The Top 10 Safest College Towns in the US

Safety Team
Updated Mar 4, 2021
9 min read

A national study conducted by the research team determined that these 10 areas are the safest colleges and college towns in the US. 


This study is partially the product of a statistical analysis of the FBI’s 2019 report on crime in the United States and a combination of this crime data with campus crime statistics, plus community safety practices. We determined that the following ten towns pair the ideal college experience with the highest standards of safety.

Durham, New Hampshire

The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is a public university in the University System of New Hampshire. The main campus is in Durham.

There may be no better college town/safety combination in the country than that offered by the University of New Hampshire. It’s the perfect college town sporting distinguished buildings, wooded pathways, quaint main street and with an overall crime rate of just 2.85 per one thousand residents. Its violent crime rate of 0.35 per one thousand residents makes it not just one of the safest college towns, but one of the safest places to live in the entire country. 

Even the students, who commit a very low proportion of serious crimes, seem to appreciate the idyllic life on Great Bay. Take a hike in the breathtaking White Mountains, or peruse Portsmouth’s trendy art scene knowing that you’ll end the day in the safest of harbors.

Moraga, California

Playground area at Moraga Commons Park, Moraga, California, June 13, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

It’s difficult to believe that this pastoral gem of a town can exist only a half-hour’s drive from downtown San Francisco. Moraga is home to Saint Mary’s College, a small Catholic school of almost 4,000 students, that fits well within a town of only 18,000 residents. The town enjoys virtually no instances of violent crime in most categories. And its low overall crime rate of 8.2 per thousand residents is quite an accomplishment for the small but dedicated police force that maintains an active presence within the community.  

Saint Mary’s assists their efforts through measures like the “Green Dot” program, which stresses each individual’s responsibility to eradicate violence. The result is a community in the green hills above the bay, that feels more like a retreat.

West Lafayette, Indiana

Purdue University campus in the fall, West Lafayette, Indiana

This urbane home of Purdue University, resting almost halfway between Chicago and Indianapolis, has long been considered the safest place to live in Indiana. West Lafayette continues to live up to its reputation, with an impressive overall crime rate of 7.9 per one thousand residents, and only 0.65 violent crimes per thousand. 

The city’s dense population allows for a highly visible police force that helps deter crime. Also, a focus on complementary programs, like animal control and parking patrol, fosters a strong sense of public responsibility. This attitude allows residents to tackle the town’s impressive network of oak-abundant bike trails with complete peace of mind.

Pullman, Washington

Unique view of WSU from arove in the spring time

To the weary traveler on the rolling, remote hills of the Palouse in Eastern Washington, Pullman stands as a beacon of civilization. It makes sense, then, that the town—home of Washington State University—would also be a pillar of safety. It checks all the security boxes, with a seriously low crime rate of 9.1 incidents per thousand residents, and only seven on-campus arrests last year. 

Pullman is also working diligently to mitigate the COVID-19 risk as students return to campus. Limits on gatherings, and especially stringent social distancing guidelines help protect the diverse array of people drawn to Washington State. Basically, while the Cascades to the west will save you from the weather, Pullman will protect you from everything else.

Wheaton, Illinois

Wheaton College in suburban Chicago on October 11, 2017. Five players from Wheaton are accused of abusing and beating a fellow teammate, leaving the freshman seriously injured. Wheaton in September changed the players' team status to "inactive," after various criminal charges were filed by authorities. / AFP PHOTO / Nova SAFO / TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Nova SAFO, "Made to drink tobacco spit; hazing pervasive at US colleges" (Photo credit should read NOVA SAFO/AFP via Getty Images)

Wheaton is yet another comfortable hideaway tucked into the suburbs of a brand-name city. Despite its proximity to downtown Chicago, however, the 50,000-person town gives the distinct impression of community. This is partially thanks to Wheaton College, a small but highly-rated Christian institution where students laze on expansive lawns between stately buildings. They can do so safely, of course, thanks to a school that commits to the holistic health of the student, and a city that does the same for its residents. 

For a town this size, a 0.82 per thousand violent crime rate is impressive. This is due, in part, to a city government that goes above-and-beyond for the safety and convenience of its residents. The town will even arrange to watch your home while you’re on vacation, and has a dedicated platform to report coyote sightings. This is the kind of attention to detail that keeps crime statistics trending in the right direction.

Elon, North Carolina

UNITED STATES - MAY 21 - Political Commentator David Gergen speaks out against North Carolina House Bill 2, while giving the commencement address at Elon University, in Elon, N.C., Saturday, May 21, 2016. House Bill 2, also known as the Bathroom Bill, which requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate, has received the attention of national media and the White House. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Even the most anxious visitors to Elon, a small liberal arts school in central North Carolina, find themselves disarmed by the campus’s long, shady pathways between stately red-brick buildings. Fortunately, it’s not a false sense of security. The town adopted a problem-solving approach to prevent crime by addressing the underlying issues that cause it. Sound like a difficult task? Elon’s crime rate of 7.36 per thousand residents (with just 0.65 violent crimes per thousand), suggests that they are up to the challenge. 

Perhaps this is why the small town is home to one of the largest retirement facilities in the state, as well. These features suggest that Elon will remain a quaint haven on I-85’s Carolina corridor for years to come.

Portland, Maine

PORTLAND, ME - OCTOBER 13: Steve Potts of North Yarmouth walks on Exchange Street in the rain on Tuesday.(Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

More than just an idyllic New England escape, this town on the sea is home to the University of Southern Maine, with Bowdoin College just a short drive up the coast. It’s violent crime rate of only 1.2 per thousand residents is especially impressive considering the city’s metro population of over 500,000 people. One reason for this is a robust and well-supported police force. The force’s emphasis on community connections and mental health needs has gained national recognition. 

This empathetic approach to policing extends to the University’s Department of Public Safety, where efforts to anticipate student needs have helped keep on-campus crime relatively low. This sense of safety enables vacationers, students, and permanent residents to fully enjoy this astonishing coastal town.

Provo, Utah

PROVO, UT- MARCH 1: Students walk across the campus of Brigham Young University on March 1, 2012 in Provo, Utah. BYU is the alma mater of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

This is another large metro area, with a population over 600,000, that manages to keep crime at bay. Provo is home to Brigham Young University’s main campus, the flagship institution of the Mormon church. This seems to inspire the community to hold itself to a higher standard. BYU students adhere to a strict code of conduct, which helps explain why they commit a relatively low 2.6 crimes per 1000 students. Provo, itself, boasts a violent crime rate of just 1.15 per one thousand residents. 

The town’s police force also favors a community-based style that promotes a non-hostile, but consistent law enforcement presence in the community. Efforts like the Explorer Program, a curriculum designed to expose teens to many different aspects of police work, show how the city goes the extra mile to break down barriers between community and cops. 

Amherst, Massachusetts

PLAINVILLE, AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - 2019/10/19: Student dormitory on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

This particular town-less-travelled-by upholds the legacies of two great American poets: Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, both former long-time residents. Perhaps it’s a respect for this history that inspires a stunningly low crime rate of just 6.87 per thousand residents. Whatever the reason, the artsy, free-thinking western Massachusetts college hamlet is a haven for safety. Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst all call the town of nearly 40,000 home. 

It’s no surprise, then, that the town’s police department favors an intellectual approach to law enforcement that values restorative justice and offers civilian advocates to those who experience domestic or sexual violence. 

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Full color image of the top of the Old Dominion University / Norfolk State University Higher Education Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

If you’re looking for a bigger city college feel (with an especially low violent crime rate of 1.29 per thousand residents), Virginia Beach will likely fit your lifestyle. The Virginia Beach-Norfolk metro area is home to a range of institutions, like Norfolk State University, Regent University, and Virginia Wesleyan, that sprinkle the booming tourist destination with a bit of culture. Besides it’s progressive police practices, the city has implemented innovative crime prevention programs. 

The Community of One program, for instance, unites various institutions within the community to fight against homelessness. This type of big-brained thinking ends up promoting safety for all, and ensures a clear conscience when you’re walking down the beach’s expansive boardwalk.

Photo by Klaus Vedfelt / Gettyimages

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