How Do We Pick the Safest Cities? Our Rankings Demystified

Written by | Updated January 1, 2018


SafeWise is committed to helping you live safe. Part of that mission includes identifying the safest places to live across the country. Each year in our Safest Cities rankings, we deliver a comprehensive assessment of safety in each of our top cities—but this year we’ve taken our commitment one step further with our nationwide State of Safety report.

How the Safest Cities Are Ranked

We use the most up-to-date FBI crime data as the backbone of our reports. This means we rely on information that cities across the country report through the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. If you don’t see your city listed, it could be due to incomplete UCR data or the failure to submit a report.


We also use population thresholds for each state. We identify the median city population in each state and only report on cities with populations above the median. This reduces the risk of outliers and lowers the likelihood of an extreme outlier skewing the data.


The FBI UCR data is just one way that cities report crime statistics, and we know that it may differ from other reports a city 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.

How the Safest Cities of 2019 Were Decided

To identify the safest cities of 2019, we reviewed 2017 FBI crime report statistics (the most recent complete report available at the time of ranking) and population data. Cities that fell below identified populations thresholds—or that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI—were excluded from the report. Three states (Hawaii, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) were also excluded from the rankings due to a large number of cities with incomplete crime reporting.


Our rankings are based on the number of reported violent crimes (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) in each city. If there was a tie, we also factored in the number of property crimes (burglary, arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft). We give precedence to violent crime because it typically results in physical harm or injury, whereas property crime usually has an economic impact. While both are concerning, people are usually more afraid of violent crime, which directly impacts their feeling of safety.


To level the playing field, we calculated the rate of crimes per 1,000 people in each city. This makes it easier to directly compare the likelihood of these crimes occurring in cities with vastly different populations.

Where the State of Safety Report Comes In

In addition to ranking the safest cities of 2019, SafeWise also conducted a nationwide survey to find out what people are actually worried about when it comes to safety. This helped us compare perceptions of safety (and danger) to reality. We added these correlations and other useful findings to our Safest Cities reports.


The State of Safety survey asked participants to rate how concerned they were about each safety issue using a scale from one to seven (one was “not at all concerned” and seven was “very concerned”). We then looked at the issue that ranked first place in each state as the most concerning issue. From there, we compared the overall percentage of “very concerned” responses from each state to see which ones had the highest and lowest levels of concern.


The State of Safety study used a 10-minute online survey that was fielded in August 2018. We spoke to 5,000 respondents across the US; 100 from every state. Responses were weighted for population. Based on the number of completes, the margin of error is ±1.4%, 19 times out of 20.


For full details about what safety issues people are most worried about, check out the complete State of Safety report.  

Written by SafeWise Team

The SafeWise Team is here to help you keep your home and family safe. Whether you’re looking to pick a security system or identify and remove common risks in your home, we’re here to help you find the best products and well-researched answers. At SafeWise we combine our years of experience in home safety and security with user reviews and feedback to help take the guesswork out of living safe. Learn more

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  • Chris

    I disagree with this analysis completely, reports based completely off ucr where agencies choose what they report to FBI, they do not have to report as well. Dumfries having zero violent crime is completely inaccurate. Request that you gather more factual data from these organizations such as direct reporting statistics, not UCR if you going to make this kind of report

  • Kent Borcherding

    There is a serious flaw in this ranking. Take Shawnee for instance, it was reported as the most dangerous city in Oklahoma by population. Shawnee is unique because although the population is only reported as 31K, It has over 100K people in Shawnee everyday. Therefore the number of people in town is over 3 times the population. Taking just this 1 aspect into consideration would now lower Shawnee to one of the safer cities. I think you will find small bedroom communities without allot of business and industry will always incorrectly show the safest just using crime states and population as the yardstick.

    • Rebecca Edwards

      Thanks for your feedback. We are always looking for ways to improve our rankings and methodology with the information and resources that are available to us. In 2020, although we will still use FBI and US Census Bureau data, we are also layering in data from our independent State of Safety research study and, as possible, will be reaching out to residents and law enforcement in some of the cities to add insights such as yours to our reporting.