South Dakota’s 5 Safest Cities of 2023

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The SafeWise Team is pleased to release the eighth annual Safest Cities report.

Here are the 5 Safest Cities in South Dakota for 2023

See if your city made the full list.

If you call The Mount Rushmore State home, chances are you don’t spend a lot of time worrying about crime and safety. South Dakota’s level of concern in our State of Safety survey is nearly 37% lower than the rest of the country. For those in the state’s safest cities, that concern might be closer to nil, with crime rates that are about half of what we found statewide.

In this report

2023 South Dakota crime rates

South Dakota is one of 17 states to see a drop in both violent and property crime since last year. The violent crime rate decreased from 5.0 incidents per 1,000 people to 3.9—an decline of 22% since last year. South Dakota’s property crime rate went down from 19.6 incidents per 1,000 people last year to 18.9.

In the West North Central region, South Dakota has the third-highest violent crime rate behind Missouri (5.3) and Kansas (4.2). Property crime fares a bit better, with South Dakota ranking third-lowest behind Nebraska (15.5) and Iowa (15.7).

Nationally, The Mount Rushmore State's violent and property crime rates are just barely below the national rates. Across the 41 states that met reporting requirements this year, South Dakota has the seventeenth-highest violent crime rate and the twentieth-highest property crime rate.

South Dakota's crime rates are below the national average

Image: SafeWise

Violent crime in South Dakota: Fear vs. reality

Concern about violent crime—and proactive measures to protect oneself—are lower in South Dakota than in any other state despite violent crime rates that are close to the national average. South Dakotans also told us they experienced violent crime 40% less often than the national average.

  • The statewide violent crime rate dropped 22% in the last year and is lower than it was two years ago.
  • All 5 of the safest cities have violent crime rates below the state and national rates.
  • Reports of rape in the safest cities made up 30% of all violent crimes, compared to 17% statewide (US 11%).
  • Aggravated assault accounts for 77% of all violent crime in South Dakota and 67% in its safest cities (US 72%).

Attitudes about personal safety in South Dakota

  • 27% of survey respondents use some type of personal protection like pepper spray (US 39%).
  • The top forms of personal protection used by South Dakota respondents this survey year were pocket knives and concealed firearms, which tied at 44%. This is higher than the national averages for pocket knives (US 43%) and concealed firearms (US 41%).
  • 37% say their personal safety has been affected by the pandemic (US 44%).

Attitudes about gun violence in South Dakota

  • 25% of South Dakota residents are worried about a gun violence incident happening to them (US 47%). Only Idaho and Vermont worry less about gun violence.
  • During the survey year, respondents in South Dakota experienced fewer gun violence incidents (8%) than the most of the country (US 12%).
  • There were no mass shooting incidents in South Dakota in 2022 (1 less than 2021).
  • South Dakota is one of 11 states without any police officer shooting deaths and injuries in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It had the ninth-highest number of gun deaths and injuries among suspects.
  • There were 2 self-defense shooting incidents in South Dakota in 2022—up from 0 the year before.
South Dakotans are most concerned about package theft.

Image: SafeWise

Property crime in South Dakota: Fear vs. reality

South Dakota generally keeps property crime rates low and a 3% decrease this year brought it below the national average. And 21% of survey respondents told us that they personally experienced property crime this reporting year.

  • Burglary makes up 14% of South Dakota's property crimes (12% in the safest cities)—at or below the 14% national average.
  • Larceny-theft is the most-reported property crime in South Dakota and its safest cities. Among our top 5 cities, larceny-theft accounts for 81% of all property crime—8 percentage points higher than the state ratio of 73%.
  • Fewer motor vehicle thefts were reported among the safest cities (7%), which is half of rising nationwide trends (14%). That said, the statewide motor-vehicle-theft rate (13%) is just under the national average.
  • Every safest city, except fifth-ranked Spearfish, came in below state and US property crime rates.

Attitudes about property security in South Dakota

  • 72% of survey participants use some form of property protection (US 76%).
  • The top forms of property protection among South Dakotans are security cameras (33%) and firearms (32%).
  • 20% say the security of their property has been affected by the pandemic (US 28%).

Attitudes about package theft in South Dakota

  • 22% of survey respondents in South Dakota reported experiencing package theft in the 12 months prior to the survey (US 34%). This ties South Dakota and Nebraska for the fewest package theft experiences in the US.
  • 44% of participants expressed a high level of concern about package theft—below the US average of 53%.
  • The preferred methods of package protection in South Carolina are verified delivery (27%), leaving it in a safe spot (24%), and video doorbells (19%). While South Dakota's preference for verified delivery matches the US average, it's lower for safe spots (US 24%) and video doorbells (US 28%).

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A closer look at the safest cities in South Dakota

For the purposes of this report, the terms “dangerous” and “safest” refer explicitly to crime rates as calculated from FBI crime data—no other characterization of any community is implied or intended.

  • 12 cities met criteria to be considered for ranking.
  • Brandon is the safest city in South Dakota for the fourth year in a row.
  • Vermillion (up 10 spots), Watertown (up 11 spots), and Spearfish (up 14 spots) are all new to our top 5 this year.
  • Brookings (population 25,088) and Watertown (population 22,383) are the only cities in the top 5 with populations higher than 13,000.

Violent crime in South Dakota's safest cities

  • The violent crime rate in the safest cities is 1.5 incidents per 1,000 people—less than half of state (3.9), regional (3.9), and national rates (4.0).
  • There were 0 murders reported among the safest cities and only 3 robberies—much lower (proportionately) than the rest of the state.
  • 4 of the cities on our list reported fewer than 30 total violent crimes. Watertown is the only exception with 50 (6 fewer incidents than last year).
  • Brandon had the lowest violent crime rate in South Dakota this year (0.7).

Property crime in South Dakota's safest cities

  • The property crime rate in the safest cities is 11.5 incidents per 1,000—39% lower than the state rate (18.9).
  • Brandon (4.6) and Brookings (6.7) had the lowest property crime rates in the state.
  • Brandon is the only city on our list reported fewer than 50 total property crimes.
Brandon is the safest city in South Dakota

Image: SafeWise

The 5 safest cities in South Dakota

Brandon, South Dakota
#1
Brandon
(
-0-
)
  • bullet
    Population
    10,297
  • bullet
    Median Income
    $96,367
  • bullet
    VC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    0.7, 0.5, 0.7
  • bullet
    PC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    4.6, 3.0, 2.6
  • bullet
    VC=Violent crime, PC=Property crime
Brookings, South Dakota
#2
Brookings
(
+3
bullet
)
  • bullet
    Population
    25,088
  • bullet
    Median Income
    $54,676
  • bullet
    VC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    1.1, 1.5, 2.2
  • bullet
    PC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    6.7, 9.4, 12.7
  • bullet
    VC=Violent crime, PC=Property crime
Vermillion, South Dakota
#3
Vermillion
(
+10
bullet
)
  • bullet
    Population
    11,088
  • bullet
    Median Income
    $47,920
  • bullet
    VC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    1.5, 1.7, 1.9
  • bullet
    PC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    16.1, 19.1, 19.3
  • bullet
    VC=Violent crime, PC=Property crime
Watertown, South Dakota
#4
Watertown
(
+11
bullet
)
  • bullet
    Population
    22,383
  • bullet
    Median Income
    $56,520
  • bullet
    VC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    2.2, 2.5, 3.0
  • bullet
    PC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    13.4, 18.5, 16.5
  • bullet
    VC=Violent crime, PC=Property crime
Spearfish, South Dakota
#5
Spearfish
(
+14
bullet
)
  • bullet
    Population
    12,047
  • bullet
    Median Income
    $52,258
  • bullet
    VC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    1.7, 2.9, 1.9
  • bullet
    PC Rate 2023, 2022, 2021
    19.2, 25.8, 22.6
  • bullet
    VC=Violent crime, PC=Property crime

How we determined the safest cities

Learn how we identified the safest cities on our methodology page.

How to make a safe home anywhere

Whether your city made our list or not, we encourage everyone to be proactive about home security. One of the best ways to stop a burglary before it happens is to add a home security system.

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Get a home security system

Find out which companies we recommend for every budget and lifestyle in our roundup of the Best Home Security Systems—and learn the basics with our guide on Everything You Need to Know About Home Security

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Didn't find your city?

We calculated crime rates for every city in the state that met our population threshold, based on the state’s median population as calculated using FBI data. To request a report of the remaining cities in your state email info@safewise.com with the subject line: Safest Cities Full Report.

NOTE: If your city is missing from our full report, it means that it was below the population threshold or didn’t submit a complete crime report to the FBI in 2021.

Find the safest cities in each state

Click on the state image or dropdown menu below to check out the safest cities for each state.

Related articles on SafeWise


Endnotes and sources

FBI Crime Data Explorer, "Documents & Downloads." Accessed February 6, 2023.

  • 2021 and 2020 Crime in the United States Annual Reports
    • Offenses Known to Law Enforcement
  • 2021 NIBRS Estimation Tables

FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, "Offenses Known to Law Enforcement [2019]." Accessed February 6, 2023.

Bureau of Justice Statistics, "National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)." Accessed February 6, 2023.

US Census Bureau, "2021: ACS 5-Year Estimates Subject Tables." Accessed February 6, 2023.

US Census Bureau, "2021: ACS 5-Year Estimates Detailed Tables." Accessed February 6, 2023.

SafeWise, "2022 State of Safety survey." Accessed February 6, 2023.

Gun Violence Archive, "General Methodology." Accessed February 6, 2023.

Gun Violence Archive, "Past Summary Ledgers." Accessed January 3, 2023.

Gun Violence Archive, "Congress."

  • 2022 totals: Accessed January 3, 2023.
  • 2021 and 2020 totals: Accessed December 19, 2022.
John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist specializing in smart home devices, security cameras, and home security systems. He has over a decade of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech—he was the Smart Home Editor for Top Ten Reviews and wrote for ASecureLife before joining SafeWise as a Staff Writer in 2020. John holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis from Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and starting countless DIY projects he has yet to complete.

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