Safety.com’s Safest Cities reports were created to identify the cities and towns in each state with low crime rates and high financial security ratings. We understand that safety can be evaluated in many different ways, so we used multiple measures for each category to provide a unique view on safety and security. For crime rates, we examined public safety data from three different sources. For financial security ratings, we looked at a number of socioeconomic factors using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition to this city-level data, we also provided safety data on the states themselves. This lets us see how each state ranks for natural disaster risks and public health ratings compared to all other states. Here is a detailed breakdown of the data we used and how each factor contributed to our rankings.
- 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)
Only crimes reported to the FBI were evaluated. But crime data alone doesn’t define a city’s safety. We also evaluated financial safety with data gathered from the 2018 report from the U.S. Census Bureau to measure socioeconomic factors and rates. Data evaluated includes:
- 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 residents – Unemployed and employed residents that reported not having health insurance
- Access to internet – Residents that reported having access to the internet in their household
Each state’s overall safety was also scored on two factors – natural disaster safety from the 2014 Insurance Journal Risk of Damage from Natural Hazards report and public health rankings from the 2019 America’s Health Rankings (AHR) report.
The natural disaster score evaluates the overall risk exposure to property during a natural disaster based on the location. The health ranking for each state is based on the 2019 AHR report and includes several factors like the number of drug deaths and number of mental health providers per 100,000 residents. The score also includes access to health insurance and air pollution ratings.
How is the Data Calculated?
Although public safety and financial security are both important factors, public safety was weighted more than financial factors in our rankings. The top list of cities for each state was compiled and ranked to show the safest cities in the state based on these two categories only.
Public Safety Scoring
Crime metrics were weighted for violent crimes to be scored the highest and count for 30% of the public safety score. Property crimes make up 20%, while gun violence and officer-related incidents are weighted evenly at 12.5%. Mass shootings accounted for 7.5% of the score, while hate crimes accounted for 5%.
Even though aggravated assaults are considered violent crimes, our team decided to weigh this metric separately. As a result, assaults comprise 25% of the public safety score.
Financial Safety Scoring
We understand that financial security factors can be different based on profession, family size and other circumstances. Therefore, the cost of living counts for more at 30%, while the unemployment rate is weighted slightly less at 25%. Other factors that are important, but were weighted less, include poverty (20%), uninsured residents (15%) and access to the internet (10%). So, even though a city has a lower poverty rate, they may still rank lower if they have a higher unemployment rate or cost of living. These factors were chosen because they highlight the key determinants of financial well-being in today’s society.
*Some cities may be reported as ‘N/A’ as the data is not available or has not yet been reported. Cities with multiple metrics unavailable may not be included in the report.
*The term ‘safest’ and other synonyms are often used in our reports and only speaks to the FBI Crime Report data and Gun Violence Archive. Characterizing and discriminating against any other city or neighborhood is not intended.
State-Level Natural Disaster and Health Safety Scoring
Each state is also evaluated based on two safety factors – natural disaster safety and health safety. Scoring for the state’s natural disaster is determined based on the overall risk to a property during a disaster. The state’s health score is based on access to health insurance, air pollution ratings, and the number of drug deaths and number of mental health providers per 100,000 residents. Both are ranked on a scale of 1-50, ranking each of the states.
What’s Next for Our Safest Cities Reports?
We are currently conducting online surveys for each state to gain more insight into how residents feel about their own personal safety. We also asked residents for their thoughts on local and state efforts to improve safety and security with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. The findings will be included in future reports to give readers more insight from a resident’s perspective.
We will continue to evaluate our data and reports as new data is released. More surveys, interviews and polls may also be completed during this time and reflected in our reports.
- Natural risk scores: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2014/09/10/340082.htm
- Health rankings: https://www.americashealthrankings.org/learn/reports/2019-annual-report/findings-state-rankings
- Census data (Financial data): https://data.census.gov/
- Gun Violence (Mass Shootings/Officer related incidents) : https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/congress
- FBI Hate Crime Report: https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2018/resource-pages/tables-by-title
- FBI Crime Report (Violent, Assault, Property crime): https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/preliminary-report/tables/table-4/table-4.xls/view