Living in a safe place has always been important, but these days it feels more vital than ever. Between the global pandemic and continued civil unrest, it can be hard to know where to start when you’re looking for a safe place to call home.
We discovered that many people are feeling the pull toward smaller towns amid the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re looking to move out of a bigger city thanks to new flexibility, economic changes, or a little bit of both—these safe small towns are a great place to start your search.
Here are the 10 safest small towns in America in 2020
- Lewisboro Town (tied for #1)
- Luzerne Township (tied for #1)
- Sleepy Hollow Village
- New Hanover Township
- Kirkland Town
- Russell Township
- Russell Township
- Highlands Town
- Elmira Town
See the full list of America’s 100 safest small towns.
Why look at safety in small towns?
As part of our safest cities series, we look at crime rates in cities of all different sizes. On top of our overall 100 safest cities in America report, we think it helps to hone in on crime trends in cities of similar sizes. So we’re reporting on both major metro areas and smaller towns.
But, as with pretty much everything in 2020, there are new factors to consider right now. On top of crime rates, the novel coronavirus also impacts our sense of safety.
The coronavirus has people re-thinking big cities
The COVID-19 pandemic has kicked off a nationwide migration to smaller towns. After all, if you’re working from home, why not put that home wherever you want it?
Since the pandemic hit, over 40% of urbanites have been browsing the web looking for smaller towns to call home.
Crime and the coronavirus
See how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting crime trends and everyday life across the US in our coronavirus crime roundup.
But not all small towns are quaint, rural outposts. We found 70% of the cities that made our list are suburbs nestled against the bustle of a major metro area. We don’t think that disqualifies them from a spot among America’s safest small towns, though.
There’s no question that lower population density equals lower risk when it comes to exposure to the novel coronavirus, and that’s not the only thing that makes the cities on our list safer. These tiny enclaves (all the cities on our list are home to between 5,000 and 15,000 residents) report far fewer crimes than the national average—but that doesn’t mean they’re crime-free.
Small towns still have crime
Last year, the 100 cities that made our list collectively reported zero violent crimes. But they still experienced property crimes like burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft.
This year, we raised our minimum population threshold from 2,500 residents to 5,000. Whether or not that made the difference, we saw a lot fewer cities reporting zero violent crimes. Even so, the number of reported crimes in these small towns falls significantly below the national average.
In fact, the safest small towns boast an average violent crime rate that’s more than 28 times lower than the rest of the country.
When you look at property crime, these cities report more than 8 times fewer incidents than most cities coast-to-coast.
At the end of the day, there’s definitely less crime in these tiny towns, but it’s not non-existent.
A closer look at crime in America’s safest small towns
If you’ve felt the pull to greener (or, frankly, any) pastures, we did the initial research for you—looking at how many crimes get reported in small towns across the country. Crime is only one factor that can contribute to how safe or dangerous a city or neighborhood is, but it can be a telling one.
All of the small towns we researched report much lower crime rates than national and even state averages. And even though these cities are smaller, many of them are close to bigger urban centers.
In 2019, none of our safest small towns reported any violent crimes. This year, just under half (44) of the cities that made our list reported zero violent crimes.
That means we saw a small uptick in the average violent crime rate of the safest small towns year over year (0.0% vs. 0.13%). But nationwide, the violent crime rate dropped by 3.9%—rounding out two decades of declining violent crime rates.
The average property crime rate among the safest small towns dropped nearly 15% year over year. That drop reflects a national trend—across the US, the average property crime rate fell from 27.11 incidents per 1,000 people in 2019 to 22.0 this year.
Overall, the nationwide property crime rate saw a 6.9% decrease year over year—and a 27.7% decrease since 2009.
Despite overall crime decreasing year-over-year for nearly two decades—whether you live in a small town or a big city—67% of the people we talked to in our annual State of Safety survey think crime is on the rise.
Key findings about America’s safest small towns
For the purposes of this report, the terms “safest” and “dangerous” refer explicitly to crime rates as calculated from FBI crime data—no other characterization of any community is implied or intended.
Cities that made last year’s 100 safest small towns in America
This year, 21 cities made a repeat appearance on our list—including Lewisboro Town, New York, which is tied with Luzerne Township, Pennsylvania for number one. Last year Lewisboro Town topped both our safest small towns list and our overall list of the safest cities in America (regardless of size).
Violent Crime per 1000
Property Crime per 1000
New Hanover Township
Adams Township, Cambria County
East Marlborough Township
Millcreek Township, Lebanon County
More changes to the safest small towns list this year:
- 79% (79) of the 100 safest small towns are on our list for the first time this year.
- 62% (13) of the cities that made our list for the second consecutive year moved up in ranking.
- 29% (6) of the cities that made our list for the second consecutive year dropped in ranking.
- 44 cities reported zero violent crimes, compared to 100 reporting zero last year.
- Only two cities, Lewisboro Town and Luzerne Township, had zero incidents of both violent and property crime.
- No town on our list reported more than 0.55 violent crimes per 1,000 people. Independence Township, New Jersey had the most, but its crime rate is still 6.7 times lower than the national average of 3.7.
- All of the safest small towns reported fewer than five property crime incidents per 1,000 people. Hawthorn Woods, Illinois had the most with 4.7—but thanks to zero violent crime incidents, it landed at 95 out of 100.
- This year there are half as many states represented on our list—just 12, compared to 24 in 2019.
- None of the safest small towns are in the western or southern US. Last year California had one city, and Tennessee, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina all made a showing. This year every town is in the northeast or midwest.
- 90% of the most dangerous small towns are in western and southern states. Maryland is the only outlier among the cities at the bottom of our list.
- Ohio’s safest small towns have the lowest average violent crime rate among the cities on our list—0.06 incidents per 1,000. That’s less than half the average of all the safest small towns (0.13).
- Maine and Michigan are tied for the highest average violent crime rate among the cities on our list. They each reported an average of 0.22 violent crimes per 1,000. The average among all 100 safe small towns is 0.13 violent crimes per 1,000.
- Minnesota boasts the lowest average property crime rate among the cities on our list—1.24. The average of all 100 safe small towns is 2.46 property crimes per 1,000 people.
- Connecticut has the highest average property crime rate among the cities on the list, with 2.98. That’s just over the collective average of 2.46 for all 100 small towns on our list.
- New Jersey toppled Pennsylvania as the state with the most safe small towns—claiming 27. That’s nine more safe towns than New Jersey boasted last year.
- New Jersey also dominates for safe cities in our other reports—25 out of our 100 safest cities in America hail from the Garden State.
- Even though Pennsylvania fell from the top spot, its total number of cities increased from 19 to 21 year over year.
- New York comes in third place for the total number of cities, with 17. But 23 of the small towns on our list are suburbs of the Big Apple.
The safest small towns vs. the most dangerous small towns
- The average violent crime rate in the most dangerous small towns is 19.6 incidents per 1,000 people. That’s 5.3 times higher than the national average of 3.7.
- The average violent crime rate (19.6) in the most dangerous small towns is around 150 times higher than the average violent crime rate (0.13) in the safest small towns.
- Florida City, Florida has the highest violent crime rate of all the cities we looked at, with 30.5 crimes per 1,000.
- Glendale, Colorado reported 8.9 violent crimes per 1,000, but a property crime rate of 158.3 incidents per 1,000 put it at number 3 on our list of the most dangerous small towns.
- The average property crime rate of the most dangerous small towns is 90.0 incidents per 1,000 people. That’s more than four times higher than the national average of 22.0.
- The average property crime rate (90.0) in the most dangerous small towns is around 36 times higher than the average property crime rate (2.46) in the safest small towns.
- Emeryville, California, reported the most property crimes of all the cities we looked at, with 167.6 incidents per 1,000. That’s nearly eight times more than the national average and about 67 times higher than the average of the safest small towns.
- 60% of the most dangerous small towns are suburbs of major metro areas, compared to 70% of the safest small towns.
- Crime rates seem to be slightly higher in small towns that are suburbs of bigger cities. The average property crime rate of the safe small towns that are suburbs is 2.61 incidents per 1,000, versus 2.11 in the non-suburbs.
- Violent crime in the safest small towns is basically the same regardless of proximity to a big city. Non-suburbs reported 0.14 incidents compared to 0.13 per 1,000 in the suburban safe towns.
- Both violent and property crime are higher in the most dangerous small towns that are suburbs of bigger cities. Suburban dangerous towns reported an average of 20.0 violent crimes, compared to 18.8 in the non-suburban towns.
- Property crime in the non-suburban dangerous towns is 81.9 crimes per 1,000, versus 95.8 in the suburban dangerous towns. That puts the suburban dangerous town around 14 more incidents per 1,000 than the towns that aren’t near a big metro.