Morgan Quitno's America's Safest Cities

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A Word About Crime Rankings

Morgan Quitno’s annual rankings of crime in states, metro areas and cities are considered by some in the law enforcement community as controversial.  The FBI, police and many criminologists caution against rankings according to crime rates.  They correctly point out that crime levels are affected by many different factors, such as population density, composition of the population (particularly the concentration of youth), climate, economic conditions, strength of local law enforcement agencies, citizen’s attitudes toward crime, cultural factors, education levels, crime reporting practices of citizens and family cohesiveness.  Accordingly, crime rankings often are deemed “simplistic” or “incomplete.” 

However, this criticism is largely based on the fact that there are reasons for the differences in crime rates, not that the rates are incompatible.  This would be somewhat akin to deciding not to compare athletes on their speed in the 100-yard dash because of physical or training differences.  Such differences help explain the different speeds but do not invalidate the comparisons.

To be sure, crime-ranking information must be considered carefully.  However the rankings tell not only an interesting, but also very important story regarding the incidence of crime in the United States.  Furthermore, annual rankings not only allow for comparisons among different states and cities, but also enable leaders to track their communities’ crime trends from one year to the next.

We certainly do not want to be irresponsible in our presentation of state and city crime data.  Our publications help concerned Americans learn how their communities fare in the fight against crime.  The first step in making our cities and states safer is to understand the true magnitude of their crime problems.  This will only be achieved through straightforward data that all of us can use and understand.


Find out all 350 cities and 281 metropolitan areas ranked in our 29-page $3.00 pdf instant version of America's Safest (and Most Dangerous) Cities document.  Order now and you can immediately download the document to your own computer and read or print using the free Acrobat Reader program.  Click here for more details and to see if your city is included.


The methodology for determining America’s Safest City and Metro Area involves a multi-step process. First, 2002 city and metro area crime rates per 100,000 population (the most recent comparable final numbers available, released by the FBI in October 2003) for six basic crime categories — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft — were plugged into a formula that measured how a particular city or metro area compared to the national average for a given crime category. The outcome of this equation was then multiplied by a weight assigned to each of the six crime categories. Each of the six crimes was given equal weight. By weighting each crime equally, cities are compared based purely on their crime rates and how they stack up to the national average for a particular crime category. These weighted numbers then were added together for a city or metro area’s final score. Finally, these scores were ranked from lowest to highest to determine which cities and metropolitan areas were safest and most dangerous.

While this methodology appears rather complicated, it results in fairer treatment because a city or metro area’s crime record is measured against the national average. The farther below the national average, the higher (and better) a city or metro ranked in the final Safest Cities and Metros list; the farther above the national average, the lower (and worse) a city or metro ranked in the final list.

Like the last five years' awards, all cities of 75,000 population or more that reported data for the six categories of crime measured for the survey were included in the competition. In previous years, the population cut-off for cities was 100,000+ population. There was no population minimum for metropolitan areas.  In all, 350 cities and 281 metro areas were included in the survey.


This year, several cities of 75,000+ population did not report complete crime information and thus were not included in the Safest Cities rankings.

Chicago and Other Illinois Cities: For several years, rape numbers submitted by cities in the state of Illinois have not met the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) guidelines. This remains the case with 2002 crime data. According to state statisticians, the state of Illinois tracks "sexual assault," which includes not only female rapes, but also offenses such as male rape, sodomy, etc. For these reasons, Chicago and other Illinois cities once again are not found in this year's Safest City rankings.  However, Chicago and other Illinois cities are included in our book City Crime Rankings for all of the other crimes.

Yuma, Arizona: Yuma is included in our book City Crime Rankings but is not part of our Safest City rankings.  This is because numbers were not available for aggravated assault through the uniform crime report.

Other Cities: Crime data for a number of other cities with populations larger than 75,000 are not reported in this 10th edition of City Crime Rankings.  Crime statistics for these cities are not included for a number of reasons, ranging from general reporting difficulties and computer issues to changes in reporting systems.  Below is a list of cities that the Census Bureau showed as having populations greater than 75,000 but for which no information was available through the 2002 F.B.I.’s Uniform Crime Report:

Albany, NY


Las Cruces, NM

Arlington Heights, IL


Longmont, CO

Augusta, GA


Nashua, NH

Canton, OH


New Bedford, MA

Centennial CA


New Haven, CT

Cicero IL


Newport Beach, CA

Citrus Heights, CA


Newton, MA

Decatur, IL


Roanoke, VA

Elgin, IL


Santa Maria, CA

Elk Grove, CA


Waukegan, IL

Hillsboro, OR


Westminster, CO

Kansas City, KS


Worcester, MA



The metropolitan areas for which crime information is shown are those which meet two criteria.  First, at least 75% of all law enforcement agencies must have reported crime statistics, and second, the central city/cities must have submitted 12 months of data in 2002.  There are several metro areas that did not meet these criteria in 2002 and thus are not included in the report. Most notably, statistics are not available for the metro areas of Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City and St. Louis.