) -- There's nothing worse than you or a loved one falling victim to crime, so here's a look at five U.S. communities you can move to where murders, rapes or less-serious incidents such as car thefts rarely occur.
"These places are fantastic choices if you're looking for a safe and stable community," says Andrew Schiller of
, which recently named the Safest Cities in the U.S. by analyzing crime data for every community with 25,000 residents or more.
NeighborhoodScout compiles its list each year by reviewing crime statistics that local police departments report to the FBI covering all murders, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larceny/thefts auto thefts and forcible (as opposed to statutory) rapes.
Schiller, whose Worcester, Mass.-based firm aggregates all sorts of data about different U.S. locales, believes America's safest cities "are those places that are very stable. They tend to have fewer transients and high levels of homeownership."
And while wealthy suburbs make up many communities at the top of NeighborhoodScout's safest-cities list, Schiller says you don't have to move to a superexpensive town to find low crime. "There's more than one path to safety," he says.
Click below for a rundown of the five communities at the top of NeighborhoodScout's latest safe-cities rankings (or click
for a list of America's most-dangerous communities).
Neighborhood Scout based its findings on total property- and violent-crime rates for each U.S. community as of 2011, the latest year with final figures available. (The firm supplemented the crime statistics municipalities report to the FBI each year with data from local sheriffs, transit police and other law-enforcement agencies.)
All references to violent crimes refer to murder, robbery, aggravated assault and forcible rape, while references to property crimes refer to burglary, larceny/theft and automotive theft. College-graduation rates refer to those of adults 25 or older, while the odds of becoming a crime victim refer to both violent and property crimes unless otherwise noted.
Fifth-safest U.S. city to move to: Bella Vista, Ark.
Located in Arkansas' northwest corner, Bella Vista is so safe that residents run just a 1-in-133 chance of becoming crime victims in any given year -- including only 1-in-1,237 odds of facing violent incidents.
Originally a private retirement community, Bella Vista only became a city officially in 2007, operating before that as an exclusive, residents-only enclave of golf courses and lakes.
Schiller says that even now, the community's non-retiree residents are often white-collar professionals who work at the
corporate headquarters some 10 miles away in Bentonville, Ark. "The people at Wal-Mart's headquarters think of Bella Vista as a nice, quiet, safe place to raise children," he says.
The city's 27,200 residents reported zero murders or robberies and just one car theft in 2011. Bella Vista also enjoys a burglary rate that's 63% below U.S. average and both aggravated-assault and theft/larceny levels that are some 79% under what you'd expect given the community's population.
One dark spot: The city's rape rate is 7% above the national average.
Fourth-safest U.S. city to move to: Bartlett, Ill.
Schiller says residents' high levels of household income, homeownership and educational achievement combine to help give this Chicago suburb an extremely low incidence of crime.
The typical Bartlett family of four earns $144,540 a year, while roughly twice the national average of adults (43%) hold at least bachelor's degrees and owner-occupants make up 90.6% of all households.
Schiller says of those socioeconomic positives all help create a low crime rate in Bartlett, a 41,500-population community about 30 miles northwest of Downtown Chicago.
Bartlett had no murders in 2011, while rates of robberies, burglaries, car thefts and aggravated assaults all run 89% or more below the U.S. average. The town's rape rate is also 74% below average, while larceny/thefts run 68% less than what's typical given Bartlett's size.
All told, Bartlett residents face just a 1-in-135 chance of falling victim to crime in any given year -- including just 1-in-2,591 odds of involvement in violent incidents.
Third-safest U.S. city to move to: Greenwich, Conn.
This ultra-exclusive suburb some 30 miles northeast of Midtown Manhattan is home to some of America's wealthiest and best-educated people, helping to contribute to a microscopic crime rate.
Current or former residents range from film director Ron Howard to former
CEO Sanford Weill, while the typical Greenwich family of four enjoys $365,912 in household income and 64% of adults have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Partly as a result, Greenwich's 61,800 residents face just 1-in-137 odds of becoming crime victims in any one year. That includes a mere 1-in-2,288 chance of falling victim to a violent crime.
Greenwich had no murders in 2011, and also enjoys an aggravated-assault rate that's 93% below the U.S. average. Car-theft levels are 87% below the national average, while residents face rates of rape, burglary, robbery and larceny/theft that are 73% or more below what you'd expect given Greenwich's size.
Second-safest U.S. city to move to: Bergenfield, N.J.
This suburb approximately 15 miles north of Midtown Manhattan is the most ethnically diverse community of the five municipalities atop NeighborhoodScout's low-crime list.
Bergenfield has large Hispanic and Filipino populations, with foreign-born residents making up 37% of the total population. The typical four-person Bergenfield household also earns $140,932 a year, which Schiller says is relatively modest by Greater New York standards.
"Nobody would confuse Bergenfield with Greenwich, yet they both have very little crime," he says. "It's nice to see that there's not just one way to get to low crime."
Bergenfield had zero murders in 2011, while its robbery and car-theft rates rate run 94% and 92% below average, respectively.
The community also has levels of rape, aggravated assault, burglary and larceny/theft that are 74% or more below what a U.S. community its size typically sees.
In fact, Bergenfield's 26,900 citizens face just a 1-in-150 chance of becoming crime victims in any given year -- odds that improve to 1 in 1,497 if you just consider violent incidents.
Safest U.S. city to move to: Franklin, Mass.
Franklin's 31,900 citizens face just a 1-in-202 chance in any given year of becoming crime victims, including a 1-in-3,981 probability of involvement in violent incidents.
Those are the absolutely best odds for residents of any U.S. community with 25,000 people or more.
Located some 27 miles southwest of Downtown Boston, Franklin had no murders or car thefts in 2011. The town also boasts 94% fewer aggravated assaults than the U.S. average, as well as about an 89% lower rate of rapes and robberies.
Additionally, per-capita burglary levels run 86% below average, while residents face 81% fewer larceny/thefts than you'd expect in a community of Franklin's size.
Schiller attributes the town's low crime rate to high levels of education (48% of adults have at least bachelor's degrees), homeownership (81.6%) and income ($156,172 for the typical four-person household).
He adds that 97% of adults have at least high school diplomas, indicating that the community has few highly disadvantaged people who might turn to crime.
"Franklin doesn't seem to have an underclass," Schiller says.