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 (over 200,000 residents), these are the 20 safest big cities in the U.S. in 2018 according to data from neighborhood watchdog site, Niche.
20. AURORA, COLORADO
Straddling several counties in the Denver metropolitan area, Aurora is the "Gateway to the Rockies" with plenty of outdoor activities. It also ranks as one of the nation's safest cities despite some worryingly high scores when it comes to safety. At six incidences per 100,000 people, the murder rate is representative of the national average, whereas the rates for vehicle theft (2,177 per 100,000) and rape (98, over double the average of 41) are significantly higher.
19. LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY
A heartland for both horseracing and bluegrass music, Kentucky’s second-largest city is a new addition to make this list’s cutoff for safest cities, despite ranking scoring higher marks on Niche for public schools and diversity than crime and safety. Assault cases are quite low, whereas murder is moderately high at eight per 100,000 residents, as are theft and property crime overall.
18. SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
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, with one exception — a whopping 739 motor vehicle thefts occur per 100,000 residents annually, well surpassing the national average of 284.
17. ARLINGTON, TEXAS
Home to hospitals, sports stadiums (Go Rangers, Cowboys and Wings!), theme parks, and manufacturing plants, Arlington is proudly its own principal city within the larger Dallas-Fort Worth sprawl. Nicknamed the "American Dream City," it ranks higher on the list this year despite slightly exceeding the national average in all crime metrics except murder and motor vehicle theft, which are slightly below.
16. AUSTIN, TEXAS
Home to thriving music and culinary scenes, Austin is an increasingly popular destination for tourists and tech companies alike. Though it frequently ranks as one of America's fastest growing cities, Texas' changing capital city has nonetheless managed to keep its crime rates low, particularly for violent crime. Burglary and theft are the only unusually high metrics, at 547 and 2,730 incidences per 100,000 residents respectively.
15. SAN DIEGO
Though large in population and area, San Diego has managed to remain one of America's safest metropolitan centers. With a laid-back and youthful vibe, it's especially great for anyone that enjoys sandy beaches, craft IPAs, and outdoor activities equally appealing to kids and adults. The only crime metric for which the sunny border city exceeds the national average is in auto theft, with an incidence rate of 413 per 100,000 people.
14. MESA, ARIZONA
A suburb of Phoenix, Mesa is Arizona's third-largest city and also one of its safest, home to a well-rated school system and numerous undergraduate institutions. Colorful Mesa offers the vibrancy of a metropolis with the relaxed vibe of the suburbs, plus baseball fans can catch Spring Training with the A's and Cubs. With property crime low across the board, the only metric where Mesa exceeds the national average this year is rape, at 51 incidences per 100,000 residents.
13. NEW YORK CITY
The Big Apple is an exceptionally safe place to live compared to other cities of its size. It may surprise those who think of high crime rates in the past, but a citywide effort to improve quality of life and crime management tactics helped dramatically improve safety. Once again this year, the city ranks especially low on property crimes, while only the incidences of assault (360 per 100,000 people) and robbery (181 per 100,000 people) were high enough to surpass the national average.
12. ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA
Thanks in large part to the opening of Disneyland in 1955, the city of Anaheim quickly evolved from a rural community into Orange County’s semi-urban center while keeping its crime rates relatively low. A revitalized downtown, new dining and shopping destinations, and outdoor activities, help make the city a safe place. Like other California cities on this list, car theft is the only major crime with an abnormally high rate of incidence (392 per 100,000 people), though even that’s declined from last year and helped earn the city a higher ranking.
11. MADISON, WISCONSIN
Madison is known for its numerous bodies of water that lend themselves to summer recreation, as well as for its two most prominent employers — the state government and the University of Wisconsin. The state's capital and second largest city is also the safest of its size, though incidences of rape and theft still slightly exceed the national average.
10. LAREDO, TEXAS
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 worse than the national average are rape (52 incidences compared to an average 41) and theft (2,563 incidences compared to 2,081).
9. LINCOLN, NEBRASKA
The capital and second largest city in Nebraska, Lincoln offers plenty for fans of farmers markets, golfing, arts and culture, and historic sites and tours. Though it can no longer claim a murder rate of zero, the city still ranks below the national crime average for all metrics except rape (70 per 100,000 people) and theft (2,532 per 100,000 people).
8. IRVING, TEXAS
A suburb near the center of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Irving is home to many Fortune 500 headquarters as well as the world's largest equestrian sculpture — a big draw for art enthusiasts and horse lovers alike — in the planned community of Las Colinas. It's also one of Texas' safest cities, with notably low crime rates in every category, except maybe motor vehicle theft, for which there are 263 incidences per 100,000 people — or roughly near the national average.
7. EL PASO, TEXAS
In the far-west corner of Texas along the Rio Grande, El Paso combines with Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Juarez, Mexico, to form a bilingual, international, and thriving metropolitan area. The Texas portion of this unique district offers residents a rich cultural and culinary history along with low real estate prices and crime rates, with only the rates of assaults (273) and rapes (47) nearing — in the latter case, exceeding — the national average for each.
6. HENDERSON, NEVADA
Henderson is Nevada's second-largest city after Las Vegas. In fact, Henderson lies within Sin City’s metropolitan area. An oasis in the Mojave Desert, it’s just a short drive from the Strip, yet also close to beautiful outdoor sites such as Lake Mead and Clark County Wetlands Park. It's ranked as one of the nation's safest cities for years now, helped along by an extraordinarily low rate of violent assault (95 incidences per 100,000 people). This year was no exception.
5. BOISE, IDAHO
Idaho's capital and most populous city boasts affordable home prices and well-rated public schools to complement its low crime rate, not to mention one of the most picturesque botanical gardens in the country. At 1,842 incidences per 100,000 residents, the rate of theft is high compared to Boise’s other crime metrics, whereas incidences of rape are troublingly common by any measure at 69 per 100,000 people. Boise also has an increasingly booming tech industry.
4. VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA
Virginia Beach is a picturesque coastal city without a county, located where the Atlantic Ocean meets Chesapeake Bay. As the state's largest city, Virginia Beach boasts extraordinarily low rates of assault (52 per 100,000 people, compared to a national average of 273), burglary (191 per 100,000) and robbery (59 per 100,000).
3. SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA
Scottsdale is a Phoenix suburb known for its relaxing spas and pristine golf courses that boost its thriving tourism industry. Rates of property and violent crime, especially murder, are both low in the resort town, with only the incidence of rape (45 per 100,000) surpassing the national average of 41.
2. PLANO, TEXAS
On the northern side of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area lies Plano. The city is an affluent suburb and home to many big name corporate headquarters. Only violent crime is notably higher here, though still very low, with only two murders and 72 assault cases reported annually per 100,000 residents.
1. IRVINE, CALIFORNIA
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.