Montana may have been named after the Spanish word for "mountain," but the wide-open landscapes to the east earned it the nickname "Big Sky Country." The presence of Yogo sapphires, which can only be found in Montana, generated another nickname: "The Treasure State."
But, as the fourth-largest state in terms of land size and only the 44th-largest in terms of population, perhaps Montana's greatest resource is its space. In fact, a whopping 30% of land in Montana is public land, devoted to nine national parks, seven state forests and 53 state parks. In addition, there are seven reservations devoted to 12 indigenous tribes throughout Montana.
Interestingly, only seven cities in Montana have a population above 10,000. Find out which towns — big or small — made the cut as the safest cities in Montana.
How We Determined the Safest Cities in Montana
We narrowed down the safest cities in each state based on two primary categories. First, we evaluated public safety factors including violent, property and hate crimes in each area to help determine the safest areas to live. We then evaluated financial and socioeconomic factors including household income, average rent and health insurance. In addition, we evaluated each state for natural disaster safety and public health safety. You can find a detailed breakdown of our methodology and links to sources here.
Here are the public safety factors we counted for each city:
*Public safety data is based on a population of 10,000 (for example, a “2” means two incidents for every 10,000 people).
- Property crime – Number of property crimes reported in the city (FBI Crime Report)
- Violent crime – Number of violent crimes reported in the city (FBI Crime Report)
- Aggravated assaults – Number of aggravated assaults reported in the city (FBI Crime Report)
- Hate crime – Number of hate crimes reported in the city (FBI Hate Crime Report)
- Officer-related incidents – Number of officer-involved shootings reported in the city (Gun Violence Archive)
- Mass shootings – Incidents in which four or more people are shot/killed in the city (Gun Violence Archive)
Here are the financial safety factors we counted for each city:
- Annual rent – Annualized median rent
- Unemployment rate – The average rate of unemployed residents in each city
- Cost of living – The average annual rent and household income per city
- Poverty rate – Percentage of families that reported experiencing poverty in the last 12 months
- Uninsured employed – Percentage of employed residents that reported not having health insurance
- Uninsured unemployed – Percentage of unemployed residents that reported not having health insurance
3 Safest Cities in Montana
No. 1 Bozeman
Before any people ever lived in Bozeman, it was a popular stomping ground for dinosaurs, whose fossils are now on display at the Museum of the Rockies, a popular destination within the city. Despite having the highest cost of living compared to the other cities on our list, Bozeman also boasts the lowest poverty rate, lowest percentage of uninsured, unemployed residents and the highest percentage of home internet access. No wonder it‘s often called ”the most livable place.”
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Total Violent Crime Society Crimes Property Crime Hate Crime Officer Incident Mass Shootings 8.10794 (1st) 13.51323 (1st) 183.9879 (1st) 0.207896 (2nd) 0.207896 (2nd) 0 (1st)
Annual Rent Household Income Unemployment Rate Poverty Uninsured Employed Uninsured Unemployed 12192 (1st) 51896 (2nd) 0.038 (2th) 0.055 (3rd) 0.016 (1st) 0.082 (3rd)
No. 2 Missoula
Missoula is home to the University of Montana and has the eclectic vibe that is often associated with a college town. Shopping, dining and outdoor adventures (especially trout fishing) are common pursuits. Compared to those living in Bozeman or Billings, Missoula residents pay the lowest rent but also earn the lowest income. Missoula also experiences the highest unemployment rate, but a relatively high rate of home internet access and insurance coverage places it in second place on our list of the safest cities in Montana.
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Total Violent Crime Society Crimes Property Crime Hate Crime Officer Incident Mass Shootings 14.67026 (2nd) 30.14805 (2nd) 473.8896 (2nd) 0.403769 (3rd) 0.403769 (3rd) 0.538358 (3rd)
Annual Rent Household Income Unemployment Rate Poverty Uninsured Employed Uninsured Unemployed 9756 (3rd) 45010 (3rd) 0.046 (1th) 0.093 (1st) 0.015 (2nd) 0.162 (2nd)
No. 3 Billings
Billings already has quite a bit to brag about, considering Outside Magazine named it the Best Town in America in 2016 thanks to its blend of history, culture and outdoor adventure. You can even walk its brewery district! The largest city on our list, Billings also has the lowest hate crime index, lowest cost of living and lowest unemployment rate, allowing it to add another bragging point to its roster: it‘s one of the safest cities in Montana.
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Total Violent Crime Society Crimes Property Crime Hate Crime Officer Incident Mass Shootings 15.39897 (3rd) 38.76917 (3rd) 477.9115 (3rd) 0.090582 (1st) 0.090582 (1st) 0 (1st)
Annual Rent Household Income Unemployment Rate Poverty Uninsured Employed Uninsured Unemployed 10332 (2nd) 57172 (1st) 0.032 (3st) 0.07 (2nd) 0.013 (3rd) 0.365 (1st)
Montana State Safety
Natural Disaster Safety
A study by Insurance Journal ranked states according to their natural disaster risks, and Montana was ranked 39th. However, this doesn’t mean Montanans won’t experience their fair share of extreme weather. Hail is the most common weather event in the state, followed by thunderstorm winds, strong winds and heavy snow. The most expensive natural disaster to affect Montana was an extensive wildfire that burned for months in the Blackfeet National Forest in 1910.
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America’s Health Rankings’ 2019 data considers Montana to be the 24th-healthiest state in the nation. Montana ranks well for air quality and for low rates of obesity, but a high rate of smoking (18%) and a relatively small number of primary care physicians in the state represent areas of concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also notes that Montana has the highest suicide rate in the nation. The firearm death rate in Montana is also well above the U.S. average.
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Top 3 Safest Cities in Montana