Safety first, right? Whether you’re thinking about relocating for your career, looking for a good neighborhood in which to buy a home or trying to decide where you want to attend college, safety is always a top consideration. It’s pretty safe to say that no one wants to live in a place where they feel threatened or afraid.
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To find the safest cities in the U.S. SmartAsset took a holistic approach, looking at a number of different metrics. Violent crime was a primary factor in our analysis, but we also looked at other measures of safety, such as motor vehicle accidents, drug use and excessive drinking. We considered the largest 200 cities in the U.S. (Read more about our methodology below.)
Key Findings of the Safest Cities in America
- The Bay Area is a safe area. Three Bay Area cities rank among the top 10 safest, led by Sunnyvale at number one. In general, cities in the Bay Area have low violent crime rates, low rates of drug use and relatively low rates of deadly traffic accidents.
- Texas too. Three of the top 11 safest U.S. cities and five of the top 25 are located in Texas. Places like McAllen and Frisco have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the U.S.
- The Northeast rates poorly. Zero cities in the northeast rank among the nation’s safest. In fact, SmartAsset’s analysis found that the safest city in the Northeast is Yonkers, New York, which ranked just 29th overall.
1. Sunnyvale, California
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale rates as the safest city in America. The violent crime rate in the city is well below average, but that’s not the only reason Sunnyvale is so safe. It is located in Santa Clara County, which is served by the Valley Transit Authority and has a vehicular mortality rate less than a third the national average. It also has one of the lowest rates of drug use of any county in the country.
2. Honolulu, Hawaii
Island living is safe living. Honolulu has a violent crime rate of just 230 per 100,000 residents annually. Residents of the city also stay safe by staying out of their cars. 12% take public transportation to work, while another 11% either walk or ride a bike. Just 56% drive to work alone.
3. Bellevue, Washington
Located across Lake Washington from the city of Seattle, Bellevue has grown rapidly in recent years, adding 14,000 new residents between 2010 and 2014. That equals an annual population growth rate of 2.7%, among the highest in the U.S. over that period.
That kind of growth presents challenges when it comes to maintaining public safety, but Bellevue has largely been unaffected. Of the 200 largest cities in the country, Bellevue’s violent crime rate is 22nd lowest.
4. Cary, North Carolina
The violent crime rate in Cary is the sixth lowest of any major U.S. city, at just 84 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Compare that to Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina, where the violent crime rate is 648 per 100,000 residents.
5. Alexandria, Virginia
Located along the Potomac River just miles from Washington, D.C., Alexandria rates as the fifth safest city in America. While many of the city’s residents work in D.C., just 57% of the city’s residents get to work by driving alone, the 14th lowest rate of any U.S. city.
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Alexandria is part of the Washington Metro system, which makes it easy to commute by train. That is generally a much safer option than driving and indeed Alexandria has the ninth lowest vehicular mortality rate in the country.
6. San Jose, California
Of the three largest cities in the Bay Area, San Jose rates as the safest by a fairly wide margin. Both Oakland and San Francisco have violent crime rates well above the rate in San Jose. Both also have higher rates of drug use. While there are just 7.2 drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 residents annually in the San Jose area, there are more than 20 in San Francisco and more than 10 in the Oakland area.
7. McAllen, Texas
While border towns are often considered dangerous, in the case of McAllen perception does not meet reality. The city is located in the Rio Grande Valley just north of Reynosa, Mexico. It has one of the lowest crime rates of any city in America, with 122 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. In fact, there were just two murders in all of McAllen in 2013.
8. Fremont, California
Fremont is located north of San Jose along the southeastern shore of the San Francisco Bay. It is located in Alameda County, which has one of the lowest rates of vehicular mortality of any county in the U.S. at just 5.88 per 100,000 residents. That is less than a third of the national average.
9. Salem, Oregon
The three most common causes of death in the United States are all health related. While there are numerous reasons people are afflicted by heart disease, cancer or respiratory disease, environmental factors can play a role. In fact, earlier this year researchers in Berkeley found that air pollution in China contributes to 1.6 million deaths per year in that country.
Residents of Salem, on the other hand, breathe some of the cleanest air to be found in any U.S. city. The Oregon capital has the third lowest air pollution of any major U.S. city, according to the EPA air quality index.
10. Frisco, Texas
Frisco is a city of 145,000 residents located about 30 miles north of Dallas. It has the fourth-lowest violent crime rate of any major U.S. city with just 80 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.
Data & Methodology
To determine which U.S. cities are safest for residents, SmartAsset look at data on the largest 200 cities in the country. We considered six metrics in total, reflective of leading causes of death and injury in the U.S.
- Violent crime rate. The number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents.
- Vehicular mortality rate. The number of automobile accident deaths per 100,000 residents.
- Drug poisoning mortality rate. The number of drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 residents. Drug overdoses are the most common cause of drug poisonings.
- Population engaging in excessive drinking. The percentage of the population that consumed more than 4 (women) or 5 (men) drinks of alcohol on a single occasion over a 30-day period.
- Air Quality Index. A measure of particulate matter, ozone and other forms of air pollution calculated by the EPA. Air pollution is a factor for many of the country’s most deadly medical conditions.
- Commuters driving to work alone. The percentage of the workforce that gets to work by driving alone.
After collecting data on these six metrics, we ranked each city according to each metric. We then averaged those rankings. We gave double weight to each city’s violent crime rate, while giving half weight to each city’s drug poisoning mortality rate and excessive drinking rate.
After averaging the overall rankings, we assigned a score that ranged from 0 to 100 based on that ranking. The city with the highest average ranking scored a perfect 100.
Data on violent crime rates comes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program and from local police department and city websites. Data on the vehicular mortality rate, the drug poisoning mortality rate and the population engaging in excessive drinking comes from countyhealthrankings.org. Data on the air quality index comes from the Environmental Protection Agency. Data on the percentage of commuters who drive to work alone comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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