Cities where the locals are least likely to feel safe
If you want to live someplace where you feel safe, you might want to steer clear of California.
The three metro areas nationwide where residents are least likely to feel safe are all in California's Central Valley, along a corridor well traveled by criminals transporting drugs.
Nationally, more than three-quarters of people agreed when Gallup-Healthways researchers asked them last year to rate the statement "You always feel safe and secure"; only 23.5 percent of people failed to agree. But in Fresno, California, the poorest-ranking of the nation's 100 most populous cities, 37.3 percent of people could not agree with the statement.
The report findings are based on surveys conducted throughout 2014 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Gallup said that although respondents didn't specify exactly what they interpreted "safe and secure" to mean, "most likely they are thinking about physical safety, especially related to crime. But if communities focus on improving general safety -- perhaps by increasing police forces or establishing neighborhood watch programs -- taking such measures could increase overall well-being. Residents who are less concerned about their safety might be more likely to focus on other areas of their well-being. Those who have a safe place to walk or run, for example, can focus more on their physical well-being. And those who feel safe in their neighborhood are more likely to engage with fellow members of their community."
These are the 20 metro areas where the locals are least likely to feel safe.
20. Springfield, Massachusetts (tie)
Springfield, a small city about two hours west of Boston, is familiar with most dangerous city lists. In 2011, the city ranked as the 12th most dangerous in the U.S., and the city’s mayor didn’t really argue with its place there, according to MassLive.com. Accordingly, 27.9 percent of residents told Gallup and Healthways that they don’t feel safe.
19. Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton, Pennsylvania
The Scranton area, brought to fame as the blue-collar Anywhere USA town of "The Office," ranks in the top 20 for places people don't feel safe. Wilkes-Barre has a violent crime rate that is 50 percent higher than the Pennsylvania average and 37 percent higher than the national average, while Scranton actually has a lower violent crime rate than average, according to the FBI.
18. Jacksonville, FL (tie)
A total of 28 percent of Jacksonville, Florida's residents report not feeling safe. According to the FBI’s uniform crime reports (which only include up to 2013—the 2014 figures won’t be reported until November), the crime rate in Jacksonville is 26 percent higher than the rest of the state and 45 percent higher than the national average.
17. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington (spread out over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland; tie)
A total of 28 percent of the Philadelphia area's residents don’t feel safe. Though this news is probably a little old hat for the city—Philadelphia’s violent crime rate is triple the national average and 227 percent higher than the rest of Pennsylvania—the murder rate is actually fell to historic lows in 2013, according to Philly.com.
16. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
This is the first of many appearances from the great state of California on this list. Despite its sunshine, the state is apparently running rampant with criminals making residents feel unsafe. Oakland -- no stranger to lists of most dangerous cities -- really drags down the feeling of safety in this grouping of cities. Last year, Oakland led the state in violent crime rates, according to NBC Bay Area. Here, 28.2 percent of locals don't feel safe.
15. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California
Now we head to the other end of California, to a few communities southwest of Los Angeles, where 28.4 percent of residents report feeling unsafe. In this grouping of communities, it’s really San Bernardino that leads the way in crime. While Riverside and Ontario’s crime rates are slightly elevated, they’re nothing compared to San Bernardino’s violent crime rate, which is 126 percent higher than the state and 147 percent higher than the national average. The city declared bankruptcy in 2013, and a rash of violent crime followed, and it’s not getting much better.
14. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California
With an area as big and diverse as this one, the fact that 28.6 percent of residents don't feel safe is probably due to where within this landscape they live. Some of the poorest and wealthiest residents of the state come together here, though none of the three communities have egregiously higher-than-average crime rates.
13. Columbia, South Carolina
In South Carolina’s largest city, 29.9 percent of residents report they don't feel safe. The overall crime rate is 63 percent higher than the rest of South Carolina and 118 percent higher than the national average. That may be why, when Kiplinger’s said the city was one of the best places to live in 2013, neighboring Charleston’s newspaper sarcastically declared, “Columbia: Apparently a great place to live. Really.”
12. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan
Only 30 percent of residents of the Detroit area say they feel unsafe, and for a city with such bad press over the years, it might actually be surprising it didn’t break the top 10. Abandoned homes left broken and burning for days, slashed city services, a bankrupt city—Detroit has more than its share of problems. The crime rate there is 155 percent higher than the national average and 184 percent higher than the rest of the state, according to the FBI.
A total of 30.5 percent of Albuquerque's residents say they don't feel safe, even though Heisenberg has been out of commission since 2013. All joking aside, a Time magazine article from 2013 said "Breaking Bad’s" depiction of Albuquerque really is accurate: "It's a place where we struggle with drug epidemics, extreme drought, hunger, drunk driving, gun violence and a corrupt police force," author Madeleine Cary wrote.
Violent crimes are 110 percent higher than the national average and 26 percent higher than the rest of New Mexico.
10. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach, known for the Daytona 500 NASCAR race and spring break, has a violent crime rate 248 percent higher than the national average and 172 percent higher than the Florida average. That's probably why 30.8 percent of residents report not feeling safe.
9. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida
In the Lakeland-Winter Haven area, 30.8 percent of respondents told Gallup-Healthways they don't feel safe. The crime rate in Lakeland is 62 percent higher than the national average, and 88 percent higher than the rest of the state, according to the FBI. However, the area's violent crime rate is actually 2 percent lower than Florida's average. It's property crime that does Lakeland in: Property crime rates are 96 percent higher than the national average and 72 percent higher than the state's average.
Winter Haven has higher violent crime rates: 65 percent higher than the national average and 29 percent than the state's average.
8. New Orleans
New Orleans is a special case: After being devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the city's efforts to rebuild have been slow. The destruction and devastation led to increased crime rates in a city that already had a reputation for higher-than-average levels of crime. Then in January, news organizations reported that the French Quarter, normally the city's safer tourist destination, also saw a surge in violent crime. Here, 31.7 percent of residents say they don't feel safe.
7. Las Vegas
The city committing a lot of sins is also committing a lot of crimes. Las Vegas' crime rates are higher than national and state averages in every category, but overall they are 27 percent higher than the national average and 14 percent higher than the state. Las Vegas' massive flood of foreclosures in the late 2000s and early 2010s didn't help much, creating economic instability the city is still struggling to recover from. A total of 32.2 percent of Las Vegas' residents don't feel safe.
6. Toledo, Ohio
While Toledo's overall crime rates aren't much higher than the rest of the state, and its property crime rates are actually lower, its violent crime rates are staggeringly higher, according to the FBI. Its rates for murder, assault, robbery and rape are 178 percent higher than the rest of the country, and a whopping 258 percent higher than Ohio's.
5. Youngstown, Ohio
Youngstown, situated in a valley between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, is one of many Rust Belt communities that has struggled to recover after its manufacturing base disappeared. Poverty has led to increased crime, and according to the FBI, the overall crime rate is 103 percent higher than the national average and 96 percent higher than the rest of Ohio. A third of residents, 33.2 percent, don't feel safe.
4. Memphis, Tennessee
As with several cities here, Memphis is no stranger to lists of most dangerous cities, and 34.1 percent of its residents feel unsafe. Plus late last year, WREG News Channel 3 reported that the murder rate soared in 2014. The murder rate was up 17 percent from the year before.
3. Bakersfield, California
Bakersfield is located in the Central Valley, in a corridor where drug trafficking and gang wars are particular problems. According to the Bakersfield Police, the city's police department has seen a growing gang problem since the early 2000s, though gang violence has been down over the past five years. The city's crime rate is 68 percent higher than California's and 66 percent higher than the national average, and 36.5 percent of Bakersfield's residents report not feeling safe.
2. Stockton-Lodi, California
A total of 37.1 percent of Stockton and Lodi residents don't feel safe. They may have good reason: The city went bankrupt in 2013, leading to a thinner police force than ever. Plus, Forbes has ranked Stockton in the top 10 most dangerous cities for years. The news organization has cited its location along Interstate 5, a well-known drug transit route that runs from Mexico up through the state, fueling gang violence. Stockton's violent crime rate is 200 percent higher than California's and 228 percent higher than the national average, according to the FBI.
1. Fresno, California
Fresno's residents are the least likely of any big metro area in the country to feel safe: 37.1 percent can't agree with the statement that they "always feel safe and secure."
However, according to the FBI, the crime rate in Fresno has been headed downhill since spiking in 2010. In 2009, when crime was on the rise, late-night talk show host Chelsea Handler called Fresno the "murder capital of the country." Although that wasn't quite accurate, the city has a high-crime reputation, and Fresno's crime rates are higher than average.