Crime touches everyone in the United States. If you are not a victim yourself, it’s likely you know someone who is. But violent crime and property crimes are not evenly spread throughout America, and some states are much safer than others.

Using recently released FBI statistics and length of incarceration data, LawnStarter  came up with a “Danger Index” to rank the states and the District of Columbia for the likelihood of crime. See the relative risk that you and your friends and family face in the data below. (See methodology below)

The Safest and Most Dangerous States

RankStateDanger Index
Violent Crime per 1000Property Crime per 1000
1NEW HAMPSHIRE0.241.7512.70
2NEW JERSEY0.272.0513.76
3MASSACHUSETTS0.283.3412.27
4MAINE0.291.3417.03
5RHODE ISLAND0.302.1316.34
6VERMONT0.322.0117.74
7CONNECTICUT0.342.2818.39
8PENNSYLVANIA0.353.3916.37
9IDAHO0.372.6719.20
10New York0.374.4315.92
11Wyoming0.392.09
22.59
12WISCONSIN0.41
3.90
19.62
13MINNESOTA0.43
2.64
23.78
14VIRGINIA0.45
3.10
23.57
15NORTH DAKOTA0.45
3.03
24.25
16UTAH0.45
2.55
24.99
17KENTUCKY0.45
2.07
22.56
18Illinois0.46
4.64
20.54
19MICHIGAN0.47
5.47
19.75
20SOUTH DAKOTA0.47
4.04
23.89
21HAWAII0.51
2.50
29.41
22CALIFORNIA0.51
4.44
24.72
23NEBRASKA0.52
3.79
27.66
24WEST VIRGINIA0.53
4.13
27.71
25OHIO0.54
3.89
27.14
26TEXAS0.56
4.68
27.40
27FLORIDA0.56
4.50
28.90
28ARIZONA0.58
4.69
29.63
29NEVADA0.59
5.82
25.74
30COLORADO0.60
4.55
30.86
31KANSAS0.62
5.30
31.26
32NORTH CAROLINA0.62
0.00
32.38
33MONTANA0.63
4.24
34.85
34GEORGIA0.63
4.26
34.05
35OREGON0.63
3.42
36.17
36INDIANA0.64
5.88
30.24
37OKLAHOMA0.67
5.49
32.96
38WASHINGTON0.67
3.70
37.39
39MISSISSIPPI0.69
1.85
34.93
40MISSOURI0.71
6.43
34.34
41SOUTH CAROLINA0.76
5.83
38.72
42ARKANSAS0.77
6.69
36.40
43DELAWARE0.77
7.73
36.72
44ALABAMA 0.81
7.22
40.20
45TENNESSEE0.83
8.69
38.87
46MARYLAND0.90
10.82
34.70
47DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA0.92
9.41
42.70
48NEW MEXICO0.95
9.17
44.89
49LOUISIANA0.95
8.10
46.10
50ALASKA1.00
10.92
44.49

Top States by Crime

How Does Your State Compare?

Ask the Experts

Dr. Alexander Siedschlag, chair of Penn State Homeland Security Programs

Dr. Alexander Siedschlag

What are your thoughts on the criminal activity outlook for 2020 based on the current political climate?

The current political climate may lead to the unlocking of some more violent extremism but my thoughts are that we are going to see a more significant impact be transnational criminal organizations. They will include but not be limited to more financial crimes across national boundaries. New technology will continue to be a resource for crime prevention as well as a door opener for crime, such as cyberattacks that may deny citizens access to essential online services of government agencies and medical providers, identity theft or mass shootings and smuggling with use of drones. In the current political climate, it may become increasingly difficult to reach whole-community consensus and action to prevent and protect from those types of crime that can severely impact any part of American society.

What can governors and mayors do to increase public safety in their states and cities?

Because new and emerging criminal activity knows no geographical boundaries, governors and mayors can work together, pool resources, and share information. Among others, the National Governors Association is doing an excellent job fostering such a collaborative approach. As crime can originate in one state and city and impact many others, having the whole community, beyond one’s own immediate constituency, in mind even in local response planning and execution will be essential for effective prevention and combating of crime.

Do you think mandatory minimum sentencing has helped lower the crime rate and why?

I think mandatory minimum sentencing is actually not a so big deterring factor. Research has shown that increases in the certainty of punishment deter potential criminal or repeat offenders more than the expected severity of the punishment. Obviously, removing repeat offenders from society for an extended period of time may lower crime rates, but the current law enforcement enterprise standard is to look for alternatives to incarceration since incarceration can also radicalize. I think sentencing should be adaptive and responsive to circumstances or context when applying the law. Legal minimum sentencing requirements are not quite in line with that.

Do you agree with President Trump that tightening restrictions on immigration will help lower violent crime within the United States?

That’s a tough one as research tends to be inconclusive and sometimes conflicting here. However, recent seminal studies have not found an association between the size of the immigrant population and the prominence of violent crime, except drug-related arrests. Data is too limited to make definite statements, so I would be very likely to not agree with anybody trying to make definite statements on this subject matter. Recent terrorist attacks and serious crimes have typically been committed by citizens or longer-term immigrants and as such were not preventable by extreme vetting of new immigrants.

Dr. Casey T. Harris

 

What are your thoughts on the criminal activity outlook for 2020 based on the current political climate?

My assumption after looking at the past few years of data suggests that crime will remain relatively unchanged, despite greater polarization in our political climate. For example, the overall violent crime rate in 2015 was 373.7 offenses per 100,000 people, but increased by around 3.5% to 386.6 offenses per 100,000 people in 2016. It was already back down to around 369 offenses per 100,000 in 2018 and should continue to hover around that level this year. While the FBI has found evidence that hate crimes have increased nationally — and especially for some specific types of hate crime in some cities (e.g., anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic offending in New York) — crime still remains relatively low compared to the most recent peak in the early-to-mid 1990s when violent crime was more than double the current rate.

What can governors and mayors do to increase public safety in their states and cities?

A lot of the best things that can be done involve refining policies and practices that have been in place for quite some time. For example, local policymakers can invest in policing strategies that fit the local crime problem, balance those strategies with an awareness that crime impacts some groups and communities (e.g., minorities, disadvantaged neighborhoods) more than others, and recognize that no single policy or practice is the “silver bullet” to fixing crime problems. Local problems often require local solutions, including using criminal justice resources not only for arrests and incarcerations but for rehabilitation and prevention too, so as not to create a revolving door within our prison system.

Do you agree with President Trump that tightening restrictions on immigration will help lower violent crime within the United States?

No, I don’t think the type of restrictions on immigration proposed by President Trump will help lower violent crime. For one thing, immigrants are not responsible for a larger proportion of crime, despite what the general public and some policymakers might think. Such beliefs have been around since at least the earliest waves of European immigration at the turn of the 20th century, even without scientific evidence to support those beliefs. Across several decades, we now have dozens of studies using data from thousands of neighborhoods, communities, and all 50 states that have observed two remarkably consistent findings: (a) immigrants actually commit crime at lower rates than their native-born counterparts and (b) those places that have larger immigrant populations have slightly lower rates of crime (and crime rates that have dropped more over time in those places too). These scientific findings are true even when we look specifically at the undocumented population.

As another issue, some of the features of President Trump’s immigration policies misunderstand where or how immigrants come into the country. A very large share of the undocumented population arrive legally both through the physical ports of entry at the border and through airports, then overstay their legally granted time. In such cases, some of the proposed immigration restrictions (for example, a border wall or other similarly restrictive measures of border security) will do little good in stopping crime.

Finally, more broadly, I think emphasizing violent crime as a pervasive problem nationwide may be misplaced. The rate of crime — both violent and property — is down near levels not seen since the mid-1970s after having peaked in the early to mid-1990s. This is true even despite some localized small-to-moderate increases for homicide a few years ago that have subsequently fallen again in the most recent years. I’m not suggesting that as a nation we should do nothing simply because crime is down. We always want to protect our citizens the best we can and strive to eliminate crime. However, the United States doesn’t have the same type of crime as it did 25 years ago and that it makes little sense to assume immigration restrictions will reduce crime dramatically below what is already a comparably low level, especially when science tells us there isn’t a link between immigration and crime begin with.

For LawnStarter to determine both the most dangerous and the safest states to live, we used FBI crime statistics. The FBI collects crime statistics from both state and city police departments. The FBI collects data on eight crimes:

  • Arson
  • Aggravated assault
  • Burglary
  • Larceny
  • Motor Vehicle Theft
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery

Using those eight metrics, we weighted each crime based on the average amount of jail time per crime according to the US Department of Justice most current Time Serves in State Prison Report Found here: https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/tssp16.pdf. We separated the crimes into two categories: Violent Crime and Property Crime.We then determined each state’s and city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.