Crime is rising in the US- and it keeps getting worse. Homicides increased by 7% in 2021 and gun violence has increased since 2014, with fatal shootings in major cities increasing by 80%. MoneyGeek, a personal finance tech company, recently analyzed crime statistics in nearly 300 cities with populations of more than 100,000 to produce a rankingmost dangerous cities in the US, as well as the safest cities in America- a useful list for everyone from travelers to concerned citizens.
MoneyGeek compiled the list of America's Most Dangerous Cities and America's Safest Places by per capita cost of crime based on FBI standardized crime data combined with economic cost studies by type of crime. The total societal cost of crime to these cities? Estimated $203 billion in 2020.
Read more: For the latest list of the most dangerous and safest cities in the US, go toThe report lists America's 15 safest (and most dangerous) cities for 2023.
The MoneyGeek team says they made this report on the top dangerous cities in the US because they are interested in all aspects of Americans' financial lives. “[Security] is related to both understanding home buying and insurance. Crime and economic opportunity are also correlated. Where we live impacts our wallets, jobs and opportunities,” said Doug Milnes, Chief of Data Analytics at MoneyGeek. "Travelers can use this report to understand the relative safety of these cities across the country that they may be visiting. For some, this may mean avoiding a less safe destination altogether, and for others, it may mean taking different travel routes or taking different precautions in a particular city.”
This is the second year that the MoneyGeek team has conducted this analysis of America's Most Dangerous Cities and America's Safest Places, and they found that from 2019 to 2020 (the last full year the data was available). "Overall, we saw a 15% increase in crime costs and a median of 11%," says Milnes.
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Determination of the most dangerous cities in America
There were several US cities where crime had increased significantly. "It's worth noting that popular tourist destinations like Seattle, New Orleans, and Chicago were among the cities where the cost of crime went up," says Milnes. “In Chicago the cost of crime increased 29%, in NOLA the increase was 40% and in Seattle it was 42%. These percentage increases can hide some numbers. The increase in crime costs from NOLA added to the already high crime costs. We saw that 70% of cities in America reported some increase in the cost of crime.”
So why should people care about the cost of crime? Two reasons, says MoneyGeek. "The costs of crime we calculate provide weights that can help us understand the relative differences in crime rates that capture the impact of reported crimes," says Milnes. “Second, the crime cost estimates used in our rankings reflect all of the costs of crime in a community: the impact on the victim and the community, and remind us all that crime has an impact on our communities. I would like to think that the cost of crime is a reminder of how communities that struggle with crime pay for it in a variety of ways.”
In its analysis, MoneyGeek ranked 297 cities with more than 100,000 residents from most to least safe. At the bottom of the list was St. Louis, Missouri, voted America's Most Dangerous City. Milnes says it's hard to say why St. Louis is so dangerous, but one factor may be the fact that it's struggling economically. "Population has been declining rather than increasing over time like America's population, and the St. Louis metropolitan area's GDP has grown more slowly than the entire country since 2001," says Milnes.
So should you avoid St. Louis on your travels? "As a traveler, it comes down to your risk tolerance and the activities you plan to do," says Milnes. "There are probably areas of St. Louis that are worth avoiding for safety reasons, but that doesn't mean it can't be safe."
Determining the Safest Cities in America
MoneyGeek also ranked the safest major cities in America with populations over 300,000. Virginia Beach was named the safest major city with a per capita crime rate of $611. Compare that to St. Louis, which had the highest crime cost per capita at $11,574. "Virginia Beach is well known as a popular tourist destination, and being safe and being perceived as safe is certainly helpful for travelers and cities looking to attract tourists and encourage tourism," says Milnes. "When I think about my own travel preferences, safety seems like a minimum requirement to pass [or a] disqualification rather than a reason to visit a place (no one's main reason to visit Rome is because it's safe). While every traveler's risk appetite [and] desired security is different, tourists will certainly pass by more dangerous places.”
MoneyGeek also ranked the safest cities in America with populations over 100,000. The safest city on this list was Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. This city has an overall crime rate of $187 per capita.
Safest Places in the US:Surprising results
A surprise on the list: “Cities move up and down each year based on their reported crime, which is to be expected. A surprisingly large movement was Atlanta, Georgia,” says Milnes. "The cost of crime has actually come down, propelling Atlanta from the bottom of our safest major cities list to the top 20 safest major cities."
Another surprise: while no major city (population of 300,000 or greater) made the overall safest list, less than half of the top 15 most dangerous cities in the US were major cities. Does this mean big cities are getting safer? Or do they just have more money to spend fighting crime? “Usually larger cities are doing well economically. So while there is crime, there is also economic opportunity and associated tax revenue,” says Milnes. “There are studies on thisJobs reduce crimeand tax revenues can also help fund departments and programs that help reduce crime. These may not be all law enforcement agencies — it could be job placement programs or better school systems.”
According to Milnes, geography also plays a role. For example, some cities that are geographically close to each other may result in safety differences due to city limits alone. One example is the Bay Area. "San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland all have different crime levels despite being very close together (they're all in the same Metropolitan Statistical Area according to the Census Bureau)," says Milnes. "There are socioeconomic differences in the populations of these cities, which are reflected in the crime rates of these cities."
Another example that may be less relevant to travelers is San Bernadino and Riverside in Southern California. "San Bernadino has one of the highest crime rates in the country, while Riverside is among the safest major cities, but they're about 10 miles apart," says Milnes. "When you combine Riverside and San Bernadino, you get a town that's somewhere in the middle."
Another surprise: New York City — a place that has been making headlines for crime lately — has made the list of safest major cities. “Our analysis shows that crime in NYC increased 7% from 2019 to 2020, which is below the national average. It's a significant increase, but not as sharp as other cities during this period," says Milnes.
It's also possible that New York City simply has an image problem. "There are a lot of reporters in NYC, and sometimes that concentration leads to more coverage of the same local issue, which can encourage greater awareness of rising crime compared to other places," says Milnes.
Read on for lists of America's most dangerous and safest cities.
10 Most Dangerous Cities in the US (#1 is the Highest Crime Rate)
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Jackson, Mississippi
- Detroit, Michigan
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Kansas City, Missouri
- Shreveport, Louisiana
15 Safest Major Cities in the US (Population Over 300,000)
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Henderson, Nevada
- El Paso, Texas
- Mesa, Arizona
- San Diego, California
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Anaheim, California
- San Jose, California
- Santa Ana, California
- New York City
- Austin, Texas
- Arlington, Texas
- Las Vegas
- Riverside, California
20 Safest Cities in the US (Population Over 100,000)
- Naperville, Illinois
- Cary, North Carolina
- Murrieta, California
- Carmel, Indiana
- Frisco, Texas
- Amherst Town, New York
- Cape Coral, Florida
- Irvine, California
- Thousand Oaks, California
- McKinney, Texas
- Allen, Texas
- Lee’s Summit, Missouri
- Coral Springs, Florida
- Bend, Oregon
- Parish of Woodbridge, New Jersey
- Temecula, California
- Santa Clarita, California
- Daly City, California
- Meridian, Idaho
- Centennial Celebration, Colorado
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