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safest cities

Safety is one of the top concerns for many families when picking a place to live. Besides the more recent public health concern of coronavirus infection rates, many Americans have usually looked for low crime and other low-risk factors in order to determine whether a new neighborhood is safe for them. While the definition of safety can change depending on personal experiences and preferences, SmartAsset analyzed a core set of common safety factors to identify and rank the safest cities in America in our 2021 edition of this study.

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. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data & Methodology section below.

For an earlier SmartAsset study on the safest cities in America, you can read the 2019 version here.

Key Findings

  • Texas and California cities rank well. Four of the top 11 cities in this study are located in the Lone Star State – Frisco, McKinney, Plano and McAllen. And another four in the top 11 are in the Golden State – Sunnyvale, Santa Clarita, Glendale and San Jose.
  • Almost one in five adults engage in excessive drinking. Across the 200 cities in our study, an average of 19.17% of the population drinks excessively. Madison, Wisconsin has the highest percentage of excessive drinkers, at 28.22%. And Macon, Georgia has the lowest percentage of over-drinkers, at 13.02%.

1. Sunnyvale, CA

Located in Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale ranks at the top of our study as the safest city in America. This California city has the 11th-lowest drug poisoning mortality rate (8.3 deaths for every 100,000 residents), the 21st-lowest violent crime rate (167 for every 100,000 residents) and ranks 31st for excessive drinking with 16.73% of the population over-drinking.

2. Frisco, TX

Frisco, Texas has the fourth-lowest violent crime rate of all 200 cities, at 80 violent crimes per every 100,000 residents. The Texan city ties for the fifth-lowest drug poisoning mortality rate, with 7.8 deaths for every 100,000 residents. But excessive drinking is more of an issue in Frisco, with 19.26% of the city’s adult population over-drinking.

3. McKinney, TX

McKinney is in the same county as Frisco and thus has the same county-level data for drug poisoning mortality rate (7.8 deaths for every 100,000 residents) and percentage of adults engaging in excessive drinking (19.26%). This Texan city, however, has a higher violent crime rate (143 for every 100,000 residents) than Frisco, but a lower property crime rate (993 incidents per 100,000 residents).

4. Santa Clarita, CA

North of Los Angeles, Santa Clarita has just 944 property crimes for every 100,000 residents, the fifth-lowest rate in our study. The violent crime rate is also 12th-lowest, with 127 for every 100,000 residents. Santa Clarita ties for the 17th-lowest drug poisoning mortality rate (nine deaths for every 100,000 residents).

5. Plano, TX

Plano, Texas is also in the same county as Frisco and McKinney, and all three Texan cities tie for the 33rd-lowest vehicular mortality rate (6.4 deaths for every 100,000 residents).  Plano also ranks 18th for its violent crime rate – at 148 for every 100,000 residents – and 31st for property crime rate – at 1,683 incidents per 100,000 residents.

6. Glendale, CA

Glendale, California has the eighth-lowest and 29th-lowest violent and property crime rate, respectively. FBI data shows that in 2019 there were 114 violent crimes per 100,000 residents and 1,631 property crimes per 100,00 residents in the city. Glendale also ties at 17th for drug poisoning mortality, with nine deaths for every 100,000 residents.

7. Yonkers, NY

Yonkers is located directly north of New York City and has the fourth-lowest property crime rate in this study, with only 913 for every 100,000 residents. The city has the fifth-lowest vehicular mortality rate, with 4.1 deaths for every 100,000 residents. But Yonkers has a higher drug poisoning mortality rate (15.6 deaths for every 100,000 residents), ranking 94th for this metric.

8. Arlington, VA

Arlington, Virginia – a suburb of Washington, DC – has the second-lowest vehicular mortality rate of all 200 cities with just 2.7 deaths for every 100,000 residents. Arlington also has the 11th-lowest violent crime rate, with 127 incidents for every 100,000 residents. But it has a much higher excessive drinking rate of 22.23%.

9. McAllen, TX

McAllen, Texas is the only top Texan city in our list that is located outside of Collin County. It has the sixth-lowest violent crime rate, with 97 for every 100,000 residents. McAllen has the lowest drug poisoning mortality rate, with only 3.5 drug deaths for every 100,000 residents. But it ranks in the bottom half of this study for vehicular mortality rate, with 10.6 deaths for every 100,000.

10. San Jose, CA (tie)

San Jose is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and has the 11th-lowest drug poisoning mortality rate, with 8.3 deaths for every 100,000 residents. This city ranks 31st for vehicular mortality rate (6.4 deaths per 100,000 residents) and excessive drinking (16.73% of the population is over-drinking).

10. Naperville, IL (tie)

Naperville is a northern suburb of Chicago and has the lowest property crime rate in our study, with only 358 incidents for every 100,000 residents in 2019. This city also has the third-lowest violent crime rate, with 70 incidents for every 100,000 residents. But it finishes in the bottom half for excessive drinking, with 19.85% of its adult population over-drinking.

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 2019 Uniform Crime Reporting Database.
  • Property crime rate. The number of property crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s 2019 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 2020.
  • Drug poisoning mortality rate. The number of drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 residents. Data comes from countyhealthrankings.org and for 2020.
  • 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 2020.

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 city and an index score of 0 to the bottom city.

Tips for Buying a Home

  • Do you want to buy a house in one of the safest cities in America? A financial advisor can help you create a home buying plan to reach your goal. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to find a match, get started now.
  • Know what your mortgage payment will be before you buy. This way, you can budget up front and make sure you have the funds you’ll need.
  • You don’t have to put down permanent roots right away, of course. Use SmartAsset’s calculator to see if you should rent or buy.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Sasiistock

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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