We use the most up-to-date FBI crime data as the backbone of our reports. This means we rely on voluntary, self-reported information that cities and jurisdictions across the country report through the FBI Summary Reporting System (SRS) and National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). If you don’t see your city listed, it could be due to incomplete data or the failure to submit a report. For our 2023 reporting year, the most recent FBI data was released in October 2022, and accounts for crimes reported in calendar year 2021.
We also use population thresholds for each state. Using population data (as reported to the FBI), we identify the median city population for all cities that reported to the FBI in each state. We report only on cities with populations above this median for each state. This reduces the risk of outliers and lowers the likelihood of an extreme outlier skewing the data.
Because every city in a state may not report to the FBI, a state's total population may not be accounted for, and the median population we determine is likely different than a median based on US Census data.
The FBI data is just one way that cities report crime statistics, and we know that it may differ from other reports a city or police department submits. But, to make sure that we’re comparing apples to apples, we’ve chosen to use this data as the basis of our "safest" cities reporting. Plus, this is the most consistent report available for most cities across the nation.
A note about population data:
It has come to our attention that, on occasion, data may be skewed by outlying factors such as large commuter populations, college campuses, and incarcerated populations. In those cases, crime rates calculated based solely on crime reports and population numbers may not give an accurate representation of a particular community. We appreciate these nuances and are considering their potential impact to future reports.
To identify the safest and most dangerous metro areas in the country, we analyzed FBI crime report statistics and population data. We set a population threshold at 300,000 and higher. Metro areas that fell below that threshold were excluded, along with metros that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI.
Metro areas were ranked based on the number of reported violent crimes (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) and the number of reported property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft). To level the playing field, we calculated the rate of crimes per 1,000 people in each city. Weighting and normalization for the metro cities was applied the same way as for the "safest" cities in each state, described in more detail below.