Safe Zones: 20 Most Crime-Free Cities in America

Violent crime rose in the U.S. last year for the first time since 2006, according to FBI statistics. However, the recent 1.2 percent increase belies a long-term trend: America is becoming a much safer country.

To find out which parts of America are the safest, we looked at the FBI’s latest report on crime and found cities with violent crime rates substantially below the national average.

We only included cities with populations of more than 200,000 to exclude suburban areas. Many of the cities are repeat winners from our 2011 report on America’s safest cities.

Irvine, Calif., was the safest city in the country for the ninth consecutive year. The city of just more than 200,000 has one of the country’s top-ranked school systems, a median household income well above the national average, and a crime prevention method that includes keeping a thorough record of violence.

Fifteen of the 20 safest cities are located in the Southwest, including six in California. Conversely, on our list of the 25 most dangerous cities, the only two Southwestern cities were in California.

Clearly there’s a geographic trend here. It should be noted, however, that different crime reporting policies among police departments may make some cities appear safer or more dangerous than they really are.

Neighboring cities Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, Va., are the only two on the list with murder rates equal to or above the national average. However, rape and robbery rates that are substantially below the national average compensate for this difference.

El Paso, Texas, one of the safest cities, is located directly across the Mexico-U.S. border from Juarez, Mexico, one of the world’s most violent cities. Officials there say that drug cartels keep their base of operations in Mexico to avoid encounters with U.S. law enforcement.

It also turns out that safety has its trade-offs: four of the safest cities (Chula Vista, Calif., Hialeah, Fla., Chandler, Ariz., and Henderson, Nev.) also appear on Forbes’s list of the 10 most boring cities in America.

These were the safest cities in 2012:

  • Murder rate: 25% below averageRape rate: 15% below averageRobbery rate: 0.3% below average20. San Diego, Calif.
  • Murder rate: 31% below averageRape rate: 24% below averageRobbery rate: 34% below average19. Laredo, Texas
  • Murder rate: 12% below averageRape rate: 41% below averageRobbery rate: 22% below average18. Chesapeake, Va.
  • Murder rate: 35% below averageRape rate: 46% below averageRobbery rate: 25% below average17. Reno, Nev.
  • Murder rate: 5% below averageRape rate: 85% below averageRobbery rate: 32% below average16. Oxnard, Calif.
  • Murder rate: 47% below averageRape rate: 42% below averageRobbery rate: 27% below average15. Fontana, Calif.
  • Murder rate: 28% below averageRape rate: 2% below averageRobbery rate: 39% below average14. El Paso, Texas
  • Murder rate: 37% below averageRape rate: 25% below averageRobbery rate: 12% below average13. Garland, Texas
  • Murder rate:  Equal to averageRape rate: 52% below averageRobbery rate: 36% below average12. Virginia Beach, Va.
  • Murder rate: 63% below averageRape rate: 36% below averageRobbery rate: 2% below average11. Hialeah, Fla.
  • Murder rate: 32% below averageRape rate: 50% below averageRobbery rate: 20% below average10. Chula Vista, Calif.
  • Murder rate: 65% below averageRape rate: 1% below averageRobbery rate: 46% below average9. Chandler, Ariz.
  • Murder rate: 68% below averageRape rate: 13% below averageRobbery rate: 43% below average8. Henderson, Nev.
  • Murder rate: 90% below averageRape rate: 35% below averageRobbery rate: 73% below average7. Boise, Idaho
  • Murder rate: 71% below averageRape rate: 26% below averageRobbery rate: 55% below average6. Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Murder rate: 72% below averageRape rate: 55% below averageRobbery rate: 47% below average5. Irving, Texas
  • Murder rate: 73% below averageRape rate: Unreported dataRobbery rate: 11 % below average4. Madison, Wisc.
  • Murder rate: 92% below averageRape rate: 28% below averageRobbery rate: 65% below average3. Plano, Texas
  • Murder rate: 81% below averageRape rate: 76% below averageRobbery rate: 47% below average2. Fremont, Calif.
  • Murder rate: 80% below averageRape rate: 86% below averageRobbery rate: 86% below average1. Irvine, Calif

By Amelia Acosta and Anmargaret Warner!slide=6058382


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