2015 Safest Places in Iowa

When deciding where to live, safety is a top priority. Our team at ValuePenguin has analyzed the most recent FBI Crime Report to determine the safety of cities and towns in Iowa. These 70 ranged in a crime score from 351 to an outlier of 7,628, with an average of 2,126. We found that the five safest places to emerge represented four different regions and two population ranges, from small to midsize.

More populous cities Cedar Rapids (60th) and Des Moines (67th) fell near the bottom of our rankings despite the fact that we adjusted our crime score metric for population, also taking into account both the amount of violent and property-related crimes per 100,000 people (more on our methodology below). For more insight, take a look at the report:

5 Safest Places in Iowa

These cities have an average crime score of 502, 76 percent lower than their typical peer in Iowa With some of the state’s lowest total violent crime rates, these five are the safest places in the state.

1. Decorah, Ia.

Situated in the state’s northeast region, Decorah takes the top honor, having reported just one violent crime in all of 2013. A five-member police department here presides over a city whose citizens are, on average, 14 years younger than their fellow Iowans of other cities. This statistic is affected, at least in part, by the presence of Luther College, a liberal arts school within the city limits. There are plenty of families, too: Every July, Decorah celebrates its settlers’ Norwegian roots by hosting Nordic Fest.

Factor

Value

Population

8,103

Crime Score

351

2. Orange City, Ia.

The least populous city among our top five, Orange City recorded a crime score that is 77 percent lower than the state’s average. An hour’s drive from Sioux Falls, S.D., Orange City is situated in the state’s northwest quadrant and, like Decorah, is home to a university, Northwestern College. Every spring here, where “Color your life vibrant” is the motto, starts with a three-day Tulip Festival, honoring the city’s Dutch history.

Factor

Value

Population

6,187

Crime Score

489

3. Johnston, Ia.

The most populous city among our top five, Johnston is the home of Iowa Public Television as well as John Deere. It has maintained its safety record despite having 126% more residents now than it did in 2000. The people here were more than 20% more confident in their safety than the national average, according to a community survey conducted in 2013. There are more reasons to like life in the southern Iowa city: Citizens’ estimated home value in 2012, $243,056, was 94% higher than the state’s average, and their estimated household income for the same year, $93,622, was 84% higher.

Factor

Value

Population

19,175

Crime Score

540

4. Denison, Ia.

The southwesternmost city among the safest five, Denison should be known for more than being President Obama’s favorite motorcade stop for a snowcone. Like, say, a low crime rate. That’s what pushed the midsize city to fourth on our list. It may come as more of a surprise that Denison has its own municipal airport… in case the commander in chief wants to drop by for a cone using Air Force One.

Factor

Value

Population

8,411

Crime Score

562

5. Waukee, Ia.

Located 13 miles southeast of Johnston and just a 20-mile drive from Des Moines proper, Waukee registered the second-best property crime rate per 100,000 people among the top five, coming in at 806. It’s the “key to good living,” as the city’s motto goes. So, apparently, is technology: The Waukee Police Department uses a product called Nixle to alert its residents and, in return, asks them to text message tips via its “Crimestopper” program. Both tactics seem to be working.

Factor

Value

Population

16,633

Crime Score

568

Population Breakdown

Although we adjusted for population in our crime rankings, it is still difficult to compare a small town to a large city. To account for this fact, we separated the safest cities into three categories: towns with populations between 5,000 and 8,000, midsize cities with populations between 8,000 and 20,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 20,000. Here are our findings:

Iowa infographic

Full List of Places in Iowa

Below is the entire list of places that we included in our “Safest Places in Iowa” study. They are listed from the safest to the least safe, according to our analysis. The calculation for the crime scores can be found in the methodology section below. Take a look at the graph and see where your hometown ranks.

Full list of places in Iowa

Methodology

To rank these places, we collected data from the 2013 FBI crime statistics by city, which provides the most recent crime data available. Not every town participates in this report and we also excluded towns with fewer than 5,000 residents because towns with small populations are more sensitive to crime score fluctuations for fewer crimes committed. The raw data report included property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson), and violent crimes (murder/manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) from all law enforcement agencies that chose to partake in the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting program.

We standardized the data to reflect violent and property crimes per 100,000, to account for population. Then, we aggregated a “crime score” by weighting violent crime at 90% and property crime at 10%. Though property crime is more prevalent, we figured that violent crime is more concerning to town residents. Then we adjusted the crime score for population size, giving more slack to larger cities. Finally, we ranked the cities based on their crime scores.

Here is an alphabetical table of all cities included with their ranks, making it easier to compare different cities. See where your city lies!

Rank

CityPopulationViolent crime per 100KProperty crime per 100KCrime Score

21

Algona5,4952731,0921,327

38

Altoona15,6831213,6151,974

34

Ames61,1931442,3521,746

9

Anamosa5,653351,663742

14

Ankeny50,194861,3891,017

32

Bettendorf34,5482491,4331,667

59

Boone12,5156152,1093,132

7

Carroll9,988601,241712

16

Cedar Falls40,2131291,2311,101

60

Cedar Rapids128,6423053,6593,272

58

Centerville5,4445143,4533,018

31

Charles City7,4712541,7531,564

26

Cherokee5,1492721,5341,478

56

Clarinda5,4554773,4652,899

24

Clear Lake7,731783,0011,440

65

Clinton26,5726703,9364,409

29

Clive16,4671702,0531,511

41

Coralville19,9492213,1432,207

70

Council Bluffs62,0219427,4397,628

68

Davenport101,8346424,1714,982

15

De Witt5,2731521,4981,067

1

Decorah8,10312790351

4

Denison8,41148999562

67

Des Moines207,3914954,8294,936

45

Dubuque58,3132262,8142,310

13

Eldridge5,9792177361,016

33

Estherville6,1793881,0681,729

36

Fairfield9,4881373,5521,903

66

Fort Dodge24,6326374,4904,489

50

Fort Madison11,0124722,2162,613

49

Glenwood5,2205361,8582,484

43

Grinnell9,0903742,3102,247

10

Hiawatha7,173561,478764

54

Indianola14,9934872,3282,802

52

Iowa City70,8553222,6112,672

18

Iowa Falls5,117592,6971,197

3

Johnston19,17537928540

69

Keokuk10,7209614,6925,377

20

Le Mars9,7881022,3501,304

27

Manchester5,1032551,7441,498

44

Maquoketa6,0663462,9342,288

22

Marion36,1811551,5841,358

63

Marshalltown27,7226202,6513,657

42

Mason City27,7471084,0732,242

62

Muscatine23,0276342,3413,510

48

Newton15,0642723,3392,418

25

North Liberty14,8212978031,450

6

Norwalk9,554105775685

51

Oelwein6,3505352,1572,651

2

Orange City6,18748857489

30

Osceola5,0641972,4491,564

46

Oskaloosa11,5704241,9882,358

61

Ottumwa24,7382994,7983,290

35

Pella10,4183361,4691,805

39

Perry8,0653602,2072,128

8

Pleasant Hill9,072661,224720

55

Red Oak5,6143384,5962,864

17

Sheldon5,0961961,3541,156

11

Shenandoah5,084591,593787

64

Sioux City82,6763924,4253,911

28

Spencer11,1861702,1991,510

53

Storm Lake10,8124992,4512,800

23

Urbandale41,4991611,6141,415

12

Vinton5,187771,446795

57

Washington7,3467351,1032,984

5

Waukee16,63360806568

47

Waverly10,0895351,1602,392

40

Webster City7,8303582,2482,130

37

West Des Moines60,0681502,7601,964

19

Winterset5,1741162,2231,213

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