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America's Safest Cities

America's Safest Cities

By Brandon Ott - June 5, 2009

When we think about cities in the United States, one thing almost always comes to mind: crime. What's more, we often associate our largest cities with being the most crime-riddled. But in fact, new data released by the FBI demonstrates many of our largest cities are quite safe when measured across a variety of categories.

According to FBI crime statistics released this week, the level of crime in cities across America fell in 2008. Nationally, violent crime fell 2.5% versus 2007, property crime fell 1.6%, and arson fell 3.5%. This is a welcome turn around, given that violent crime rate soared 2.3% from 2004 to 2005, with the murder rate and robberies increasing 3.4% and 3.9%, respectively. More striking is the fact that one would expect crime to spike in an economic downturn, yet this has not been the case so far. 2008 also saw the biggest decrease, year over year, in murder, robbery, aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft in the past four years.

In Depth: Click to See America's Top 10 Safest Cities

The violent crime category is comprised of murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes include burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. Arson is a property crime, but its statistics are calculated separately.

Among cities with a population exceeding 500,000 residents, New York City tops the list of safest cities in America. The Big Apple saw a decrease of 4% in violent crime from 2007, handily beating the national average. The overall drop consists of a 9% decrease in assaults (the largest sub category), but is marred by a 5.4% increase in murder, 1.7% increase in rape and a 1.8% increase in robbery. New York City's per-capita crime rate hovers at 4.2%.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted the continuing downtrend in crime activity, declaring that New York City has had "43 fewer murders, 1,415 fewer robberies and 491 fewer cars stolen" in the first five months of 2009 compared to 2008. Bloomberg continued, "Using innovative policing strategies and a focus on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, we are continuing to do more with less, in spite of the economic downturn."

Tuscon, Arizona, however, does have a lower crime rate than New York City, at 2.9% per-capita, but a lack of property crime statistics prevents it from achieving the top spot.

After New York, America's safest cities are: San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, El Paso, Honolulu, Denver, Boston, Las Vegas and Louisville.

And the U.S.'s least safe city? That distinction goes to Memphis, Tennessee, with a crime rate of 18% per capita, followed by Atlanta (16%), San Antonio (15.2%), Detroit (13.7%) and Milwaukee (13.4%). These rates reflect the total crimes detailed in the FBI's report divided by the population of the city.


New York also tops the list of safest cities with more than a million residents, beating out Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego and San Jose. These cities all saw an impressive reduction in all three major categories of crime.

Curiously, only the smallest category of cities - those with under ten thousand people - saw an increase in the number of murders, rapes and robberies.

In Depth: Click to See America's Top 10 Safest Cities

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Brandon Ott

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