The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Safest Places In Virginia

If you’re planning a move to the Mother of States, look no further than this mother of all lists, the 10 Safest Places in Virginia.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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At Movoto Real Estate, we have been moving across the country, from state to state, from city to city, and from town to town, in order to uncover which places are the very safest to live. In New York our winner was the Town of Elmira, in Florida, it was the City of Parkland; and today, we are heading to the State known for Lovers, Virginia.

As the numbers came in, it truly seemed that this nickname was deserved; especially in our top 10 safest places. But which was the winner? According to our analysis, it was the City of Poquoson, closely followed by some other truly loving places. Here are the 10 safest places in Virginia:

1. City of Poquoson
2. Town of Vienna
3. Town of Blacksburg
4. City of Falls Church
5. Town of Herndon (tie)
5. Fairfax City (tie)
7. City of Manassas Park
8. City of Salem
9. City of Williamsburg
10. City of Alexandria

Of course we weren’t all that surprised to see the quaint, idyllic home of Colonial Williamsburg on our top 10, but what about Poquoson? Or Vienna? What made them so very safe? If you’ll keep reading, we’ll tell you just that; we’ll also tell you the method behind our analysis, and if you skip down to the bottom of the post, you can check out a full list of the 37 places in our study.

How We Did It

In order to come up with this list of the safest places in Virginia, we looked at the FBI’s crime statistics from 2012, the most recent data. We used the locations in the state with populations over 10,000 people, which left us with a total of just 37 places. From there, we looked at each of these places in terms of these three criteria:

  • Violent crime (rape, murder, and assault)
  • Property crime (theft, burglary, and  motor vehicle thefts)
  • The chance a resident will be a victim of crime

For violent crime and property crime, we calculated the number of transgressions per resident. In order to determine a resident’s chances of being the victim of a crime, we used the total number of crimes in the city or town. Then, we ranked each place from one to 37 across the three criteria. The lower the number, the better the place’s score.

As one famous Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, would surely tell you, “all men are created equal,” but he’d probably also be the first to say that all crimes are not created equal; for example, killing somebody isn’t the same as stealing his wallet. So, in order to account for these differences in severity,  we weighted each criteria differently, placing a greater emphasis on violent crime, followed by property crime, and then the chance a resident might be the victim of a crime. Violent crime made up 50 percent of our ranking, property crime made up 30 percent, and a resident’s chances of being the victim of a crime made up 20 percent.

There were 91,166 total crimes committed in 2012 across all of the places in our study. But here is the good news: out of these 91,166 crimes, 91 percent, or 82,643 crimes, were non-violent property crimes, leaving just 8,523 violent crimes for all 37 places for the entire year.

For a complete list of the 37 places in our study, scroll down to the bottom of the post. Otherwise, we’ll take a closer look at our winners, starting with No. 1, the City of Poquoson.

1. Poquoson

Poquoson, VA

Source: City of Poquoson

Poquoson is one the oldest continuously-named places in Virginia, and it is also one of the few in the state to retain its original Native American name. What does it mean? Roughly, Poquoson translates to “the great marsh,” or as Wikipedia kindly put it, “flat, boring land.”

Well, if boring means safe in this case, we’d have to agree. In our analysis, this city of over 12,000 residents saw just 44 crimes total, 10 violent crimes and 34 property crimes. Of those violent crimes, all 10 were aggravated assault, and out of the property crimes, 88 percent, or 30 crimes, were theft. So, if “flat and boring” means being the safest place in the state, it seems like a fair trade, wouldn’t you say?

2. Vienna

Vienna, VA

Source: Flickr user Ron Cogswell

Located in Fairfax County, Vienna came in high on our list for a number of reasons. With a population of over 16,000, Vienna only saw six violent crimes in 2012 and 184 property crimes. Think of it this way: Residents here only had a 1 in 2,690 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, and with a total of 190 crimes overall, they had a 1 in 85 chance of being the victim of a crime in general.

This, plus a proximity to Tysons Corner, Washington D.C., and some of the best public schools in the area, make Vienna not only safe, but one of the best places to live in general. Seriously. In 2013 CNN Money ranked Vienna as the third best place to live in the U.S.

3. Blacksburg

Blacksburg, VA

Source: Wikipedia user User:B

With a population of over 43,000, Blacksburg, located in Montgomery County, is easily the largest town by population in the state, and the 15th largest municipality overall. It is probably most known as the home of Virginia Tech University and even the best college town in the south, according to Southern Living Magazine. But now this town can add another honor to its list to boast about: one of the safest places in Virginia, and certainly, the safest college town we’ve ever seen.

Blacksburg had a total of just 514 crimes in 2012, giving residents just a 1 in 84 chance of being the victim of a crime. Out of these, only 39 were violent crimes (zero  murders, 12 forcible rapes, 11 robberies, and 16 aggravated assaults), meaning residents only had a 1 in 1,104 chance of being the victim of one of these types of crime.

4. Falls Church

Falls Church, VA

Source: Flickr user Kathleen Tyler Conklin

Not only does Falls Church have the lowest level of poverty of any independent city or county in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but it also has some of the lowest levels of crime in the state, according to the F.B.I.

With a population of nearly 13,000, Falls Church only had a total of 11 violent crimes and a total of 211 property crimes. Let’s take a closer look at this, though. Of those 11 violent crimes, there was one murder, one forcible rape, seven robberies, and two aggravated assaults. Of the property crimes, nearly all, or 92 percent, were cases of theft, which was followed by 14 cases of burglary and three cases of motor vehicle theft. Overall, residents had just a 1 in 58 chance of being the victim of a crime.

5. Herndon (tie)

Herndon, VA

Source: Wikipedia user Dion Hinchcliffe

This town of nearly 24,000 residents in Fairfax County was originally named after William Lewis Herndon, an American naval explorer who famously went down with his ship in order to save over 150 passengers and crew. Of course, this was over 150 years ago, but in looking at these numbers, it seems as though some of this moral fortitude has stuck around, making this one of the safest places in the state.

For example, there were only 28 violent crimes reported in 2012 and just 367 property crimes. This meant that residents only had a 1 in 61 chance of being the victim of a crime. The other good news is, of the 367 property crimes, 90 percent were theft, which could be misdemeanors. Of course we’re not saying that they’re not crimes and you should go out and steal a bunch of things; but at least these are non-violent crimes.

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5. Fairfax City (tie)

Fairfax City, VA

Source: Flickr user scorchedearth

This independent city in Northern Virginia was once known as Providence, which means foresight or careful and prudent management in advance. Though it now goes by Fairfax, it seems as though the attitude of providence has remained– at least when it comes to planning for the city’s safety.

There were a total of 459 crimes reported in 2012, of which 4 percent were violent. Out of the remaining 440 property crimes, 396 were cases of larceny, 22 burglary, and 22 motor vehicle theft, ultimately giving residents just a 1 in 50 chance of being the victim of a crime.

7. Manassas Park

Manassas Park, VA

Source: Flickr user dancingnomad3

Located in the Washington Metropolitan Area, this independent city ranked well in our analysis mostly for its low number of violent crimes, proportionally. With a population of over 15,000, Manassas Park saw only 21 violent crimes in 2012 (one forcible rape, one robbery, and 19 aggravated assaults). This may not sound great spelled out like this, but compare that to, Petersburg, which had five murders, seven rapes, 56 robberies, and 104 aggravated assaults, and you’ll see why Manassas Park ranked near the top in this analysis.

In the end, with just 254 crimes total, residents had a 1 in 61 chance of being the victim of a crime, and just a 1 in 738 chance of being the victim of a violent crime.

8. Salem

Salem, VA

Source: City of Salem

Salem may be known for the Salem Red Sox and, of course, those famous blueberry pancakes at the Pancake House on Apperson Dr., but after our analysis, it may want to add “least violent” to its list.

With a population of 25,236, Salem only had a total of eight violent crimes in 2012, five of which were robberies, and three, aggravated assaults, giving residents just a 1 in 3,155 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, and making Salem one of the least violent on our list.

9. Williamsburg

Williamsburg, VA

Source: City of Williamsburg

When most people hear Williamsburg, they think of Colonial Williamsburg; and while this, of course, is a huge part of the city’s culture, this independent city is so much more. For example, modern Williamsburg is a total college town, home to a large number of William & Mary students and staff. It is also home to about four million tourists throughout the year. And, as we discovered in our study, it is also one of the very safest places in the state, especially when it comes to a lack of violent crime.

Out of 14,603 residents, Williamsburg only saw a total of 20 violent crimes in 2012. That means residents had just a 1 in 730 chance of being the victim of a violent crime. The rest of the 259 crimes in Williamsburg were non-violent property crimes, 86 percent of which were larceny/theft.

10. Alexandria

Alexandria, VA

Source: City of Alexandria

Rounding out our list is Alexandria. This city of 145,892 residents is easily the largest in our top 10. Of those residents, many are professionals in the federal civil service, the U.S. Military, or private companies located in the nation’s capitol.

Now, as most people know, most places in the country, let alone Virginia, are safer than downtown Washington D.C., but just how safe could Alexandria be to warrant a minimum 20- to 30-minute commute everyday?

Well, according to our analysis, pretty darn safe. With nearly 146,000 residents, Alexandria saw a total of just 3,233 crimes in 2012, 2,990 of which were property theft and 243 of which were violent crimes. Now that may sound high, but proportionally, it is not. Think of it this way: residents have just a 1 in 45 chance of being the victim of any crime in Alexandria, compared to, say, Roanoke, where residents had a 1 in 18 chance.

Now For Some Places That Could Really Use Some Love

Now that we’ve looked at the 10 safest places in the State for Lovers, let’s take a look at those place in our analysis that seem to be lacking, if not love, at least some serious safety regulations.

The most dangerous place on our list was Roanoke. With 97,780 residents, Roanoke saw a total of 542 violent crimes and 4,771 property crimes in 2012, for a total of 5,313 crimes in all. That means residents had a 1 in 18 chance of being the victim of a crime.

That being said, Roanoke was not the only place where residents had such odds of being the victim of a crime. In the second most dangerous place in Virginia, Portsmouth, residents also had a 1 in 18 chance of being the victim of a crime; the only reason Portsmouth ranked better was because with a population of 96,739, they only had 461 violent crimes in 2012.

Finally, the third most dangerous place in our analysis was Norfolk. This much larger city with a population of 25,303 saw a total of 12,723 crimes in 2012, giving residents a 1 in 19 chance of being the victim of a crime.

In addition to Roanoke, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, Richmond and Petersburg were also ranked at the bottom of our list, as the fourth and fifth most dangerous in Virginia. Perhaps they just need some of that Virginia love. And if that fails, hey, you can always move to Poquoson.

, VA Table

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posted on: March 2, 2014
180,677 views, 15 comments


  1. Ross

    It is not Virginia Tech University.
    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University or just Virginia Tech.

    Sorry, just a pet peeve. ESPN manages to pull out VAH-TECH…makes my skin crawl.

    So glad to see Salem and Blacksburg on the list.

    Curious how Richmond’s numbers are so low. I would guess that these numbers reflect just the city and not the Metro area.

  2. Wad

    You could of saved yourself a lot of time and just wrote the word, “NOVA.”

  3. Vitenis

    To Eric Blair:1. When you say you are “In favor of registration”, what is being regretsied: the person or the gun? If the person, is it a shall-issue concealed carry permit or is it a discretionary issue ownership/carry permit, such as NY’s Sullivan law, passed in 1911?2. What happens if the person fails the proficiency/safety test, perhaps because he or she is 70 years old, has essential tremor and doesn’t see very well? To what extent does society then have an obligation to protect that individual against attacks by criminals and who bears the cost of fulfilling that obligation?3. How much should the training and testing cost and who pays for it? Many states with shall-issue carry permits require recertification every few years and impose fees of several hundred dollars to exercise this “right”. This tends to legally disarm poorer people, who incidentally tend to live in the more crime-ridden neighborhoods.4. Like Helen, I don’t care what weapon was used or the motivation of the murderer. Murder is murder and the person is just as dead.

  4. Chris

    Manassas Park is probably the least safe place in Virginia. I have a friend that lives there. He hears gunshots every single night. There was a body found by the train tracks a few months ago. Try walking around Manassas Park after midnight. You feel like you’re about to get stabbed or shot for the shoes you’re wearing. EVERY time I go to my friend’s house, I witness some sort of criminal behavior, be it a gang fight in the middle of the street, drug dealing or a car being stolen. Manassas Park is by no means safe.

  5. Jason Porter

    I can’t find any working contact information for the author, so I’ll just leave this here…

    I think your numbers need some examination. Roanoke is the most dangerous city in Virginia? I suspect you may have an error in your spreadsheet – Roanoke as a place is both the small defined border of Roanoke City and the surrounding contiguous metro area of Roanoke County, in one. I suspect you’ve used the population of Roanoke City only and compared it against the data for Roanoke as a “place” which would include an additional ~95,000 residents of Roanoke County at minimum, which would skew your numbers significantly. Roanoke’s MSA has well over 250,000 residents.

    It’s additionally fascinating that you’ve listed Salem as one of the top ten safest – Salem is contiguous metro area with Roanoke (they are continuous and adjacent) so it’s incredibly unlikely for there to be the kind of statistical swing in reality that you’ve suggested with your data.

    Can you please check these numbers? It’s important, because they’re being used in the larger context of economic development and your reporting has real effects on the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in the real world.

    Thank you!

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Jason Porter

      You can check the FBI’s latest data for the numbers; it’s exactly what we used and is publicly available.

      • Jeff in response to Chris Kolmar

        Didn’t the FBI also indicate that one should not use their data to make some sort of list? I believe that was also in the report.

  6. Jason Porter

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for responding. I’ve looked at the FBI’s data and your numbers still don’t seem to represent the actual safety of communities in Virginia. You may not be aware, but the “Independent City” system in Virginia is rather unique in that it creates a situation where the borders of a city do not represent the actual contiguous metro area. In most states, a city is able to annex its contiguous urban footprint into its own statistical area, which gives a better basis for statistical analysis, while in Virginia the borders of a “city” are artificially constrained by law. This leaves significant portions of a city’s metro/urban zone lying in “county” areas surrounding, a situation which has no rational basis economically or geographically. Based on this unusual situation, the only way to accurately evaluate crime statistics for Virginia cities is through statistical aggregation of adjacent city/county zones, or by examining each MSA as a whole. The FBI provides MSA data for this purpose, which gives a much more accurate impression of a general area’s propensity for crime.

    Here is the FBI statistical breakdown by MSA for 2012… you’ll notice that the Roanoke MSA has a murder rate per 100k that is half that of Richmond, and a violent crime rate that is ~30% lower than the MSA that includes the Northern Virginia localities that you’ve highlighted as the state’s safest:

    The net result of all of this is an incredibly misleading set of conclusions based on data that was never intended for this type of context-free comparison.

    It may interest you to know that the FBI has a lengthy page on their own statistics site that warns against using their data in this way, and they go on in some detail to explain why. They’ve entitled it “Caution Against Ranking”. It would be worth reading before publishing your next comparison:

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Jason Porter

      Hey Jason,
      I can’t speak to how the Virginia assigns boundaries to city. We take the FBI at their word.

      In regards to the disclaimer from the FBI, that concerns how you judge law enforcement effectiveness in those cities. We agree with the FBI that you can’t judge effectiveness because of the vast differences in populations.

      However, we are interested in the places themselves and the FBI does accurately reflect where crime takes place. So their disclaimer does not apply to the analysis here. It’s just a fact that crime happens where it happens.

  7. Jacquie

    Poquoson is full of Heroin and drug addicts – so many over doses in the last couple of years. People who move here are considered “move ins” and are not treated very well unless they have $ or fame!!!!!! Flood zone area also.

  8. j

    They didn’t mention drug use and Heroin in Poquoson

  9. Jess

    Yes the drug abuse in the town has risen, but only in the past 2 years. This survey gathers data from 2012. Being from Poquoson, I admit that it is not the safest area for drug use, but I do feel safe walking around at night. Move ins are only treated like new neighbors anywhere else. Not everyone in Poquoson is rich: 80% of the school kids are on free or reduced lunches.

  10. John

    poquoson people Alain don’t usually like black ppl either, as like near messick road.

  11. JL

    you must have had too many cocktails when you wrote this. try googling “crime rate in” then the city you want to check then click on which has the actual info that obtains from the PD.

  12. WP

    The main problem with using FBI crime statistics to “rank” the safety of places is (a) these statistics are reported by the municipal police department as they wish to and (b) does not accurately reflect crime rates, only crimes to which the police have responded to–and, again, reported in their statistics.

    Consequently–higher “crime rates” may be the result of (a) more crime, (b) better reporting/data keeping by the local police department, (c) more aggressive police department in responding to and charging people for crime, or (d) any combination thereof. Because of the vast differences between cities on all FOUR of those measures, there is no way you can accurately compare them, much less rank them against each other.


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