest cities in the U.S., shown above, we determined which ones are most affordable. Specifically, we ranked those 35 cities according to a home affordability metric: median annual housing costs as a percentage of median household income. The top five cities where housing costs make up the lowest percentage of income are discussed below.

1. Cary, NC

While Cary ranks seventh overall for safety, it’s also No. 1 for affordability among the 200 cities we included in our analysis. Median annual housing costs ($17,304) in this suburb of Raleigh are just 16.28% of the median household income ($106,304).

2. Rochester, MN

Located in the southeastern corner of Minnesota, Rochester is the second-most affordable safe city in the U.S. Median annual housing costs in Rochester are just 17.53% of the median household income ($74,527). Meanwhile, this city of about 119,000 people ranks 33rd overall for safety.

3. Laredo, TX

Located on the Texas-Mexico border, Laredo is not only the 13th-safest city in the country, but it ranks third for affordability among the 200 cities in our study. That’s because median annual housing costs are just $11,172 per year or 19.44% of the median household income ($57,468).

4. Frisco, TX

Not only is Frisco the safest city in the U.S., according to our metrics, it’s also among the most affordable. While median annual housing costs in Frisco are $23,328, the median household income is nearly $117,000 per year. As a result housing costs are less than 20% of the median annual household income.

5. Plano, TX

While Plano ranks ninth overall for safety, it’s the fifth-most affordable of the 200 cities in our study. That’s because median annual housing costs ($18,684) are 20.02% of the median annual household income ($93,321).

Data and Methodology

To find the safest cities, SmartAsset compared 200 of the largest U.S. cities across the following metrics:

  • Violent crime rate. The number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Reporting Database.
  • Property crime rate. The number of property crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Reporting Database.
  • Vehicular mortality rate. The number of deaths due to traffic accidents per 100,000 residents. Data comes from countyhealthrankings.org and is for 2021.
  • Drug poisoning mortality rate. The number of drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 residents. Data comes from countyhealthrankings.org and for 2021.
  • Percentage of the population engaging in excessive drinking. The percentage of adults who consumed more than four drinks of alcohol for women or five drinks of alcohol for men on a single occasion over a 30-day period, or who engage in heavy drinking, which is defined as drinking more than one drink per day for women or two drinks a day for men on average. Data comes from countyhealthrankings.org and is for 2021.

The vehicular mortality rate, drug poisoning mortality rate and percentage of the population engaging in excessive drinking are all measured at the county level. Both violent and property crime rates are at the city level.

To find our final rankings, we first ranked each city in each metric. Then, we found the average ranking for every city, giving each metric an equal weight. From there, we ranked the cities based on their average ranking, giving an index score of 100 to the top-ranking city and an index score of 0 to the bottom-ranking city.

Tips for Managing Housing Costs

  • Work with a financial advisor. A financial advisor, especially one who offers financial planning, can help you budget for housing expenses and determine how much you can afford when shopping for a home. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Are you housing cost burdened? Living in a safe community is important but be cognizant of how much of your income is allocated for housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers families cost burdened when they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs. Keeping your housing costs around 25% of your household income can help you meet other needs, including savings goals.
  • Don’t forget to consider property taxes. If you’re shopping for a new home, remember to factor property taxes into your decision. SmartAsset’s property tax calculator can help you estimate the  annual tax bill that will come with buying in your dream neighborhood.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SDI Productions

Patrick Villanova, CEPF® Patrick Villanova is a writer for SmartAsset, covering a variety of personal finance topics, including retirement and investing. Before joining SmartAsset, Patrick worked as an editor at The Jersey Journal. His work has also appeared on NJ.com and in The Star-Ledger. Patrick is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, where he studied English and developed his love of writing. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, trying out new recipes in the kitchen and watching his beloved New York sports teams. A New Jersey native, he currently lives in Jersey City.
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