The 20 Safest Big Cities in the U.S.

Santa Clarita, California

Santa Clarita, California by Jeff Turner (CC BY)

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Santa Clarita, California
Santa Clarita, California by Jeff Turner (CC BY)

Safety in Numbers

Violence may seem like an omnipresent concern for cities in America, but its prevalence varies dramatically depending on where you live. While some communities are besieged by worrying rates of violent crime, there are others — mostly smaller in size and population — that enjoy next to none. Perhaps surprisingly, even some of the bigger cities are still relatively safe. (And some are enjoying a construction boom.) Among America's larger population centers, these are the 20 safest big cities in the U.S. in the past year according to data from a SmartAsset study.

Pasadena, California
Pasadena, California by Downtowngal (CC BY-SA)

20. Pasadena, California

Population: 141,029

Located within commuting distance of Los Angeles, sunny Pasadena is known for being the center of California's scientific research and development, especially when it comes to aeronautics. We have the California Institute of Technology — one of America's most selective engineering colleges — to thank for that. 

Related: Where Your State Ranks for Bicycle Safety

Palmdale, California
Wikimedia Commons

19. Palmdale, California

Population: 155,079
Much like Pasadena, Palmdale is a small Southern California city on the outskirts of Los Angeles that grew in part thanks to the aeronautics and technology industry. And though it is part of LA County, you're more likely to find Joshua trees here than celebrities.

Related: The Coldest and Warmest Cities in Every State

Irvine, California

18. Irvine, California

Population: 287,401
This planned city in central Orange County is notable for its highly rated public school system as well as its low rates of violent crime and property crime. You'll also find plenty of sunshine, outdoor activities, and a growing food scene. Founded by the Irvine Company, the sprawling town is also home to the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and numerous corporate headquarters.

Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia by Ser Amantio di Nicolao (CC BY-SA)

16. Alexandria, Virginia (tie)

Population: 159,428

History buffs are sure to be familiar with Alexandria thanks to its colonial past. That said, the city has come a long way since its days as a major tobacco hub. It's set to be the site of Amazon's $2.5 billion HQ2, a futuristic East Coast campus, and the city's old town is a cultural hot spot for tourists and Washington D.C. residents.

Brownsville, Texas
Wikimedia Commons

16. Brownsville, Texas (tie)

Population: 182,781
Brownsville is located at the very tip of Texas, making it the southernmost border town  with Mexico. That geography has shaped the city's binational community, which is practically bilingual and more than 90% Hispanic. While the town has its problems — many of its residents are low-income, and health care problems abound — it remains one of the safest cities in the country.

College Station, Texas
Wikimedia Commons

15. College Station, Texas

Population: 117,911
College station is — you guessed it — a university town. Home to the public land-grant university Texas A&M, the city's median age is just 23, which makes sense given that students make up more than half the city's population. It's also one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

Round Rock, Texas
Round Rock, Texas by Billy Hathorn (CC BY)

14. Round Rock, Texas

Location: 133,372
Round Rock traces its history back to 1848, when a blacksmith set up shop near Brushy Creek, the town's first name. The community expanded in the next few decades, especially after the International-Great Northern Railroad set its tracks a short distance from Round Rock. But it wasn't until the 1970s and '80s that a manufacturing and tech boom transformed the town into the city it is today.

Laredo, TX

13. Laredo, Texas

Population: 251,671
The predominantly Latino city of Laredo ranks as both one of America's least diverse cities and one of its safest. The city offers excellent dining options, a rich cultural history, and an eclectic arts scene. The only metrics in which it ranks significantly worse than its peer cities are in vehicular and drug poisoning mortality.

San Jose, California
San Jose, California by Michael (CC BY)

12. San Jose, California

Population: 1,021,795
On the southern end of the San Francisco Bay area, San Jose is California's third-largest city and anchors the thriving tech hub that is Silicon Valley. No doubt thanks in part to its booming economy and prohibitive housing costs, the city boasts low crime rates across the board.

Fremont, California
Wikimedia Commons

11. Fremont, California

Population: 241,110
Just north of San Jose, Fremont is another hotbed for the technology sector. It was in the 1980s and '90s that companies like Apple began to build manufacturing plants in the area, and by the early 2000s, more than 750 tech companies had opened facilities in this Bay Area city. That's apparent in the median household income figures, which regularly top $100,000.

Torrance Beach Winter Scene
Greg Hetrick/istockphoto

10. Torrance, California

Population: 143,592

As part of the greater Los Angeles area, Torrance is commuting distance from La La Land's most popular locales — just be prepared for traffic. It's also a city in its own right, known for being safer than neighboring cities and its Asian community. So if you're looking for killer yakitori or ramen, Torrance is the place to be.

Plano, Texas
Plano, Texas by Eric Fredericks (CC BY-SA)

9. Plano, Texas

Population: 287,677
Plano, which means "flat" in Spanish, started as a small farming community in the 1870s. It more or less remained that way until after World War II, when commuter rail stopped serving the town. The city's very own website admits that that the post-war period was a dark time, as Plano became a run-down ghost town. But revitalization efforts since the '80s have breathed life back into the Dallas suburb, and today Plano ranks in the top 10 best places to live in the U.S.

Santa Clara, California
Wikimedia Commons

7. Santa Clara, California (tie)

Population: 130,365
From the Intel Museum to the many tech companies that call this city home, Santa Clara is dominated by high-income programmers and engineers. The city is also well-known for being the location of one of Spain's infamous missions, which were religious outposts that colonizers used to evangelize Native Americans. Today, you can still visit Mission Santa Clara de Asís, one of 21 Franciscan churches in California.

Cary, North Carolina
Cary, North Carolina by Zajohnso (CC BY-SA)

7. Cary, North Carolina (tie)

Population: 170,282

Cary is part of North Carolina's Research Triangle Park, which is home to three major research universities: the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Duke; and North Carolina State. Those institutions have completely transformed the area, causing the population to double just a few years after the triangle's founding in 1959. Today, Cary hosts dozens of festivals every year and boasts 30 parks and over 80 miles of trails.

McAllen, Texas
McAllen, Texas by Aanthon1 (CC BY-SA)

6. McAllen, Texas

Population: 143,268

Just 50 miles west of Brownsville, McAllen is a border town with a notable binational community and Spanish-speaking population. Its proximity to Mexico also shapes its economy, which is dominated by foreign trade, especially when it comes to processing fruits, vegetables, and cotton.

Glendale, California
Wikimedia Commons

5. Glendale, California

Population: 199,303

While Glendale might be overshadowed by its larger, more glamorous neighbor, this Southern California suburb is an ethnically diverse cultural center just a few miles from Los Angeles' hottest neighborhoods. And for nature lovers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Glendale's megamall, the nearby Verdugo Mountains offer spectacular views of the city below.

Sunnyvale, California
Sunnyvale, California by Arvian Heidir (CC BY-SA)

4. Sunnyvale, California

Population: 152,703

If you know the Silicon Valley, then you've certainly noticed a trend. Many of the safest cities in the U.S. are located in this tech metropolis — and Sunnyvale is no exception. Yes, Sunnyvale may be a bit dull, but it's a great place to raise a family, and you're a reasonable drive from two of California's largest cities, San Jose and San Francisco.

Santa Clarita, California
Santa Clarita, California by Jeff Turner (CC BY)

3. Santa Clarita, California

Population: 212,979

If you've ever been to Six Flags Magic Mountain, then you've been to Santa Clarita. This Boomburb — a rapidly growing city that's a suburb at heart — is much sleepier than Los Angeles, which is just 30 miles southwest, but it's safe and has some excellent schools. In other words, it's the perfect place if you want to raise a family near LA without dealing with the city's crime.

McKinney, Texas
McKinney, Texas by Mistermckinney (CC BY-SA)

2. McKinney, Texas

Population: 199,177

McKinney is a large suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, just 30 miles north of the Big D. It consistently ranks among the most livable cities in the U.S. thanks to the city's wealth of outdoor offerings, tasty wineries, and quaint downtown. For beer drinkers, the city also has a respectable number of local breweries, including one that's located in a historic cotton mill.

Frisco, Texas
Frisco, Texas by Michael Barera (CC BY-SA)

1. Frisco, Texas

Population: 200,490
After so many towns from the Lone Star State have made the list, it shouldn't be a surprise that Texas is home to America's safest city: Frisco. What's remarkable about SmartAsset's No. 1 pick is that it's, well, unremarkable. Like McKinney, Frisco is part of the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, and it has a high median household income of over $116,884. The upshot? If safety is a priority, look for the nearest affluent satellite city.

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