SmartAsset Study 2023: The Safest Cities in America
In real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. In fact, the National Association of Realtors’ 2022 Annual Home Buyer Survey found that nearly half of all buyers (49%) cited the quality of a neighborhood as the #1 factor. 1 for determining where to live, ahead of both affordability (37%) and proximity to friends and family (37%).
A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan to save for your down payment.
While popular restaurants and shops may be convenient in a neighborhood, safety remains a primary concern. With this in mind, SmartAsset set out to find out which cities in the US are safer. We analyzed data from 200 of the country’s largest cities across the following five metrics: violent crime, property crime, vehicular death rate, drug poisoning death rate, and percentage of the population who drink excessively.
We also looked at the affordability of the 35 safest cities. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, please read the Data and Methodology section below.
For a previous SmartAsset study of America’s safest cities, check out the 2022 edition here.
These cities in the Lone Star State are the safest. Texas is home to many of the safest cities in the nation by our metrics. Four of the top five cities with the highest safety ratings are in Texas, including Frisco. All four had violent crime rates below 90% of cities across the study.
Security doesn’t always come at a high price. In fact, the top five cities in our study are relatively affordable. Housing costs are less than 20% of median household income in seven of the 35 cities with the highest safety rankings. Of the top five, Santa Clarita, California is the most expensive (25.19%) and Frisco, Texas is the most affordable (18.91%).
Los Angeles is the safest big city in America. Los Angeles, which is ranked 46th, is the safest when compared to other cities that have populations over 1 million. The City of Angels is followed by San Diego (50th), San Antonio (113th), Philadelphia (115th), New York (126th), Dallas (130th), Chicago (139th), Phoenix (148th ) and Houston (157th) in our safety rankings.
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The five safest cities
1. Frisco, Texas
Frisco ranks first in safety for the second year in a row. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Frisco has the fourth lowest violent crime rate (95 crimes per 100,000 residents) and the sixth lowest property crime rate (901 per 100,000 residents). Frisco and the surrounding area also had an average of eight drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 residents in 2022, which ranked fourth lowest in our study.
2. McKinney, Texas
McKinney, which borders Frisco to the east, has the fifth-lowest property crime rate among all 200 cities in our study. In 2021, 887 property crimes were reported per 100,000 residents. This city, with a population of 202,000, also has the 10th lowest violent crime rate (127 for every 100,000 residents). And like Frisco, McKinnney’s drug poisoning death rate ranks fourth lowest.
3. McAllen, Texas
Located along the U.S.-Mexico border, McAllen is a city of nearly 144,000 and ranks third overall for safety. McAllen and surrounding Hidalgo County had the second-lowest drug poisoning death rate (five deaths per 100,000 residents) in our study and the seventh-lowest percentage of people who drink excessively (15.27%). The city records 179 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, which is the 18th lowest violent crime rate.
4. Santa Clarita, CA
Santa Clarita may be best known as the home of Six Flags Magic Mountain, but the city has been ranked among the safest cities in the country for the past three years. Santa Clarita has the eighth-lowest property crime rate in our study (988 for every 100,000 residents) and the 11th-lowest violent crime rate (131 for every 100,000 residents). And just over 17% of the population in Los Angeles County, where Santa Clarita is located, drinks excessively (35°).
5. Plano, Texas
Plano, like neighboring Frisco and McKinney, has the fourth lowest drug poisoning death rate. There are 157 violent crimes reported here for every 100,000 residents, making it the 17th lowest city out of 200 cities evaluated for this study.
The most convenient safe cities
As part of this study, SmartAsset also set out to determine which of the safest cities are the most affordable. To do so, we ranked the 35 safest cities based on a home affordability metric: average annual housing costs as a percentage of median household income. Discussed below are the top five cities where housing costs make up the lowest percentage of income.
1. Cary, NC
Cary slipped from #7 to #18 for safety in this year’s study, but it remains the cheapest safe city in the United States, by our metrics. Average annual housing costs ($18,804) in this city of 178,500 people are just 15.18% of median household income ($123,857).
2. Olate, KS
Olathe, who ranks 16th overall in safety, is second in convenience. While the median household income in this city of 143,000 residents is $99,631, the median annual housing costs are just $17,496. As a result, housing costs are 17.56% of household income in Olathe.
Average annual housing costs in Naperville are 17.57% of median household income, making this Chicago suburb one of America’s most affordable safe cities. Naperville ranks 14th overall in safety, thanks in large part to a property crime rate that is the lowest in our study (320 for every 100,000 residents).
4. Land Park, KS
Located between Kansas City and Olathe, the city of Overland Park ranks 21st in safety, but fourth in convenience. With nearly 200,000 residents, the average annual housing costs here are 18.52% ($16,536) of the median household income ($89,280).
5. Frisco, Texas
Frisco is the only city to rank in the top 5 for both safety and convenience. It has one of the highest median household incomes ($130,118) among the 35 safest cities. This means that Frisco’s median annual home costs ($24,600) are 18.91% of median household income.
Data and methodology
To find the safest cities, SmartAsset compared 200 of the largest US cities across the following metrics:
Violent crime rate. The number of violent crimes per 100,000 population. Data is from the FBI’s 2021 Uniform Crime Reporting Database; missing crime data was supplemented by NeighborhoodScout.com
Property crime rate. The number of property crimes per 100,000 inhabitants. Data is from the FBI’s 2021 Uniform Crime Reporting Database; missing crime data was supplemented by NeighborhoodScout.com
Vehicle death rate. The number of deaths from road accidents per 100,000 inhabitants. Data is from 2022 county health rankings.
Mortality rate from drug intoxication. The number of deaths from drug poisoning per 100,000 population. Data is from 2022 county health rankings.
Percentage of the population who drink excessively. The percentage of adults who had more than four drinks of alcohol for women or five drinks of alcohol for men on a single occasion in a 30-day period, or who engage in heavy drinking, defined as drinking more of one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men on average. Data is from 2022 county health rankings.
The vehicular death rate, the drug poisoning death rate, and the percentage of the population who drink excessively are all measured at the county level. Both violent and property crime rates are citywide.
We ranked each metropolitan area in each metric, giving equal weight to all five metrics. We then found the average ranking for each metropolitan area. The metropolitan area with the best-ranked average ranks first in our study, while the area with the lowest-ranked average ranks last.
To measure the affordability of housing in the 35 safest cities, we compared them using the following metrics:
Average annual costs for the house. The data is from the Census Bureau’s 2021 Annual American Community Survey.
Median household income. The data is from the Census Bureau’s 2021 Annual American Community Survey.
We divided average annual housing costs by median household income for each of the 35 safest cities to calculate our affordability rankings.
Home buying tips
Establish an adequate budget. Households that spend more than 30% of their income on rent, mortgage and other housing needs are considered housing burdened. We have a tool designed to help you determine how much home you can afford so you aren’t one of the millions of families burdened with costs.
Don’t forget closing costs. When getting a mortgage, be sure to use our closing cost calculator to get a better idea of how much these fees will be for you. These extra charges can range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount.
Work with a financial professional. Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase you will ever make. A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan to save for your down payment. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors serving your area, and you can interview your advisors at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you reach your financial goals, get started now.
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