The 50 Safest Cities to Raise a Child in 2018

Jun 29, 2018 |

picture of kids resting at a park

Keeping kids safe is a parent’s top priority, and despite crime rates being lower overall, the 24-hour news cycle can make you feel like trouble is lurking around every corner. The good news is that national crime rates are lower than they were when most of us were growing up. In fact, violent crime dropped by nearly 50% between 1993 and 2016.1

But that doesn’t mean you’re not going to worry. That’s why SafeWise wanted to take a closer look at safety trends and factors before picking this year’s safest cities to raise a child. Due to recent news about free-range parenting—Utah even passed a law—we decided to factor that parenting style into our research. We dug deep into eight factors to help us identify the safest cities to raise children—those who remain under close supervision and those who are allowed to wander on their own.  

Here’s a look at some of our findings:

  • Wisconsin has more safe cities for free-range children than any other state—32% of our top fifty cities hail from the Badger State.
  • New Jersey has ten cities on our list, which is 20% of our top fifty.
  • New Hampshire pulls ahead when we look at the top thirty safest states—the Granite State has six cities in the top thirty, compared to New Jersey’s four.
  • There are only two cities in the western US on our list—Bountiful, UT, and Evanston, WY.
  • Only two cities from last year’s safest cities to raise children list made the free-range list—and they’re both in Connecticut: Greenwich and Ridgefield.
  • Our top fifty safest cities come from just ten states. That’s only 20% of the country.
  • All of our safest cities are in states with snow—no free range kiddos on the beach, apparently! (Unless it’s one of the Great Lakes.)
  • Only two of the states with cities in our top thirty had more than two AMBER Alerts in 2017: Utah (six) and Virginia (five).

The Top 30 Safest Cities to Raise Children

Our top thirty safest cities are highlighted below, along with each city’s walkability score, violent crime rate, and overall child safety score, which is a combination of eight factors we considered. It is important to note that every city on the list is below the national average for violent crimes (3.97 per 1,000 people). We also included twenty runner-up cities, to deliver the top fifty safest cities to raise a free-range child.  Learn more about how we ranked the safest cities here.

1. Easton, Maryland

Maryland has been at the center of the free-range parenting conversation, so it’s no surprise that our safest city to raise free-range children is in the Old Line State. Easton embodies small town charm, and with more than 230 acres of parks and open spaces, there is plenty of room for adventurous youngsters to safely explore.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
89.45 83 2.51

2. Keene, New Hampshire

From the annual Pumpkin Festival to the lighting of the community Christmas Tree in the town square, Keene evokes a quintessential New England nostalgia. And in a town where everyone knows everyone (as reported by a lifelong resident), kids—free-range and otherwise—are safe to enjoy all that Keene has to offer.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
88.49 94 2.32

3. Takoma Park, Maryland

This city has a town arborist and its own poet laureate, but Takoma Park’s strengths aren’t limited to cultivation and culture. People take care of one another here—the town has a crew called the Snow Angels who dig out neighbors buried under the city’s thirteen inches of annual snowfall. It’s that kind of community spirit that helped Takoma Park nab a spot on our list.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
88.29 81 3.35

4. Havre de Grace, Maryland

This bayside town has been recognized multiple times as one of the best small towns in the country, and it caught our attention with its excellent schools, abundant parks, and family-oriented values. Havre de Grace wants all kids to feel included, as evidenced by an all-access playground unveiled in August 2017.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
88.23 79 2.71

5. Village of Shorewood, Wisconsin

In the Village of Shorewood, your chance of falling victim to a violent crime is less than one in 1,000—and lifelong residents can attest to the culture of safety in this Milwaukee suburb.

“I love this village. I wouldn’t raise children anywhere else in the world.”

Review from a lifelong resident who raised three children in the city

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
88.49 94 2.32

6. Exeter, New Hampshire

Who better to tell us why Exeter is a great town for free-range kids than one of the kids themselves?

“It is not uncommon to find my friends and I wandering around downtown Exeter, browsing the boutiques or hitting up Stillwells for the best ice cream on the Seacoast,” says a current Exeter high school student. “The atmosphere of the town is very welcoming . . . full of happy people who love and share a sense of camaraderie for their town.”

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
86.75 83 o.75

7. Monroe, Wisconsin

Summer is prime time for free-range kids to get out and enjoy the break from school, and Monroe makes sure those kids have plenty of activities to keep them engaged. The Monroe Public Library offers a number of summer programs including Storytime at the Farmer’s Market and Musical Movie Mondays.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
88.49 94 2.32

8. Milford, New Hampshire

Those who call Milford home can’t stop talking about how safe they feel and the friendly presence of police. Milford officers are more likely to be found playing baseball or hanging out at the skate park than chasing down criminals—thanks to the low crime rate and sense of community that keeps neighbors looking out for one another.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
86.24 81 0.71

9. Claremont, New Hampshire

Situated on the banks of the Sugar and Connecticut Rivers, Claremont is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. There are plenty of hiking trails and parks for free-range children to explore—but we urge parents to keep water safety front and center with such easy access to the town’s flowing rivers.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
88.49 94 2.32

10. Burlington, Wisconsin

We found that teens tend to find the Burlington pace a little slow, which reinforces our assessment of how safe this Wisconsin city is. But kids of all ages enjoy short walks to local schools, an impressive parks system, and the annual ChocolateFest that celebrates the local Nestlé chocolate factory.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
85.70 81 0.37

11. Cedarburg, Wisconsin

Cedarburg boasts the lowest violent crime rate among our top thirty cities. That, combined with excellent schools and pedestrian-friendly amenities like the Interurban Trail, make this town a great choice for parents looking to give their kids some extra freedom.

“Extremely family-friendly. Great place to raise children.”

Review from a former Cedarburg resident

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
88.49 94 2.32

12. Greenwich, Connecticut

This charming New England town topped our 2017 list of the 30 Safest Cities to Raise a Child. This year Greenwich remains one of our safest places for families, including those committed to free-range parenting. One of our criterion, quality education, is also a top priority for Greenwich residents as evidenced by a $500,000 donation to a scholarship fund for children of local police officers, firefighters, and nurses.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
85.44 94 0.22

13. City of Fairfax, Virginia

Free-range kids who get around the City of Fairfax on two wheels stay safe with help from the city’s annual Kids Safety Day. This event, sponsored by the Fairfax Police Department, features bike safety inspections and a bike cone course (helmets required!) where kids can test their skill and agility.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
85.19 88 0.95

14. Vienna, Virginia

Close to Washington, DC, and the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, there is plenty of culture available to Vienna families. But there’s a lot to do right in the center of town too. Programs like the new Kids on the Green concert series, aimed at entertaining the town’s youngsters, give kids safe activities close to home.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
85.06 88 0.41

15. Baraboo, Wisconsin

Baraboo is proactive when it comes to keeping its kids safe. The city’s schools are seeking a $140,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Justice to improve school safety in the wake of recent school shootings. Funds would be used to provide safety and communication system upgrades for school buildings, as well as trauma care training.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
85.03 83 1.97

16. Beaver Dam, Wisconsin

This quiet community hosts a bevy of annual events, with activities slated for nine out of twelve months. Residents of all ages enjoy Beaver Dam’s low crime rate, well-kept parks, and friendly neighborhoods.

“I’ve lived here my entire life and never really felt unsafe . . . I think it’s a great place to raise children.”

Review by lifelong Beaver Dam resident.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
84.86 80 1.14

17. Hartford, Wisconsin

From an active youth baseball league to the wet-and-wild water slides at the local aquatic center, Hartford is full of fun activities for kids. If you want your free-range kids to have a modicum of structure, the city’s Summer Playground Camp is a great way to get kiddos safely out of the house until school starts up again.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
84.29 83 0.48

18. Bountiful, Utah

Just minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, Bountiful is a walkable town with a charming Main Street and plentiful parks. Come snow or sun, you’ll see kids safely walking down to the community rec center or partaking in citywide activities like the annual chalk art festival on Main Street.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
84.15 84 1.04

19. Borough of Madison, New Jersey

This NYC suburb is a bustling community where violent crime is nearly nonexistent. Madison’s current violent crime rate is even lower than when this city placed seventeenth on our 2017 list of the safest cities in New Jersey. One hallmark of this safe city is the robust support available to families, including the Community of Pride counseling program offered by the Madison Area YMCA.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
84.13 89 0.18

20. Borough of Westwood, New Jersey

Westwood has the second-lowest violent crime rate among our top thirty (the city missed first place by just a fraction of a percent!). On top of safe streets, this charming borough boasts nine city parks that include picnic areas, playgrounds, baseball fields, ponds, and walking paths.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
83.87 88 0.17

21. Village of Waunakee, Wisconsin

Residents gush about the friendly nature of Waunakee. “I love Waunakee….Only friendly people walk the streets, flashing smiles to all that pass by,” reports one enthusiastic resident.

In addition to lots of smiles, Waunakee also offers excellent schools, beautiful parks, and fun town events like WaunaFest. This four-day event features top-notch entertainment, a carnival, and sporting events including a run and a softball tournament.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
83.72 75 0.88

22. Borough of Tenafly, New Jersey

Full of hills, valleys, and rows of tall trees, Tenafly is a charming town with abundant parks and woodlands for free-range children to explore. But Tenafly takes care of its youngest citizens both outdoors and inside. The city recently formed a resident-led school safety task force to make sure schools are prepared to keep kids safe in the event of an emergency.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
83.53 87 0.26

23. Hudson, Wisconsin

Considered the “Gateway to Wisconsin,” Hudson puts safety first. In a move most cities don’t take, Hudson has outfitted Lakefront Park with lifeguards during the summer to make sure those free-range kiddos stay out of danger while enjoying the beach. Hudson is also proud of its urban forest. The city promotes Tree Treks, where kids can learn how to identify different trees and their impact on the environment.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
83.52 74 0.80

24. Grafton, Wisconsin

Free-range kids in Grafton have more than city sidewalks to explore. The town sponsors a Friday Night Flick & Float, where kids can enjoy a family-friendly movie from an inflatable raft in the city pool. For youngsters who like to hit the road on two wheels, there’s an off-road bike camp that uses biking to build confidence and self-esteem.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
85.03 83 1.97

25. Ridgefield, New Jersey

This safe city was featured in The Wedding Singer, and the quaint, small-town vibe displayed in the film is alive and well. Free-range kids in Ridgefield stay safe because they’re adopted by the whole town.

“Everyone knows each other and neighbors are very friendly,” says one lifelong resident. “I’ve lived here all my life and it’s like a large extended family.”

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
85.03 83 1.97

26. Derry, New Hampshire

You won’t go too far in Derry without running into meticulously manicured parks and acres of open space. Families enjoy playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, athletic fields, beaches, and a number of walking trails. If your free-range family has a four-legged member, then the Derry Dog Park is sure to be a favorite.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
85.03 83 1.97

27. Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

Whitefish Bay residents aren’t shy about why they love their city. A town survey revealed that safety, a strong sense of community, and high-quality schools are among the top reasons citizens enjoy living here. And this city is proactive when it comes to keeping kids safe. In 2017, police responded quickly to an online video showing teens with a stolen gun in the high school bathroom—preventing a potential tragedy.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
82.15 68 0.495

28. Marinette, Wisconsin

This “City on the Bay” sits on the banks of the Menominee River, near the mouth of Green Bay. That makes water recreation a key part of life in Marinette. Kids of all ages can enjoy activities like the Kids’ Fishing Derby. And those ages ten and up can contribute to water safety by taking CPR and first aid classes offered at the Marinette Civic Center.  

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
81.91 67 0.46

29. Marshall, Minnesota

When local high school students are willing to pour praise on a town, you know that city is doing something right. Check out what one Marshall high schooler had to say:

“Marshall is a town I wouldn’t trade for the world, and I am planning on raising my own kids here so that they can learn some of the core values that I did.”  

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
81.91 73 1.09

30. Hanover, New Hampshire

Hanover has been recognized as a great place to live by numerous organizations including CNN and Money magazine. We like it as a safe haven for free-range kids because of the high-quality public schools, active community life, and pet-friendly attitude.

 

Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes*
85.03 83 1.97

*per 1,000 people

Didn’t See Your City? Don’t Worry— Here Are the Runners Up

Rank City Overall Safety Score Walkability Score Violent Crimes* 
31 Highland Park, NJ 81.02 77 0.06
32 Grand Rapids, MN 80.76 70 1.43
33 Sauk Rapids, MN 80.75 68 0.73
34 Port Washington, WI 80.37 65 1.80
35 Buffalo, MN 80.20 67 1.11
36 Evanston, WY 80.02 67 1.24
37 Ridgefield, CT 79.96 73 0.07
38 Kaukauna, WI 79.74 60 0.87
39 Haddonfield, NJ 79.61 72 0.17
40 Cedar Grove Township, NJ 79.56 72 0.23
41 Whitewater, WI 79.50 62 1.89
42 Verona, NJ 79.31 71 0.22
43 Hudson, NH 79.19 57 1.60
44 Hampton, NH 78.86 56 1.69
45 Goffstown, NH 78.44 55 1.88
46 Brandon, SD 78.31 63 0.00
47 Hibbing, MN 78.25 60 1.23
48 Wauwatosa, WI 78.12 56 1.61
49 New Providence, NJ 78.09 66 0.80
50 Raritan Township, NJ 78.08 66 0.90

*per 1,000 people

Tips and Resources to Help Keep Your Kids Safe

Whatever your parenting style, you can rest a little easier knowing that kids in these cities are part of communities that value safety. But no matter where you live, here are some tips and resources to help your kiddos stay safe when they’re with you—or on their own.

Methodology

To identify our top 50 safest cities to raise children, we first narrowed down the list to the top 200 safest cities in the country based on violent crime rates per 1,000 people and their overall child safety score. Then, to determine the final rankings, we factored in the walkability score. Cities in the top thirty are considered “very walkable,” which means that most errands can be accomplished on foot.

Overall child safety scores were calculated based off eight metrics: violent crimes, AMBER Alerts, sex offenders, child abuse, school quality, pedestrian deaths, walkability score, and state free-range parenting legislation. Each score was standardized to calculate their total score and ranking. City-specific data was given extra weight, and high scores (overall) were most favorable.

 


Sources

1. Pew Research Center, “5 Facts about Crime in the US
2. FBI, “2016 Crime in the United States: Violent Crime
3. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “2016 AMBER Alert Report
4. Crime Victims Center, “Search for Sex Offenders in Your State
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Child Maltreatment 2016
6. Education Week, “Quality Counts 2016: State Report Card Maps
7. U.S. Department of Transportation, “Traffic Safety Facts: 2016 Data
8. Walk Score, “Walk Score Methodology
9. Child Welfare Information Gateway, “Leaving Your Child Home Alone
10. ABC News, “Utah passes ‘free-range parenting’ law, allowing kids to do some things without parental supervision

Written by Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca has honed her safety and security skills as both a single mom and a college director. Being responsible for the well-being of others helped her learn how to minimize risk and create safe environments. Learn more

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