Although most communities and states throughout the country have adopted the FBI's standard crime reporting systems, finding a community that is sufficiently safe for your family can still present problems because crimes come in so many types and circumstances.
Even categorizing crime into the groupings of violent crime and property crime can present some difficulties: Is burglary more serious than auto theft? Is aggravated assault worse than robbery?
Clearly, any crime is bad, but some types of crime seem to be worse than others when choosing a place to raise a family. Civicus Consulting Group has taken all the crime data available for each of the 361 Census Bureau-defined Metropolitan Statistical Areas and applied its own subjective weighting to each of these types of crime to come up with its own ratings and rankings.
Based on that criteria, here are the 10 safest communities for you to raise your family:
1. Logan —Home to Utah State University, this once primarily agricultural community has rapidly developed into an education, high-tech, and manufacturing center of nearly 125,000 residents. With a violent crime rate of one-sixth the national rate-and property crime rates less than one-half the national average, Logan is the safest of the metropolitan areas in our study.
2. State College, Pa. — Another college town, State College is home to Penn State University and for educational opportunities alone could rate high on anyone's list of favorite places to raise a family. Its low overall crime rates put it second on our list. Of particular note is the infrequency of murder and other violent crimes. In fact, many years there are no murders at all.
3. Harrisonburg, Va. —This metro area in north-central Virginia is only a two-hour drive to Washington, D.C., and yet it is virtually on the foothills of George Washington National Forest. The most common crime in Harrisonburg is theft, and even at that the theft rate is less than half the national average-about 1,129 per 100,000 residents.
4. Eau Claire, Wis. —The greater Eau Claire area, located about 80 miles east of the Twin Cities, is full of outdoor recreation, arts, culture, and educational opportunities. Maybe that's partly why it ranks so high on our list of safest communities. Violent crime in Eau Clair is only one-fourth the national average, and some types of property crime are one-half to one-third the national average.
5. Provo-Orem — With more than half a million residents and located about 50 miles south of the state capital of Salt Lake City, Provo and its sister city Orem have experienced tremendous population and job growth over the past 20 years. Yet crime is still low enough to be nearly at a small-town level. Well below national averages in all crime categories, Provo-Orem is clean and safe-making it an ideal home for most families.
6. Glens Falls, N.Y. — Found north of New York City, Glens Falls has nearly 130,000 residents. While high on arts, culture, performing arts, museums, and outdoor activities, Glens Falls is low on crime. Vehicular theft and robbery rates are nearly one-tenth the national rates.
7. Holland, Mich. — The Holland-Grand Haven metro area in western Michigan is found on the picturesque Lake Michigan and was settled by Dutch immigrants. Holland continues to boast of its religious heritage and the impact of it. Certainly low crime is one of those effects. Property crime is one-half the national average, and violent crime is about one-third of that found throughout the country.
8. Williamsport, Pa. — Located 100 miles north of Harrisburg, Williamsport was founded on the banks of the beautiful Susquehanna River and has a lot going for it-including low crime rates.
9. Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca, the home of Cornell University, is in the central New York area where you'll find beautiful parks, cool streams and rivers, and friendly people, but you won't find high crime. Crime rates in Ithaca are less than half the national averages in all categories.
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10. Appleton, Wis. — Appleton is near Lake Winnebago, the city of Oshkosh, and only a stone's throw away from Green Bay. Those who have visited Appleton speak of the beautiful foliage, abundant arts and culture, and plentiful opportunities for outdoor recreation. But they usually don't speak of Appleton's crime, which, like the other nine communities on our list, is rarely seen.
Michael Call, of Civicus Consulting Group and author of "Best Places to Raise an LDS Family," has been studying and working with local governments and nonprofits for nearly 25 years. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana Tech. Leave your own comments and ratings of communities at www.BestLDSPlaces.com