2016 Safest Places in North Carolina

by Susan Gulliford

Whether it is the 10 million people already living there or the 281 people moving there each day, all North Carolinians care about their safety. The ValuePenguin analyzed the most recent FBI Crime Report to determine the safest places in North Carolina. These 115 communities with populations of at least 5,000 have crime scores that range from 321 to 8,858.

All of the safest communities have populations of under 35,000. However, small does not necessarily equal safe. The five least safest communities had populations between 5,000 and 25,000. In fact the sixth-largest city in the research, Cary, ranked as the eighth-safest place overall.  

5 Safest Places in North Carolina

These cities had an average final crime score of 472, which was 81% lower than their typical peer in the state. The ValuePenguin determined that these five are the safest cities in North Carolina.

1. Pinehurst

Pinehurst offers safety to people and their property. This community, known to golf fans as the home of the famous Pinehurst Resort, had the lowest rate of violent crime and the lowest rate of property crime of any city in North Carolina. In fact, Pinehurst was the only city in this research with a crime score under 400. Both the police and fire departments have won numerous awards for achievements in public safety.  

2. Elon

Elon (population of 9,537) is the smallest community in the top five. It is an approximately 27-minute drive from Greensboro, NC and is home to a university of the same name. It had the third-lowest rate of violent crime and the fifth-lowest rate of property crime of any city in this research. Due to its college town flavor, it had a median household income below the average for North Carolina.  

3. Holly Springs

The safest large community ranked third in this research. In addition to a low rate of violent crime, it had the second-lowest rate of property crime in this research. It is approximately 20 miles from the state capital of Raleigh. Holly Springs is an affluent city where almost 55% of the residents over 25 have at least a bachelor’s degree, and the median household income is nearly $92,000.

4. Waxhaw

This town, whose motto is ‘Proud of Our Past... Passionate About Our Future,’ came in at number four. The police department encourages a partnership between itself and the community. This approach has been fruitful. Waxhaw had the third-lowest rate of property crime in addition to a low rate of violent crime. This community, located approximately 30 miles from Charlotte, had a median household income approximately $28,000 above the average for North Carolina.  

5. Davidson

Davidson is the second college town in the top five. The police department’s core values of treating everyone equally and partnering with the community to prevent crime have paid off for Davidson’s residents and businesses. It had the fourth-lowest rate of property crime for North Carolina cities, and Davidson reported a mere eight violent crimes in 2014. This town, located 22 miles from Charlotte had a median household income double that of North Carolina and a very high percentage of residents (66%) with a college degree. 

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 10,000, midsize cities with populations between 10,000 and 25,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 25,000. Here are our findings:

Full List of Places in North Carolina

Below is the entire list of places that we included in our “Safest Places in North Carolina” 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.

Rank City Crime Score
1 Pinehurst  321
2 Elon  467
3 Holly Springs  519
4 Waxhaw  519
5 Davidson  536
6 Apex  613
7 Fletcher  694
8 Cary  704
9 Black Mountain  721
10 Stallings  725
11 Gibsonville  737
12 Cornelius  839
13 Winterville  867
14 Mount Holly  902
15 Woodfin  903
16 Havelock  921
17 Morrisville  979
18 Leland  1,010
19 Bessemer City  1,074
20 Wendell  1,077
21 Boone  1,110
22 Archdale  1,112
23 Huntersville  1,134
24 Mint Hill  1,141
25 Wake Forest  1,219
26 Boiling Spring Lakes  1,244
27 Carrboro  1,259
28 Clayton  1,285
29 Kannapolis  1,331
30 Chapel Hill  1,343
31 Brevard  1,378
32 Matthews  1,392
33 Kings Mountain  1,441
34 Butner  1,470
35 Knightdale  1,535
36 Concord  1,627
37 King  1,656
38 Fuquay-Varina  1,731
39 Mooresville  1,743
40 Cherryville  1,755
41 Tarboro  1,807
42 Waynesville  1,839
43 Belmont  1,953
44 Carolina Beach  1,987
45 Sanford  1,997
46 Eden  2,011
47 Morganton  2,056
48 Oak Island  2,065
49 Mocksville  2,106
50 Aberdeen  2,130
51 Mebane  2,131
52 Newton  2,168
53 Lexington  2,208
54 Hendersonville  2,241
55 Lenoir  2,258
56 Ayden  2,270
57 Kernersville  2,293
58 Garner  2,326
59 Siler City  2,386
60 Thomasville  2,400
61 Conover  2,421
62 Graham  2,461
63 Hamlet  2,490
64 Lincolnton  2,543
65 Roxboro  2,552
66 Southern Pines  2,570
67 New Bern  2,590
68 Mount Airy  2,622
69 Morehead City  2,625
70 Reidsville  2,706
71 Elizabeth City  2,720
72 Clinton  2,726
73 High Point  2,729
74 Shelby  2,755
75 Wilson  2,796
76 Kill Devil Hills  2,832
77 Hickory  2,879
78 Forest City  2,923
79 Spring Lake  2,961
80 Greensboro  3,002
81 Albemarle  3,037
82 Greenville  3,053
83 Statesville  3,085
84 Asheboro  3,102
85 Selma  3,153
86 Burlington  3,169
87 Monroe  3,195
88 Hope Mills  3,318
89 Charlotte-Mecklenburg  3,516
90 Smithfield  3,518
91 Asheville  3,522
92 Hillsborough  3,579
93 Salisbury  3,614
94 Wilmington  3,671
95 Marion  3,674
96 Gastonia  3,720
97 Roanoke Rapids  3,741
98 Fayetteville  3,799
99 Dunn  3,918
100 Ahoskie  3,924
101 Washington  3,945
102 Durham  3,981
103 Oxford  4,033
104 Laurinburg  4,044
105 Rocky Mount  4,084
106 Wadesboro  4,147
107 Rockingham  4,401
108 Goldsboro  4,403
109 Winston-Salem  4,444
110 Williamston  5,091
111 Pineville  5,523
112 Kinston  5,989
113 Henderson  6,415
114 Whiteville  6,988
115 Lumberton  8,858

Year-over-year Change

North Carolina offers many consistently safe cities for current and future residents. Four of the five safest areas for 2015 were in the top five for 2016. Pinehurst and Elon were either ranked one or two in both researched years. 

More cities reported data to the FBI for 2014, so the ValuePenguin team changed the size categories to ensure an even distribution. Holly Springs went from being the second-safest mid-size city for 2015 to the safest member of the large category in 2016. Despite the changes, Pinehurst and Elon ranked number one in the mid-size and small categories respectively.

With revisions to the size categories, last year’s number one, Apex, and number two, Cary, ranked safest cities moved down a place in 2016. Large college towns can also boast about their safety records. Chapel Hill and Wake Forest were among the ten safest large cities in both 2015 and 2016.

Methodology

To rank these places, we collected data from the 2014 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 80% and property crime at 20%. 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 City Population Violent
Crime per 100K
Property
Crime per 100K
Crime Score
50 Aberdeen  7,044  142  4,969  2,130
100 Ahoskie  5,017  1,017  6,538  3,924
81 Albemarle  16,033  586  4,877  3,037
6 Apex  43,411  64  1,064  613
22 Archdale  11,588  138  2,183  1,112
84 Asheboro  26,078  261  5,982  3,102
91 Asheville  88,184  568  4,850  3,522
56 Ayden  5,078  709  3,289  2,270
43 Belmont  10,453  210  4,018  1,953
19 Bessemer City  5,466  146  2,287  1,074
9 Black Mountain  8,138  37  1,696  721
26 Boiling Spring Lakes  5,672  194  2,539  1,244
21 Boone  18,496  178  1,887  1,110
31 Brevard  7,636  144  2,973  1,378
86 Burlington  51,627  682  3,998  3,169
34 Butner  7,722  389  2,227  1,470
44 Carolina Beach  6,053  248  4,262  1,987
27 Carrboro  21,240  146  2,326  1,259
8 Cary  154,978  63  1,104  704
30 Chapel Hill  60,190  143  2,238  1,343
89 Charlotte-Mecklenburg  856,916  590  3,567  3,516
40 Cherryville  5,887  357  3,227  1,755
28 Clayton  18,089  193  2,244  1,285
72 Clinton  8,880  417  5,236  2,726
36 Concord  84,558  114  2,848  1,627
61 Conover  8,250  255  5,164  2,421
12 Cornelius  27,396  120  1,409  839
5 Davidson  11,954  67  1,046  536
99 Dunn  9,868  689  7,053  3,918
102 Durham  249,738  734  4,439  3,981
46 Eden  15,435  395  3,220  2,011
71 Elizabeth City  18,162  501  4,383  2,720
2 Elon  9,537  31  1,049  467
98 Fayetteville  205,306  506  5,126  3,799
7 Fletcher  7,422  27  1,684  694
78 Forest City  7,386  122  7,067  2,923
38 Fuquay-Varina  22,134  258  2,955  1,731
58 Garner  26,999  189  4,493  2,326
96 Gastonia  73,576  658  5,013  3,720
11 Gibsonville  6,693  60  1,688  737
108 Goldsboro  36,481  899  6,055  4,403
62 Graham  14,304  475  4,020  2,461
80 Greensboro  282,203  477  3,600  3,002
82 Greenville  90,198  519  4,085  3,053
63 Hamlet  6,612  469  4,643  2,490
16 Havelock  20,981  76  1,825  921
113 Henderson  15,332  1,494  9,353  6,415
54 Hendersonville  13,551  332  4,096  2,241
77 Hickory  40,435  391  4,687  2,879
73 High Point  108,540  465  3,559  2,729
92 Hillsborough  6,451  853  5,984  3,579
3 Holly Springs  30,026  67  893  519
88 Hope Mills  16,399  427  6,165  3,318
23 Huntersville  51,374  113  1,956  1,134
29 Kannapolis  44,784  179  2,148  1,331
57 Kernersville  23,673  342  3,874  2,293
76 Kill Devil Hills  6,976  616  4,903  2,832
37 King  6,907  319  3,040  1,656
33 Kings Mountain  10,650  207  2,751  1,441
112 Kinston  21,635  1,807  6,587  5,989
35 Knightdale  13,775  181  2,984  1,535
104 Laurinburg  15,731  1,036  5,492  4,044
18 Leland  16,587  96  2,008  1,010
55 Lenoir  17,994  239  4,351  2,258
53 Lexington  19,008  442  3,393  2,208
64 Lincolnton  10,803  472  4,415  2,543
115 Lumberton  21,877  1,659  13,772  8,858
95 Marion  7,905  417  7,755  3,674
32 Matthews  29,927  150  2,509  1,392
51 Mebane  13,399  157  4,538  2,131
24 Mint Hill  24,985  136  2,049  1,141
49 Mocksville  5,147  233  4,741  2,106
87 Monroe  34,251  455  5,223  3,195
39 Mooresville  35,182  225  2,936  1,743
69 Morehead City  9,330  493  4,641  2,625
47 Morganton  16,786  256  3,842  2,056
17 Morrisville  22,799  48  2,053  979
68 Mount Airy  10,420  451  4,722  2,622
14 Mount Holly  13,968  129  1,661  902
67 New Bern  30,371  402  4,172  2,590
52 Newton  13,062  482  3,338  2,168
48 Oak Island  7,317  273  4,250  2,065
103 Oxford  8,748  880  6,710  4,033
1 Pinehurst  15,391  6  741  321
111 Pineville  8,206  536  11,967  5,523
70 Reidsville  14,093  319  5,244  2,706
97 Roanoke Rapids  15,602  583  6,589  3,741
107 Rockingham  9,459  328  9,758  4,401
105 Rocky Mount  56,757  939  4,835  4,084
65 Roxboro  8,342  348  5,119  2,552
93 Salisbury  33,627  711  5,142  3,614
45 Sanford  29,805  265  3,402  1,997
85 Selma  6,275  924  4,606  3,153
74 Shelby  20,330  718  3,522  2,755
59 Siler City  8,237  352  4,686  2,386
90 Smithfield  11,702  726  5,743  3,518
66 Southern Pines  13,161  570  3,959  2,570
79 Spring Lake  13,301  654  4,564  2,961
10 Stallings  14,848  121  1,253  725
83 Statesville  25,643  628  4,485  3,085
41 Tarboro  11,328  185  3,716  1,807
60 Thomasville  27,012  374  3,920  2,400
106 Wadesboro  5,665  989  7,096  4,147
25 Wake Forest  35,956  156  2,053  1,219
101 Washington  9,826  763  6,829  3,945
4 Waxhaw  11,678  60  1,036  519
42 Waynesville  9,712  299  3,418  1,839
20 Wendell  6,200  194  2,065  1,077
114 Whiteville  5,654  1,468  12,752  6,988
110 Williamston  5,345  1,572  7,371  5,091
94 Wilmington  113,418  675  4,560  3,671
75 Wilson  49,731  533  3,823  2,796
109 Winston-Salem  238,082  712  5,417  4,444
13 Winterville  9,594  125  1,678  867
15 Woodfin  6,262  208  1,549  903

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