Cities where the locals feel safest

Ilyce R. Glink
·Yahoo! Homes Contributor
 
 

The old adage of "safety in numbers" doesn't necessarily hold true when it comes to feeling safe in your own city.

And strangely enough, residents feeling safer doesn't necessarily translate to them being safer. In fact, the city where the locals feel safest has a crime rate approaching double the national average.

Gallup-Healthways ranked the 100 largest cities in the U.S. according to how safe their residents feel. The cities where residents feel most out of harm's way tend to be small as far as cities go, with populations under a million and many closer to half a million. In fact, most of the time, when a city on the list includes the suburbs of its surrounding metro area – like Boston with Cambridge and Newton or Austin with Round Rock – it's the smaller suburbs' low crime rate that evens out the relatively higher crime rates of the large cities they surround.

Furthermore, many of the cities on the list, suburbs and all, have crime rates higher than the national average.

Yahoo Homes is publishing the cities where the residents feel safest below. To see the cities where the locals are least likely to feel safe, click here:

The list is part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, based on surveys conducted throughout 2014 of people from the 100 largest cities in the U.S. Researchers asked residents around the country to rate the statement "You always feel safe and secure."

How a city ranked on the safety list roughly correlated to how it ranked on measures of financial security and a sense of community: Where residents reported feeling safe, they also reported feeling happy with their communities and tended to feel more financially secure.

The researchers also found that residents who report feeling safe tend to rank higher for overall well-being: 65.2 percent of people who report feeling safe also rank strongly for well-being, while only 45.2 percent of those who say they don't feel safe nonetheless also rank highly for well-being. (Related: Click here to see the cities that rank the highest on well-being.)

In the city that takes the top spot, almost 86 percent of its residents agreed that they "always feel safe and secure." The national average is nearly 10 percentage points lower.

These are the 20 cities where the locals feel the safest.

20. Madison, Wisconsin (tie)

Madison, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin

A total 79.4 percent of Madison's residents say they feel safe. Although the home of the University of Wisconsin and the capital of the state ranks high in the Gallup-Healthways safety survey, it's pretty mediocre in the overall well-being ranking of the 100 largest cities. It comes in at No. 65, and ranks near the bottom in the spiritual, social and physical categories. However, it does fall in the top 20 for financial and community well-being.

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports from 2013, the most recent data available, the city's overall crime rate is 14 percent higher than the national average. This is thanks to a higher-than-normal property crime rate. The violent crime rate is exactly in line with the nation's average.

19. San Diego-Carlsbad, California (tie) 

San Diego, California
San Diego, California

One of the largest cities on the list, 79.4 percent of San Diego residents (and people living in the neighboring Carlsbad) say they feel safe. That's probably because statistically speaking, they are safer. According to the FBI, crime rates in both places are lower than both the California and U.S. national averages. The metro area also came in at No. 16 on the overall Well-Being Index.

18. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut 

Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut

A total 79.5 percent of Hartford-area residents report feeling safe -- despite the fact that violent crime there is more than triple the national average and nearly 350 percent higher than the rest of Connecticut. Once a thriving metro with a robust financial services sector that earned it the title "Insurance Capital of the World," Hartford has undergone decades of decline, and now 1 in 3 live in poverty, according to the Wall Street Journal.

So how did Hartford end up with residents feeling safer than in more than 80 percent of other big cities? It was combined with East and West Hartford, where crime is about even or lower than the nation's average, which probably pulled Hartford's city center up from the bottom. This marks the disparity the Wall Street Journal noted between the haves and have-nots in the state.

17. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas (tie)

San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio and one of its largest suburbs make up this area, where 79.8 percent of residents reported feeling safe. Texans as a whole reported pretty high levels of well-being, and San Antonio is no different, sneaking in at No. 20 on the overall Well-Being Index. Like many city-plus-suburban metro area combinations on this list, New Braunfels' lower-than-average crime rate helps even out San Antonio's higher-than-average rate. (Incidentally, New Braunfels is also one of the nation's 15 fastest-growing cities.) Also, residents report feeling satisfied with their communities, which may make them feel safer.

16. Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Pennsylvania and New Jersey (tie)

Allentown, Pennsylvania
Allentown, Pennsylvania

These cities together make up Lehigh Valley, and behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh they constitute Pennsylvania's third-biggest metro area, the first of three appearances on this list from the Keystone State. Although the FBI reports that the area has higher crime rates than Pennsylvania's average, local news reports say those crime rates are dropping, and 79.8 percent of residents report feeling safe.

15. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California

Ventura, California
Ventura, California

Ringing around Malibu to the north and west, 79.9 percent of residents in this area report feeling safe and secure. They also report high levels of well-being, ranking No. 4 on the Well-Being Index, and falling in the top 10 in the categories of community, social and life purpose.

While the Ventura crime rate is higher than the national average, Thousand Oaks' crime rate is an impressive 56 percent lower, and Oxnard's is a few percentage points lower as well, according to the FBI.

14. Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

A little more than 80 percent of Pennsylvania's capital city residents say they feel safe and secure, boosted perhaps by their higher sense of financial security, ranking No. 24 in the financial category of the Well-Being Index. The crime rates in Carlisle are lower than the nation's average and lower than Harrisburg, which can't boast lower-than-national-average rates.

13. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

A total of 80.6 percent of Lancaster's residents feel safe, and they also report high levels of well-being in the financial and community categories. That must make up for the fact that statistically their city isn't very safe. According to the FBI, crime in the city is 73 percent higher than the national average. But the FBI's crime data lags a year behind the survey, and LancasterOnline reported that crime rates have been dropping over the past four years, according to the local police department's more recent 2014 figures.

12. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts and New Hampshire

Boston
Boston

The fact that 81.1 percent of Boston metro area residents say they feel safe is once again a product of the suburbs—in this case Newton specifically—bringing up the lower numbers in Boston city proper. The crime rate in Newton is 67 percent lower than the national average, while both Boston and Cambridge are higher.

Residents of the area also feel physically and financially well, and the metro ranks No. 27 on the Well-Being Index.

11. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota and Wisconsin

Minneapolis
Minneapolis

In the Twin Cities, 81.3 percent of residents report feeling safe, and that figure echoes the residents' overall sense of well-being (No. 17 in the nation). The city ranks No. 7 in the financial category of the Well-Being Index, No. 16 in the community category and No. 22 in physical, so it's safe to say locals feel safe getting out to work, socializing and exercising.

Of the three cities, Bloomington has the lowest crime rate, right around average, and is also the smallest and least dense. Coincidence? Probably not.

10. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

Austin
Austin

Austin is the largest city in the Top 10, with 81.5 percent of residents reporting they feel safe. The blossoming Texas town has a higher-than-average crime rate compared with the rest of the nation, but Round Rock has a lower one. The metro area's residents reportedly have a high sense of well-being, ranking No. 6 on the overall index, and feel especially purposeful and connected to their community.

9. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska and Iowa

Omaha
Omaha

Almost 82 percent of residents in this metro area feel safe and secure, boosted by a feeling of connection to the community and being financially secure. However, Nebraska -- and Omaha specifically -- made headlines last year for having the highest rate of black murders in the country, and this year it only dropped to No. 2, according to Omaha.com.

8. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs

The crime rate in Colorado Springs, a mountain-adjacent city about an hour south of Denver, is 48 percent higher than the national average, yet 82.1 percent of residents feel safe. They come in No. 25 in the community category of the Well-Being Index, but that's their highest ranking.

7. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah

Ogden, Utah
Ogden, Utah

The Ogden-Clearfield area, just north of Salt Lake City and east of the Great Salt Lake, has two distinct crime rates if you look at each place individually. Clearfield has a crime rate nearly 30 percent lower than the national average, while Ogden, with a history of some gang violence, has a crime rate nearly 70 percent higher. Collectively, 82.1 percent of the cities' residents say they feel safe, and once again, the area's highest-ranking category on the Well-Being Index is community.

6. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

In Winston-Salem, 82.2 percent of residents report feeling safe, despite the fact that crime rates are nearly double the national average. The homicide rate doubled from 2012 to 2013, the most recent year for which the FBI has released crime data, so perhaps the spike is recent or a temporary blip.

The city ranks No. 10 on the overall Well-Being Index, led by residents' strong social and community connections, but was dragged down by their poor sense of financial security.

5. Provo-Orem, Utah

Provo, Utah
Provo, Utah

A total 82.5 percent of residents report feeling safe in Provo and Orem, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City – and they actually are, statistically speaking. The crime rates in Provo are 18 percent lower than the national average, and Orem's are 25 percent lower.

Correspondingly, the city ranks No. 7 on the Well-Being Index, led by its strong sense of community (it's No. 1 in the category).

4. Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu
Honolulu

Besides residents reporting the second-highest sense of overall well-being in the country (because they live in paradise), many can also say they feel safe: 82.6 percent report feeling safe and secure in urban Honolulu. In the Well-Being Index, Honoluluans (Honoluluians? Honoluluai?) report feeling more financially secure than residents in any other city, and rank high in feelings of community and purpose.
The violent crime rate in Honolulu is 16 percent lower than the national crime rate. However, property crime rates are 39 percent higher than average.

3. Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho
Boise, Idaho

In Boise, 84.5 percent of the locals report feeling safe, and like many cities on the top of this list, residents also report a strong feeling of community. Boise is statistically a safer city as well, according to the FBI. Its crime rate is 19 percent lower than the national average, and its violent crime rate is 23 percent lower.

2. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh barely edges out Boise on the list, with 84.8 percent of residents saying they feel safe. However, Raleigh ranks much higher for overall well-being, coming in third place. The metro area ranks especially high in the community and social categories of the survey, meaning that residents' social networks in their communities probably help them feel safer. Raleigh's crime rate is about average for the state as well.

1. Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines
Des Moines

While Des Moines ranks the highest for safety (85.7 percent of residents say they feel safe), the city lands right around the middle of the 100 largest cities as far as overall well-being goes. The sense of community is really the driving force here (the city rank No. 7 across the nation there).

And it seems that trust in the community makes them feel safe -- because statistically, Des Moines crime rates are actually 71 percent higher than the rest of the nation.

Also on Yahoo Homes:

The top American cities for overall well-being
America's fastest-growing cities
Cities where the locals are least likely to feel safe

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