The 10 Safest and Most Dangerous Metro Cities in America of 2018

Aug 6, 2018 |

scenic photo of metro city

It’s easy to write off big cities when you’re looking for a safe place to live, work, and play—but you don’t have to forgo safety for big city living. In fact, 70% of the nation’s thirty largest cities are some of the safest metro areas to call home.¹ That includes the likes of Los Angeles and New York City.

In 2016, the FBI reported an increase in the number of violent crimes across the nation, resulting in a national violent crime rate of 3.86 (per 1,000 people).² Despite this trend, the overall crime rate in the the country’s thirty largest cities declined by 2.1% in 2017¹—helping 88% of our safest metro cities make the list again this year.

Here’s a closer look at some of our findings:

  • California dominated—claiming 40% of our top ten safest cities and 20% of our most dangerous cities.
  • In 100% of the safe cities on our list, your chance of falling victim to a violent crime is less than five in 1,000.
  • Two of the safest metro cities have populations over 1 million.
  • All of the most dangerous metro cities have populations under 1 million.
  • More than half the cities that made the top ten are below the national violent crime rate, and all but Santa Ana are below their state averages as well.

The Top 10 Safest Metro Cities

photo of Virginia Beach

1. Virginia Beach, Virginia

This colorful coastal city moves from the third-safest metro city last year to claim the top spot. Whether you prefer the calm of the Chesapeake Bay or the vibrant oceanfront, you can enjoy a rewarding and safe life in Virginia Beach. There’s no question the Virginia Beach police take their jobs seriously (in 2017, there were fewer than two violent crimes per 1,000 residents), but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to have fun. The VBPD is currently brushing up on its dance moves to take on a lip sync challenge thrown by neighboring police departments.

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $67,313
  • Median home sale price: $257,000

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
453,017 1.55 21.76 3
scenic photo of Honolulu Hawaii

2. Honolulu, Hawaii

The aloha spirit is alive and well in Hawaii’s capital city. Both violent and property crimes decreased enough in 2017 to move this island metropolis up ten places, making it the second-safest metro city in the country. And Honolulu responds quickly when safety lapses are discovered. It’s been one year since the deadly Marco Polo apartment fire that killed four people and injured twelve. In that time, the city proposed and passed a bill that incentivizes the installation of fire sprinklers in condos and other high-rise buildings.

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $60,548
  • Median home sale price: $670,200

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
995,572 3.35 30.73 12
photo of Lexington Kentucky

3. Lexington, Kentucky

The Horse Capital of the World makes its debut as one of the nation’s safest big cities. Nestled in Kentucky’s renowned Bluegrass Region, Lexington is known for thoroughbreds and the University of Kentucky. We think it should also be known for proactive safety initiatives, like its involvement in the US Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods. The group is a collaboration between federal, state, and local law enforcement, and it’s focused on combating violent crime and drug activity.

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $48,667
  • Median home sale price: $173,900

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
317,853 3.39 41.08 N/A
scenic photo of Anaheim California

4. Anaheim, California

Anaheim is home to the Happiest Place on Earth, and thanks to low violent and property crime rates, it’s also one of the safest places. Whether you currently live in Anaheim or are considering a move, you can count on the Anaheim Police Department to keep your neighborhood safe. The department’s Overt Camera System provides video surveillance to help officers identify potential safety problems and respond quickly. You can also get up-to-date crime data for any part of Anaheim thanks to an interactive crime map that is updated every twenty-four hours and provides data within two miles of any address.

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $59,707
  • Median home sale price: $590,00

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
353,504 3.42 27.20 11
scenic photo of San Jose

5. San Jose, California

It’s no surprise that a city in the center of Silicon Valley would turn to technology to keep its citizens safe. The My San Jose app is free for residents and lets you report common concerns like graffiti, potholes, burned-out street lights, and abandoned vehicles. And it seems to be working—residents report prompt responses and quick resolution to submitted requests.

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $83,787
  • Median home sale price: $1,083,000

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
1,041,844 3.73 23.75 6
scenic photo of San Diego

6. San Diego, California

This southern California city takes a proactive approach to make sure the reality of San Diego lives up to its attractive Instagram image. Whether it’s providing road safety tips through Vision Zero, offering free ground cover to residents impacted by wildfires, or reducing youth homelessness, San Diego’s public servants are responsive to the people they serve. Even though San Diego dropped two spots this year, it still remained in the top ten safest metro cities in the country.

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $65,753
  • Median home sale price: $622,700

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
1,413,414 3.77 20.25 4
scenic photo of El Paso

7. El Paso, Texas

This border town held the number two spot last year, but it’s still a hardworking community committed to family-friendly neighborhoods and safe streets. In fact, El Paso was honored as a 2018 All-America City by the National Civic League. This award recognizes communities that work on all levels to “address critical issues and create stronger connections.” Also notable is El Paso’s low incidence of property crime—the city sits at just under eighteen incidents per 1,000 people, compared to the state average that is nearly double. Plus, El Paso claims the lowest property crime rate of any city in our top ten.

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $42,037
  • Median home sale price: $122,700

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
687,193 3.90 17.98 2
scenic photo of Austin Texas

8. Austin, Texas

Known for its eclectic nature and the famed SXSW music festival, Austin is a former “small town” that’s boomed in recent years. According to the Austin Business Journal, nearly 160 people per day were added to the city’s rolls in 2016. But despite a population explosion, Austin has increased its performance in regard to public safety. This capital city jumped twenty-two spots to land in our top ten safest metro cities of 2018. It can’t hurt that the active citizens of Austin support humanitarian efforts like making life easier for immigrants. Austin became the first “freedom city” in the Lone Star State, pushing for greater protection for immigrants who call this Texas city home.

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $55,216
  • Median home sale price: $346,500

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
956,911 4.08 35.06 26
scenic photo of Mesa Arizona

9. Mesa, Arizona

This city of nearly half a million residents holds strong as one of the nation’s safest metros for the second consecutive year. We were especially impressed with one Mesa police detective who founded the Online Safety Specialists, a program that teaches parents how to keep their families safe from online predators. Detective Scott Pietrzak designed the program to address everything from cyberbullying to sexting. And parents are loving it. “Very important information for all families,” attendee Lorraine C. says, “There was so much I wasn’t aware of before this presentation and now I know what to look for.”

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $48,259
  • Median home sale price: $236,100

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
478,277 4.29 23.45 8
scenic photo of Santa Ana California

10. Santa Ana, California

Heartwarming stories, like that of a good Samaritan who foiled the kidnapping of a 12-year-old girl, leave little question as to why Santa Ana remains one of the nation’s safest metro cities. One of four Golden State cities to make the top ten this year, Santa Ana does California proud with a property crime rate that is well below both state and national averages. The combined efforts of diligent citizens and a dedicated police force help keep this coastal city’s streets safe for residents and visitors of all ages.

 

Cost of Living

  • Median household income: $52,519
  • Median home sale price: $529,900

 

Population Violent Crimes per 1,000 People Property Crimes per 1,000 People 2017 Ranking
337,419 4.78 20.69 5

The Top 10 Safest and Most Dangerous Metro Cities

Safest

Rank City State Population Violent Crime Property Crime
1 Virginia Beach VA 453,017 1.55 21.76
2 Honolulu HI 995,572 3.35 30.73
3 Lexington KY 317,853 3.39 41.08
4 Anaheim CA 353,504 3.42 27.2
5 San Jose CA 1,041,844 3.73 23.75
6 San Diego CA 1,413,414 3.77 20.25
7 El Paso TX 687,193 3.9 17.98
8 Austin TX 956,911 4.08 35.06
9 Mesa AZ 478,277 4.29 23.45
10 Santa Ana CA 337,419 4.78 20.69

Most Dangerous

Rank City State Population Violent Crime Property Crime
1 Detroit MI 669,673 20.47 47.23
2 St. Louis MO 314,507 19.13 59.31
3 Memphis TN 656,434 18.2 56.35
4 Baltimore MD 618,385 17.8 47.78
5 Kansas City MO 478,364 16.55 43.57
6 Cleveland OH 386,227 16.31 53.16
7 Milwaukee WI 600,193 15.33 40.64
8 Oakland CA 424,998 14.26 56.36
9 Stockton CA 308,348 14.21 37.73
10 Indianapolis IN 866,351 13.74 47.95
  • Median Population in US: 561,560
  • Median Violent Crime Rate in US: 7.07 per 1000 people
  • Median Property Crime Rate in US: 37.73 per 1000 people

Methodology

We ranked the safest and most dangerous metro cities in America based on the incidence of violent crime per 1,000 residents. Violent crime rates were determined by the per capita rate of crime according to the most recent FBI crime statistics from 2016. In order to be considered, cities had to supply complete reports to the FBI and have a population threshold greater than 300,000.

If you would like to contact a SafeWise Safest Cities Analyst, please email info@safewise.com.

Complete Rankings for Safest Metro Cities

Metro Ranking City State
1 Virginia Beach Virginia
2 Honolulu Hawaii
3 Lexington Kentucky
4 Anaheim California
5 San Jose California
6 San Diego California
7 El Paso Texas
8 Austin Texas
9 Mesa Arizona
10 Santa Ana California
11 Bakersfield California
12 Portland Oregon
13 Colorado Springs Colorado
14 Tampa Florida
15 Columbus Ohio
16 Fort Worth Texas
17 Aurora Colorado
18 Riverside California
19 Arlington Texas
20 Omaha Nebraska
21 New York New York
22 Long Beach California
23 Fresno California
24 Seattle Washington
25 Jacksonville Florida
26 St. Paul Minnesota
27 Denver Colorado
28 Phoenix Arizona
29 Louisville Metro Kentucky
30 Boston Massachusetts
31 Corpus Christi Texas
32 San Francisco California
33 Sacramento California
34 San Antonio Texas
35 Los Angeles California
36 Charlotte-Mecklenburg North Carolina
37 Dallas Texas
38 Oklahoma City Oklahoma
39 Tucson Arizona
40 Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Nevada
41 Miami Florida
42 Houston Texas
43 Wichita Kansas
44 New Orleans Louisiana
45 Atlanta Georgia
46 Tulsa Oklahoma
47 Nashville Metropolitan Tennessee
48 Minneapolis Minnesota
49 Albuquerque New Mexico
50 Washington District of Columbia
51 Indianapolis Indiana
52 Stockton California
53 Oakland California
54 Milwaukee Wisconsin
55 Cleveland Ohio
56 Kansas City Missouri
57 Baltimore Maryland
58 Memphis Tennessee
59 St. Louis Missouri
60 Detroit Michigan

Sources:

  1. Brennan Center for Justice,  “Crime in 2017: Final Analysis”  
  2. FBI Unified Crime Report,  “2016 Crime in the United States

Cost of Living Data Sources:

  1. Virginia Beach:
    Virgina Beach Economic Development, “Demographics
    Best Places, “Virginia Beach, Virginia
  2. Honolulu: Best Places, “Honolulu, Hawaii
  3. Lexington: Best Places, “Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky
  4. Anaheim: Best Places, “Anaheim, California
  5. San Jose: Best Places, “San Jose, California
  6. San Diego: Best Places, “San Diego, California
  7. El Paso: Best Places, “El Paso, Texas
  8. Austin: Best Places, “Austin, Texas”  
  9. Mesa: Best Places, “Mesa, Arizona
  10. Santa Ana: Best Places, “Santa Ana, California

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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  • Anonymous5252525

    You included Santa Ana but not Irvine?

  • Ivan Terrible

    “Both property and violent crime were equally weighted”

    So murder or rape is wighted as bicycle theft. No wonder Chicago and Baltimore made the list. Idiocy

    • BeccaLeigh

      That was the list for most violent cities!

  • Bernie Cyrus

    New Orleans shouldn’t be ein any safe list even if it is last among the honorable mentions! Mitch Landrieu is running for President as he calls himself a Radical Centrist . But, to our city he is a redical self centered failure .His crime statistics rival Chicago. He used “unconstitutional” traffic cameras to rob the people of their hard earned money without the benefit facing their accuser in proper jurisprudence. He could have spent that money on more crime cameras. Black unemployment for young men has reached fifty percent. He bragged when it went to the forties!

    Sadly, murder, robberies, carjackings, burglaries are part of everyday life in New Orleans. Yet, he responsibly cut the budget of the District Attorney by over five hundred thousand dollars. As a former Felony Investigator, for a District Attorney, I can attest money is always needed. His indigent defender program is hanging on a thread and once was broke!

  • 1bud2

    Lexington KY – ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Do you look at murder & crime rates or are you paid by politicians to put places on this list… major center for harboring illegal aliens laundering drug money & dealing drugs – entire middle class neighborhoods turned into dangerous third world slums – stabbings and/or shootings almost every night.

    • http://www.reviews.org Scott T.

      Our 2018 metro cities report only includes cities with a population over 300,000. Our rankings this year were based on the number of violent crimes (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) that were reported to the FBI in each city. Lexington’s violent crime rate was 3.39 violent crimes per 1000 people, which is well below the median rate of 7.07 per 1000 for the US.

      You are right to point out that this ranking does not mean there isn’t any crime. Lexington’s property crime rate is the highest among the top 10 safest cities, and slightly above the US median rate at 41.08 per 1000 people. Property crime includes burglary, arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft.

      Our main goal with these reports is the educate the public and raise awareness so that everyday citizens can be empowered to protect themselves and get involved at the local level to help prevent crime in their neighborhoods.

    • Jeremy Fink

      1bud2, your comment is way off point. As a Lexingtonian who lives in a middle class neighborhood and has friends/family who live in other neighborhoods in the city, I can tell you there’s nothing to substantiate your comment. We’ve not had one shooting in my neighborhood since I moved here. Maybe you’re confusing Lexington with another city?