If you’re thinking about moving to the Golden State, take a look at this list of California’s 10 safest places—the top spot might just surprise you.
By Natalie Grigson.
When it comes to laid back living, California is literally the Golden State. Everybody knows that the vibe here is all about taking it easy—but did you ever wonder why?
Sure, it might have something to do with the nearly perfect weather and constant sunshine. More than that, though, California is generally a pretty safe place to live, allowing us to relax. But which of the state’s fine places are the safest of them all? According to our latest analysis at the Movoto Real Estate Blog, here are the 10 safest places in California:
1. Town of Hillsborough
2. City of Saratoga
3. City of Laguna Woods
4. City of Imperial
5. Town of Moraga
6. City of Rancho Santa Margarita
7. City of Los Altos
8. City of Sierra Madre
9. City of Palos Verdes Estates
10. Town of Danville
What exactly makes these 10 communities so safe? Keep reading to find out the method behind our analysis.
How We Created This Ranking
In order to find these 10 safest places in California, we started by gathering a list of all of the places in the state with populations of 10,000 or more that provided crime data to the FBI in 2012. That left us a grand total of 365 places. Then, we used the FBI’s latest Uniform Crime Report (2012) to research each of these places according to the following seven criteria, measuring each for crimes per 100,000 people:
- Vehicle theft
We divided these crimes into four distinct categories:
- Violent crimes
- Property crimes
- Total crimes
We then ranked each of our places with a score of one to 365 according to each category, with one being the safest. Next, we weighted these scores so that murder, violent crime, and property crime each comprised 30 percent of the final score, while total crime made up 10 percent. We averaged these weighted rankings together for each place to get a Big Deal Score. The place with the lowest Big Deal Score was our safest place; in this case, Hillsborough.
If you don’t see your city in our top 10, never fear; you can head down to the bottom of this article to check out a list of the top 50 safest places in California.
Not only is Hillsborough one of the wealthiest towns in the U.S., but according to our numbers, it’s also one of the safest in the country, let alone in California. As you’ll quickly notice, none of the places in our top 10 had any murders reported in 2012, so while Hillsborough excelled in this category, this wasn’t exactly where it stood out.
No, what put Hillsborough above the rest was its nearly nonexistent violent crime. In 2012, Hillsborough only reported nine violent crimes per 100,000, all of which were robberies. Compare that to Emeryville, another Bay Area city with an even smaller population than Hillsborough, where there were a staggering 1,698 violent crimes per 100,000 people reported in 2012, including 29 murders.
This city in western Silicon Valley is well known for its affluence, family friendly vibe, and high-end boutiques. Underlying it all is a feeling of security due to its unquestionable safety, particularly when it comes to a lack of property crimes.
Saratoga is a city of over 30,000 residents, so it may be especially impressive to know that in 2012, it saw only 753 property crimes per 100,000 people. Additionally, it saw 30 violent crimes per 100,000, none of which included murder, giving the city a total of just 783 crimes per 100,000 people, and residents just a 1 in 128 chance of being the victim of a crime.
3. Laguna Woods
Laguna Woods is a city in Orange County with a population of just over 16,500, a beautiful border of Laguna Beach to the southwest, and a median age of 78. It’s a retirement community, so it may not come as much of a surprise that it is one of the state’s safest places, especially for a lack of violent crime.
In 2012, Laguna Woods reported only 24 violent crimes per 100,000 people, including 12 robberies and 12 assaults. With a total of 916 crimes per 100,000 people, Laguna Woods residents had just a 1 in 109 chance of being the victim of a crime, which is impressive, but just wait until you see the next place on our list.
This desert community is well known for its nearby golf courses, sand dunes, and as a great place for bird watching. According to these numbers, it looks like safety should also be added to the list.
That’s because in 2012, Imperial had a total of just 483 property crimes per 100,000 people, including 331 thefts, 112 burglaries, and 40 car thefts per 100,000, placing this city above all other both in terms of property crime and overall crime.
Here’s where this gets really impressive: with this lack of property crime, plus a total of just 46 violent crimes per 100,000, residents here had just a 1 in 189 chance of being the victim of a crime, making this the least likely place to be a victim on our list.
Known throughout the state for its stellar school district, this Bay Area town is also one of the state’s safest. In 2012, Moraga reported 927 property crimes, plus just 36 violent crimes, per 100,000 residents.
To put that into perspective for you, let’s take a look at the similarly sized Santa Fe Springs. In 2012, that city had a reported 8,312 crimes per 100,000 people, divided up into 7,712 property crimes and 600 violent crimes (including 12 murders). Whereas residents in Moraga had just a 1 in 104 chance of being the victim of a crime, the residents in Santa Fe Springs had a 1 in 12 chance.
6. Rancho Santa Margarita
If you’ve ever seen “The Real Housewives of OC”, you’ve seen Rancho Santa Margarita, as this is the location for most of the show’s filming. Unlike the popular show, though, the real-world Rancho Santa Margarita is not filled with mysterious murders or crimes.
In fact, in 2012, this Orange County city had a total of just 705 crimes per 100,000 people, including 650 property crimes and 55 violent crimes, and no murders. With these stats, Rancho Santa Margarita ranked an impressive second place in our analysis both in the categories of total crime and property crime, giving residents just a 1 in 142 chance of being a victim.
7. Los Altos
In recent years, Forbes placed this Bay Area city among the most expensive ZIP codes in the United States, only behind places like Alpine, NJ, Atherton, CA, and Beverly Hills, CA—and in looking at these numbers, it’s no surprise.
With just 20 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2012, Los Altos ranked the second least violent in the entire state. These violent crimes included 17 robberies and 3 assaults per 100,000 people; no murders or rapes were reported.
Additionally, Los Altos had 663 thefts, 316 burglaries, and 27 car thefts per 100,000, for a total of 1,006 property crimes per 100,000, ranking it 13th out of 365 in this category. So, really, it’s no wonder residents are willing to pay so much to live here.
8. Sierra Madre
Recently given the prestigious All-America City Award by the National Civic League, this Los Angeles County city ranked well in our analysis for its lack of both violent and property crimes in 2012.
With just 36 violent crimes, and 1,009 property crimes per 100,000, Sierra Madre ranked sixth and 14th in the categories of violent crimes and property crimes, respectively, and 11th in the category of total crime.
Just for comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at another L.A. County city, Los Angeles itself. That huge city had a reported 2,750 crimes per 100,000 people, including 2,269 property crimes, 481 violent crimes, and eight murders per 100,000. So if you’re thinking about moving to Los Angeles County, it’s safe to say you might want to look into Sierra Madre instead.
9. Palos Verdes Estates
Another city in Los Angeles County, Palos Verdes Estates is predominantly known as a wonderful place to golf and surf. But what makes this city stand out from the multitude of California’s other beach-front cities is its safety.
With a total of 1,040 crimes per 100,000 people, including 996 property crimes and just 44 violent crimes per 100,000, Palos Verdes came in as the 12th safest when it came to property crime and 11th in terms of violent crimes.
Overall, residents here had just a 1 in 96 chance of being the victim of a crime. While that may not exactly beat Imperial’s 1 in 189 chance, compared to, say, Emeryville where residents had a 1 in 5 chance, it seems as though the people in Palos Verdes Estates can feel pretty secure.
This quaint San Ramon Valley town is home to all sorts of local charm—a weekly farmers’ market, the San Ramon Valley Museum, not to mention the town’s affluence, and particularly important, its safety.
In our analysis, Danville ranked as the eighth least violent, with just 37 violent crimes per 100,000 people, including no murders or rapes. It also ranked 14th in the category of property crimes, as it had a reported 1,025 per 100,000, making for a total of just 1,062 crimes in 2012.
Danville residents had a 1 in 94 chance of being the victim of a crime. Compare that to nearby San Francisco where residents had a 1 in 18 chance, and it’s no wonder Danville made our list.
Relax, California, You’re Safe Here
Not that you’d have any trouble relaxing, especially if you live in one of these 10 safest places in California. With low crime in so many areas, these top 10 safe spots are ideal environments for families, children, and singles alike. If you’re curious, you can check out the table below for the 50 safest places in the Golden State, starting with our winner, Hillsborough.
Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is a national online real estate brokerage. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes, CBS News, and The New York Times.