Editor’s Note: All data in this study is conducted on a per 100,000 person basis.
There’s a perception that suburbs are safer that their big city neighbors, but the truth is that they can be dangerous places just like anywhere else. Back in February, the Movoto Real Estate Blog ranked the safest suburbs in America, and now we’re looking at the other side of the coin: the most dangerous suburban cities in the country.
After analyzing crime data for 120 suburbs across the nation, we’ve determined that Camden, NJ is the most dangerous overall. Joining it in receiving the dubious honor of being one of the most dangerous suburbs in the country were:
If you read our recent ranking of the most dangerous small cities in America, you’ll notice a similarity between it and this list. Namely, the large number of cities in Florida that made the top 10. In both cases, three Florida cities made the list. Where the most dangerous places on that list were concentrated in the Midwest and eastern U.S., this ranking has at least two cities—Glendale, AZ and Tempe, AZ—located farther to the west.
Below, we’ll explain the methodology behind this ranking as well as provide some more detail on why each of these suburbs placed where it did. At the end of this post, you’ll find a detailed ranking of the 50 most dangerous suburbs in the country.
How We Created This Ranking
In putting this ranking together, we looked at a total of 116 suburban cities. These comprise the largest suburbs of the 50 largest cities in the country for which crime data is available. This data comes from the FBI’s uniform crime report for 2012, the latest full-year edition of the bureau’s publication. The data we looked at comprised seven main types of crime:
- Vehicle Theft
We took these crimes and divided them into four distinct groups: murders, violent crimes, property crimes, and total crimes. After determining the number of each per 100,000 people annually (in order to create a level playing field for comparison) we ranked the suburbs from 1 to 116 in each category, with 1 being the most dangerous.
We then weighted these results whereby murder, total violent crime, and total property crime each comprised 30 percent of the final score each and total crimes made up 10 percent. The average of these weighted scores was used to determine the most dangerous suburb.
Now we’ll take a look at specific statistics as they relate to the 10 most dangerous suburbs.
This suburb of Atlanta, GA is home to 35,155 people who, in 2012, faced a 1 in 8 chance of being the victim of a crime—the worst of any place we looked at. This alarming figure relates to the fact that East Point ranked first overall in terms of total crime and property crimes, at 12,061 and 10,863 per 100,000, respectively.
East Point fared no better where murder was concerned, ranking second overall with 34 per 100,000 residents in 2012. For violent crime, it was was also second overall with 1,198 per 100,000 for the year.
2. Camden, NJ
Although located in New Jersey, Camden is technically a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. This city of 77,665 earned its title of most dangerous suburb for two reasons: its murder and violent crime rankings, both of which it placed first in. There were 86 murders per 100,000 residents in Camden during 2012 and a staggering 2,566 violent crimes per 100,000.
Camden ranked ninth overall in terms of property crimes, with 5,159 per 100,000 residents in 2012, while for total crime it ranked fifth with 7,725 per 100,000. The overall odds of being the victim of a crime in Camden stood at 1 in 13; not the absolute worst we found, but definitely close.
The most dangerous Florida city in our top 10, Miami Beach is a suburb of Miami, FL and home to 91.066 people. It also has the dubious distinction of being the second most dangerous city that we looked at in terms of total crime, with 10,947 per 100,000 people in 2012, when the odds of being a victim of crime in Miami Beach were 1 in 9, the second worst we found.
Property crime was also a major problem in Miami Beach that year, ranking second in that criterion with 9,914 per 100,000 residents. At the other end of the spectrum, the city ranked fifth lowest out of our top 10 cities for murder in 2012 at 16th overall, with five murders per 100,000 residents.
Located less than 10 miles from central Oklahoma City, OK, this suburb of 55,768 had the fourth lowest violent crime of any in our top 10, placing 15th overall in that criterion with 529 per 100,000 people in 2012. It did worse in terms of total crime, where it placed ninth with 5,876 per 100,000; the odds of being a victim of a crime were 1 in 17.
For property crime, Midwest City placed eighth with 5,347 per 100,000 residents, while it did worst in terms of murder, with a rate of 11 per 100,000 placing it at sixth for that criterion overall.
As its name suggests, the second Florida city in our top 10 is a suburb of Miami, FL. In 2012, its 111,177 residents faced a murder rate of 22 per 100,000, which placed the city in third for that criterion. Violent crime stood at 837 per 100,000 which made Miami Gardens the seventh-worst suburb in that regard.
The city ranked 15th for total crime and 20th for property crime, at 5,140 and 4,303 per 100,000, respectively. There was a 1 in 19 chance of being the victim of crime in Miami Gardens during the year we studied.
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6. Clarksville, IN
Although located in Indiana, Clarksville is technically a suburb of Louisville, KY. In 2012, the 22,057 residents there witnessed the third-worst property crime of any place we looked at, with 7,240 per 100,000. Total crime there wasn’t much better, ranking fourth overall at 7,784 per 100,000. The odds of crime stood at 1 in 13.
Violent crime stood at 13th overall, with 544 per 100,000. Murder was fortunately less common, with Clarksville ranking 22nd for five homicides per 100,000 residents.
7. Glendale, AZ
The westmost city in our top 10, Glendale is a suburb of Phoenix, AZ that’s home to 232,997 residents. It fared worst when it came to property crime, placing fifth with 6,410 per 100,000 residents in 2012. Total crime in Glendale stood at 6,901 per 100,000 which placed the city at sixth for that criterion. The odds of being the victim of a crime were 1 in 14.
Glandale ranked 18th for murder during the year we looked at, with five homicides per 100,000 residents. It also ranked 18th overall for violent crime, with 491 per 100,000.
8. Tempe, AZ
Another Phoenix suburb, Tempe and its 166,061 residents fared a bit worse than their counterparts in Glendale when it came to murder and violent crime. This city placed 11th in terms of murder and 16th for violent crimes per 100,000 in 2012 at seven and 519, respectively. There was a 1 in 19 chance of being the victim of crime.
Tempe ranked 14th overall for property crime at 4,712 per 100,000. For total crime, it had 5,240 per 100,000 making it 12th worst in terms of that criterion.
Of the three cities in Florida that made our top 10, Jacksonville Beach was the least dangerous. This Jacksonville, FL suburb of 21,817 people ranked sixth overall in terms of murders per 100,000 residents in 2012 with five. It did slightly worse in terms of violent crime, ranking second with 898 per 100,000.
Jacksonville Beach ranked 15th for property crime, at 4,666 per 100,000 residents, and 10th for total crime with 5,564 per 100,000. The odds of being a victim of crime there during 2012 stood at 1 in 18.
10. Independence, MO
The overall least dangerous in our top 10, Independence is a suburb of Kansas City, MO and home to 117,433 people. It has the lowest rank for murder in the top 10: 25th, with four homicides per 100,000 people in 2012. It ranked 23rd overall in terms of violent crime with 457 per 100,000—again, the lowest in our top 10.
Independence wasn’t as free of property crime, ranking sixth overall with 6,090 per 100,000. Total crime was also in the top 10, placing eighth with 6,548 per 100,000 during the year we looked at. This resulted in an overall chance of crime of 1 in 15.
Playing It Safe
As you can plainly see, suburban life isn’t always idyllic. Thankfully, though, there are some cities where the dream of escaping big city crime can still be achieved. When we looked at the safest suburbs in the country, we crowned Carmel, IN the top spot for keeping yourself and your loved ones out of harm’s way. In the chart below, you can see that even if Indiana isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, there are still plenty of other suburbs safer than our top 10 out there for you.
Editor’s Note: To help further explain how get to the per 100,000 people data point, let me use Jacksonville Beach as an example:
There are 21,817 people living in Jacksonville Beach. There was 1 murder in 2012.
Step 1: One murder divided by 21,817 people = .00005 murders / person.
Step 2: .0005 murders/person multiplied by 100,000 = 5 murders per 100,000 people.
So we show 5 murders per 100,000/people on the chart.
We do this for all cities for each statistic so that it is an apples-to-apples comparison.
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