Folks in Big Sky Country aren’t preoccupied with worries about their safety. In fact, Montana expresses nearly half the daily concern over safety as the rest of the nation. Those who live in the state’s safest cities have reason to be even less worried thanks to crime rates that are below both state and national averages.
Our 2020 State of Safety surveyrevealed that only 28% of Montanans are highly concerned about their safety every day. That’s nearly 20 points below the national average of 46%—and four points lower than the state reported last year.
Across the board, Montana has lower concern about crime than the rest of the country.
Although people in Montana aren’t stressing out about safety as much as others across the country, personal experience with violent and property crime increased year over year. The good news is that the state’s violent crime rate is on par with the national rate—both are 3.7 incidents per 1,000.
The number of people reporting a personal experience with property crime in the past 12 months increased from 14% last year to 27%. That’s one percentage point higher than the national average but a big jump year over year.
Montana’s property crime rate is higher than the national rate though. The state reported 25.0 incidents per 1,000, and the national average is 22.0.
Violent Crime in Montana: Fear vs. Reality
Physical assault by a stranger is the biggest violent crime worry in Montana, but people think they’re more likely to fall victim to a sexual assault by a stranger. In general, more violent crime is perpetrated by people that are known than by strangers.
26% showed highest concern about being physically assaulted by a stranger, compared to 40% nationwide.
71% of all reported violent crime in the safest cities was aggravated assault; it was 79% across the state.
14% named sexual assault by a stranger as the violent crime they felt was most likely to actually happen. That’s six percentage points under the national average of 20%.
Rape accounted for 24% of all violent crime in the safest cities and 14% statewide.
8% of participants reported a personal experience with violent crime in the past 12 months, versus 0% last year and 12% across the US.
Property Crime in Montana: Fear vs. Reality
Even though Montana has a higher property crime rate (25.0) than the national average (22.0), people still express less concern—even when it comes to the most feared crime in the state, a break-in when no one’s home.
54% express the most worry about someone breaking in when they’re away from home, versus 62% nationwide.
Burglary made up 8% of all property crime in the safest cities and 12% across the state.
40% said that having digital property stolen is the crime they think is most likely to happen, compared to 36% nationally.
Last year digital security was the most concerning safety issue overall.
Larceny-theft was the most common property crime in Montana, accounting for 85% of all incidents in the safest cities and 77% statewide.
Only 9% of Montana respondents have a home security system. The national average is 24%.
Firearms were named as the security measure most often used to protect property in Montana. 36% said they use one, versus 28% across the country.
34% don’t use any security measure to protect their property, compared to 29% nationwide.
A Closer Look at Montana’s Safest Cities of 2020
For the purposes of this report, the terms “safest” and “dangerous” refer explicitly to crime rates as calculated from FBI crime data—no other characterization of any community is implied or intended.
Glendive took over the top spot this year, with just 11 total violent crimes reported and 36 property crimes.
Deer Lodge had the fewest number of crimes reported overall, with only 25 (seven violent and 18 property).
50% of the cities improved their ranking year over year. Dillon had the biggest jump, moving nine spaces from 16 to number five this year.
Every city but one (Glasgow, 4.2) on the list beat the state and national violent crime rates of 3.7.
Whitefish had the lowest violent crime rate at 1.2 incidents per 1,000.
90% of the cities reported 20 or fewer total violent crime incidents.
There was only one murder among the safest cities.
All of the cities came in below both state (25.0) and national (22.0) property crime rates.
Dillon had the lowest property crime rate at 6.1, with just 26 total property crimes reported and zero burglaries.
50% of the cities reported fewer than 100 total property crime incidents.
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more