America's safest suburbs
Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2023
America’s safest suburbs
People often opt to move to the suburbs for myriad reasons – space, affordability, schools, employment and sometimes to seek safety. Violent and nonviolent crime rates, roadway safety, and drug and alcohol abuse within a community can affect the quality of life for an individual and family alike.
With this in mind, SmartAsset set out to determine which U.S. suburbs are safest. The study analyzed safety data for 370 suburbs of the 100 largest cities – and also compared the affordability of the safest areas.
- This affluent Washington D.C. suburb is the nation’s safest. Great Falls, Virginia, ranks No. 1 overall for safety. Of the 35 safest suburbs in the U.S., this census-designated place in Fairfax County also has the highest median household income at $250,000. Nearby Bethesda, MD ranked as the third safest suburb.
- Indianapolis suburbs are best for both safety and affordability. Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville place second, fourth and fifth for overall safest suburbs. Of the 35 suburbs that rank highest for safest, these communities – along with Brownsburg – are also in the top 10 for affordability. Housing costs in each of the four Indiana suburbs are less than 17.5% of the median household income.
- These predominantly midwestern suburbs have the lowest violent crime rates. Residents of Edgerton, WI; Great Falls, VA; Mason and Canal Winchester, OH; Key Biscayne, FL; Northbrook and Orland Park, IL; West University Place, TX; Vail, AZ; and Fort Wright, KY only suffer from 35 violent crimes per 100,000 people – or less.
- Suburbs of Boston have the lowest rates of deadly car accidents. Lexington, Somerville and Chelsea, MA place first, second and fourth for this metric, with less than four car accident deaths per 100,000 residents. Multiple suburbs of Washington, D.C., NYC and Minneapolis also rank among the top 10.
- Utah and Oklahoma suburbs have the lowest percentage of heavy drinkers. Only 6.74% of the population in Lehi, UT engage in excessive drinking, putting it in first for this metric by a wide margin. Layton and Draper, UT also placed among the suburbs with the least drinkers, along with Okmulgee, Jenks, Owasso, Glenpool and Shawnee, OK.
Top 5 safest suburbs
1. Great Falls, VA
Located on the banks of the Potomac River, this Washington D.C. suburb ranks No. 1 for overall safety. Great Falls has the second-lowest violent crime rate (6.81 per 100,000 residents) and eighth-lowest vehicle mortality rate, with 4.35 traffic deaths per 100,000 residents. Meanwhile, less than 15% of the adults engage in excessive drinking – 16th-lowest of the 370 suburbs the study evaluated.
2. Carmel, IN
Carmel, located north of Indianapolis, has the 23rd-lowest violent crime rate with 48.29 incidents per 100,000 residents. Carmel and the surrounding area also demonstrate a strong commitment to road safety, as reflected by Hamilton County’s vehicular mortality rate of 4.86 deaths per 100,000 residents (23rd lowest). Furthermore, the suburb ranks 25th lowest in property crime, with 654.82 incidents per 100,000 residents.
3. Bethesda, MD
Bethesda has the 10th-lowest percentage of people who drink excessively (14.57%). Located northwest of Washington D.C., Bethesda and the surrounding Montgomery County also have one of the lowest vehicle mortality rates across the study (4.98 deaths per 100,000 residents). That ranks 27th lowest out of 370 suburbs.
4. Fishers, IN
Like the neighboring city of Carmel, Fishers is located in Hamilton County and has the 23rd-lowest vehicle mortality rate across the study. The property crime rate in Fishers (672.49 per 100,000 residents) is among the lowest in the study (29th), while its violent crime rate of 77.63 incidents per 100,000 residents is lower than nearly 84% of the suburbs evaluated.
5. Noblesville, IN
Noblesville, another Indianapolis suburb, is among the safest in America. Like Carmel and Fishers, Noblesville’s location within Hamilton County means its vehicle mortality rate is among the lowest across the study. Additionally, the city’s property crime rate (751.98 per 100,000 residents) is lower than more than 90% of suburbs studied.
Most affordable safe suburbs
The study examined which of the safest suburbs are most affordable by ranking the 35 safest suburbs according to a home affordability metric: median annual housing costs as a percentage of median household income.
1. Carmel, IN
Carmel is the most affordable of the safest suburbs in America. In this community of nearly 100,000 people, households typically spend $18,048 per year on housing or 15.07% of the median household income ($119,772).
2. Fishers, IN
Median housing costs are only slightly higher in neighboring Fishers, where the typical household spends $18,324 on mortgage or rent payments. That means housing costs in Fishers make up just 15.59% of the median household income ($117,503).
3. Brownsburg, IN
Located west of Indianapolis, the town of Brownsburg ranks 24th overall for safety but third for affordability. Home to more than 28,000 people, median housing costs account for just 15.95% of the median household income ($93,147).
4. Brentwood, TN
Roughly 10 miles south of Nashville, Brentwood ranks 16th for safety and fourth for affordability. The median household income in this city of over 44,000 people is $165,948. As a result, typical households in Brentwood spend just 16.09% of their income on housing.
5. Papillion, NE
Residents of this Omaha suburb typically spend only $15,456 per year on their housing. As a result, their rent or mortgage payments take up 16.22% of the median household income ($95,293) in this city of almost 24,000 people.
Data and methodology
To find the safest suburbs, the study compared data for 370 places that are within 15 to 45 minutes of the 100 largest U.S. cities by car, that have at least 5,000 residents, by the following metrics:
- Violent crime rate. The number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s 2021 Uniform Crime Reporting Database; missing crime data was supplemented by NeighborhoodScout.com
- Property crime rate. The number of property crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s 2021 Uniform Crime Reporting Database; missing crime data was supplemented by NeighborhoodScout.com
- Vehicular mortality rate. The number of deaths due to traffic accidents per 100,000 residents. Data is from the 2022 County Health Rankings.
- Drug poisoning mortality rate. The number of drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 residents. Data is from the 2022 County Health Rankings.
- Percentage of the population engaging in excessive drinking. The percentage of adults who consumed more than four drinks of alcohol for women or five drinks of alcohol for men on a single occasion over a 30-day period, or who engage in heavy drinking, which is defined as drinking more than one drink per day for women or two drinks a day for men on average. Data is from the 2022 County Health Rankings.
The vehicular mortality rate, drug poisoning mortality rate and percentage of the population engaging in excessive drinking are all measured at the county level. Both violent and property crime rates are at the city level.
To measure the housing affordability of the 35 safest suburbs, the study compared them across the following metrics:
- Median annual housing costs. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 1-year American Community Survey from 2021.
- Median household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 1-year American Community Survey from 2021.