The Safest Suburbs in America

We took into account property crimes, violent crimes and the chances a resident will be a victim of a crime. Two Indianapolis suburbs finished at the top

Mar 8, 2014 at 10:50AM

When it comes to the reasons people relocate from big cities to the suburbs, crime is right up there with housing costs, traffic, and overcrowding as major motivators. Eventually, though, these things make their way beyond the city limits, and the suburbs might not actually be the quietest, cheapest, and—maybe most importantly—safest places to be. That's why, after ranking America's safest mid-sized cities and the most crime-free places within several states, Movoto Real Estate figured it was time to see just which suburbs can still claim to be safer than their big city neighbors.

After poring over crime data for more than 100 suburbs, we concluded that the absolute safest is Carmel, IN, located just outside of Indianapolis, IN. In fact, another Indy suburb, Fishers, was the runner-up The complete top 10 list of safest suburbs looks like this:

1. Carmel, IN
2. Fishers, IN
3. Parma, OH
4. Dublin, OH
5. Newton, MA
6. Cary, NC
7. Apex, NC
8. Oro Valley, AZ
9. Cupertino, CA
10. Germantown, TN

If you've read our ranking of safest mid-sized cities, you'll no doubt recognize a familiar name: Cary, NC. That's where the similarities end, however. While that ranking ended up being extremely California-centric, this top 10 includes only one city in the Golden State, Cupertino. We'll expand on why each of these suburbs ranked so highly in a moment, but first let's go over the methodology behind our ranking.

How We Created This Ranking
To produce this ranking, we relied on a list of 120 places which are the largest suburbs of the 50 most populous cities in the U.S. We then applied the same criteria to these suburbs that we've previously used to determine how safe the largest cities within certain states are. These were:

  • Property crimes per capita (burglaries, thefts, and motor vehicle thefts)
  • Violent crimes per capita (murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults)
  • The chances of being the victim of a crime

In order to get this data, we turned to the FBI's most recent national crime report from 2012. As with our past crime rankings, we gave each suburb a score (from 1 to 120 in this case, with 1 being the best) in these three criteria, then weighted the results so that violent crime accounted for 50 percent of each suburb's final score, property crime made up 30 percent, and the chance of being the victim of a crime made up 20 percent. The suburb with the lowest final score was deemed the safest, in this case Carmel, IN.

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Keep reading for the specific figures behind each of the top 10 safest suburb's rankings, and check out the end of this post for a table showing how the top 50 safest played out.

1. Carmel, IN

The nearly 80,000 people who call this Indianapolis suburb home must be some very sound sleepers. Carmel ranked first overall for the lowest number of violent crimes per capita, second-safest in terms of property crimes per capita, and had the second-lowest odds of being the victim of a crime (1 in 97).

Carmel saw a total of 819 crimes in 2012, with only 11 of them violent and 808 property related. None of the violent crimes were murders and most were robberies. The city's most-committed property crime was theft, accounting for 649 of the 808 total.

2. Fishers, IN

Fishers, another Indianapolis suburb and home to nearly 70,000 residents, just missed being ranked No. 1 overall. It was second-safest in terms of violent crimes per capita, fourth-safest in property crimes, and it ranked third in terms of the chance of crime (1 in 92).

There were 835 crimes total in Fishers during 2012; 14 violent and 821 involving property. The chance of being the victim of a violent crime there was slightly higher than in our No. 1 safest suburb, Carmel, at 1 in 92 versus 1 in 97. There were no murders in Fishers during 2012, and again, robberies were the most prevalent violent crime, while thefts made up most (693 of 835) of the property crimes.

3. Parma, OH

Parma is a suburb of Cleveland, OH with close to 82,000 residents, and while it was safest in terms of property crimes per capita and had the lowest chance of crime, a seventh-safest ranking in violent crimes per capita kept it from ranking first overall.

To put that violent crime ranking into perspective, Parma only has about 1,400 more residents than Carmel, but its number of violent crimes in 2012 (56) was more than five times as high. Like we said, though Parma was safer in terms of property crimes, reporting nearly half as many as Carmel (451 versus 808) and its odds of crime were 1 in 161, much better than Carmel's 1 in 97. Still, our results were weighted in favor of suburbs with less violent crime, which is why you're seeing this result.

4. Dublin, OH

The second city in Ohio to make our top 10, Dublin is a suburb of Columbus, OH, and with 41,751 residents is nearly half the size of Parma. It ended up being safer in terms of violent crimes, however, placing third in that category. Dublin ranked seventh-safest for property crime and fifth when it came to the odds of being the victim of a crime (1 in 75).

While considerably smaller than Parma, Dublin's total number of crimes in 2012 was higher at 559. It also had one murder as part of its 15 total violent crimes, making Dublin one of only two suburbs in our top 10 to have reported a homicide.

5. Newton, MA

This Boston, MA suburb, which just over 85,000 people call home, ranked 12th-safest in terms of violent crimes per capita, but third-safest when it came to property crimes per capita. Its 1 in 88 odds of crime earned it a fourth-place rank in that criterion.

Newton saw 970 total crimes in 2012, with 76 of them categorized as violent and 894 being property related. There were no murders reported, and aggravated assaults made up the majority of violent crimes. Burglaries in Newton were 1.6 times higher than in the similarly sized (and first-place) Carmel.

6. Cary, NC

As we mentioned earlier, the Raleigh, NC suburb of Cary also appeared on our ranking of the country's safest mid-sized cities, where it placed one spot higher at fifth overall. This town of nearly 146,000 is the largest suburb in our top 10, and placed ninth for both violent and property crimes per capita. Its 1 in 72 odds of crime made it seventh in that respect.

With a larger suburb comes more crime, and Cary witnessed a total of 2,024 during 2012. Thankfully, only 115 of those were violent (1,909 involved property) and none of them were homicides.

7. Apex, NC

Also a suburb of Raleigh, Apex is the second-smallest place in our top 10 at just over 40,000 residents. It fared slightly better than Cary (11th- versus 12th-safest) when it came to violent crimes per capita, but also ranked as 11th-safest for per capita property crimes. Apex was just one place behind Cary (eighth) for its 1 in 69 odds of crime.

Thefts were the standout of Apex's reported crimes, accounting for 454 of the 590 total. Only 33 of that number were violent, and none were murders.

8. Oro Valley, AZ

Tucson, AZ suburb Oro Valley, at slightly more than 41,000 inhabitants, came in sixth-safest when we looked at violent crimes per capita. It jumped to 19th-safest in terms of property crime and placed 15th for its 1 in 59 chance of being a victim of crime.

The city reported an even total of 700 crimes for 2012, of which 21 were violent and 679 involved property (mostly thefts). Oro Valley was the second city in our top 10 to report a single homicide.

9. Cupertino, CA

Headquarters of Apple and a suburb of San Jose, CA, Cupertino has just over 58,000 residents and earned itself a ranking of 14th-safest in terms of per capita violent crime in our ranking. For property crime per capita, it placed 10th, while its 1 in 68 odds of crime put it at ninth for that criterion.

There were a total of 855 crimes reported in Cupertino during 2012; 56 were violent and 797 involved property. No murders were among them, but robberies and aggravated assaults were nearly even at 23 and 29 reports, respectively.

10. Germantown, TN

This Memphis, TN suburb is the smallest place in our top 10 at only a tad more than 39,000 people. Germantown actually placed better than Cupertino at 10th-safest in terms of violent crime per capita, but its per capita property crimes put it at 18th for that criterion. Its chance of crime, 1 in 60, was good enough for 14th and one place better than Oro Valley in that category.

Aggravated assaults made up 24 of the 31 violent crimes reported in Germantown during 2012, and there were no homicides. The rest of the suburb's 654 total crimes were property related.

There's Still Safety In The Suburbs
As you can see, the idea that suburbs can be extremely safe places to call home is anything but a myth. Of course, like we said at the outset, there are definitely some suburbs where big city crime has made its presence known.

Chief among these is East Point, GA, which placed last in terms of safety out of the 120 suburbs we looked at. There were 4,240 crimes reported in this town of 35,584 in 2012, making the odds that one would happen to a resident there 1 in 8. Fortunately, most of them (3,819) were property crimes, but 421—including 12 homicides—were violent. Council Bluffs, IA (No. 119), Miami Beach, FL (No. 118), Camden, NJ (No. 117), and Hutchinson, KS (No. 116) rounded out the five most unsafe suburbs we looked at.


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