Safest Cities in Colorado, 2021

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Despite an uptick in Denver crime in recent years, Colorado is a very safe state to live in overall, as its violent and property crime rates are lower than the national averages. Let’s look at Colorado’s safest cities in 2019.

Firestone, a small town of 13,426 in Weld County, is Colorado’s safest community, owing to a low violent crime rate of 0.67 incidents per 1,000 inhabitants and a property crime rate of 8.87 per 1,000. Like many Colorado communities, the population of Firestone rapidly expanded in the first decade of the 21st century, but in this city’s case, the population growth did not lead to a higher rate of crime.

Second place goes to Louisville of Boulder County frequently comes up in the discussion of the best communities to live in in the United States, with one of the key reasons being its very low crime rate. The city’s property crime rate of 4 per 1,000 is well below many cities’ violent crime rates.

Third in the ranking of Colorado’s safest cities is Frederick, a small Weld County community near Firestone with similarly low crime rates and a reputation as a safe, family-friendly town.

Placing fourth is Golden, the county seat of Jefferson County and home to the famous Coors Brewery.  At 28.64 per 1,000, Golden’s property crime rate is a bit higher than some of the others on the list but its low rate of violent crime and high ratio of law enforcement employees to residents make it a safe place to live.

Rounding out Colorado’s top 5 safest cities is Broomfield, which is larger than other high-charting communities with a population topping 68K, yet still managed a violent crime rate of just 1.23 per 1,000.

Safest Cities in Colorado, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Firestone0.59
2Louisville0.57
3Frederick0.55
4Golden0.52
5Broomfield0.51
6Windsor0.43
7Parker0.42
8Erie0.41
9Johnstown0.39
10Steamboat Springs0.34
11Castle Rock0.31
12Thornton0.28
13Durango0.23
14Littleton0.17
15Fruita0.17
16Lone Tree0.14
17Arvada0.1
18Fort Collins0.03
19Westminster0.02
20Glenwood Springs-0.05
21Longmont-0.05
22Evans-0.06
23Lafayette-0.06
24Loveland-0.08
25Fort Morgan-0.11
26Montrose-0.19
27Wheat Ridge-0.27
28Greeley-0.3
29Canon City-0.35
30Northglenn-0.35
31Sterling-0.37
32Brighton-0.38
33Fountain-0.44
34Colorado Springs-0.5
35Grand Junction-0.55
36Commerce City-0.56
37Aurora-0.57
38Federal Heights-0.61
39Denver-0.69
40Lakewood-0.76
41Alamosa-0.83
42Pueblo-1.75

Methodology

We used the most recent FBI crime statistics to create state rankings. There were initially 7,430 cities in the data set. After filtering out the cities with populations of less than 10,000, 2,929 cities remained. We then calculated violent crime rates and property crime rates by dividing the crime numbers by the population to get rates per 1,000. We also calculated the ratio of law enforcement workers to per 1,000. These were weighted with -50% for the violent crime rate, -25% for the property crime rate, and +25% for the law enforcement rate. The resulting metric gave us a the safety index score. The higher this number more safe the city is.

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Safest Cities in California, 2021

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Owing to its huge size and great diversity, California is home to some of the nation’s more dangerous communities as well as some of its safest. However, those that score highest on our Safety Index, scattered about the state, are some of the most desirable communities to live in in the entire country: naturally beautiful, prosperous, and with very low crime. Let’s take a look at what makes California’s five safest cities so safe.

Hillsborough is the safest city in California. A small, affluent city of 11.5K in the San Francisco Bay area, Hillsborough notched a very high 0.89 score in our Safety Index due to a very low violent crime rate of 0.69 per 1,000 inhabitants and an even more impressive 6.07 property crimes per 1,000 residents.

Second place goes to Palos Verdes Estates, a wealthy city in Los Angeles County planned by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olemsted Jr., boasts a similarly impressive Safety Index score of 0.84 bolstered by a remarkable 0.22 violent crimes per 1,000 residents.

Third in the ranking is Beverly Hills, the posh LA County city made famous by the television show, Beverly Hills 90210, and its various offshoots and reboots. Beverly Hills boasts a low violent crime rate, yet a somewhat high property crime rate of 52.30 per 1,000, perhaps due its famous populace drawing in a negative element that increases the frequency of home invasion. However, the city benefits from a high law enforcement to resident ratio, meaning that police response time is very quick.

At number four, Coronado is the southernmost of California’s five safest cities, located across San Diego Bay from the heart of San Diego. Coronado posted very low violent and property crime rates in 2017 that should put residents at ease.

Rounding out California’s top five is Truckee, a small city in the northeast part of the state away from major metropolitan areas. With a violent crime rate just over 1 per 1,000 and a similarly low property crime rate, Truckee earns its high position in the ranking.

Safest Cities in California, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Hillsborough0.89
2Palos Verdes Estates0.84
3Beverly Hills0.66
4Coronado0.53
5Truckee0.53
6El Segundo0.5
7Sierra Madre0.49
8Hermosa Beach0.47
9Los Altos0.45
10Mill Valley0.45
11Los Gatos0.44
12San Marino0.44
13Piedmont0.43
14Scotts Valley0.4
15Los Alamitos0.39
16Ripon0.39
17Imperial0.38
18Healdsburg0.34
19Newport Beach0.34
20Manhattan Beach0.32
21Pacific Grove0.3
22Foster City0.3
23Moraga0.3
24South Pasadena0.3
25Clayton0.29
26Sunnyvale0.28
27Benicia0.28
28Laguna Beach0.27
29Torrance0.25
30Belmont0.25
31Irvine0.25
32Glendale0.24
33Folsom0.24
34San Ramon0.23
35Murrieta0.23
36Newman0.21
37Palo Alto0.21
38South Lake Tahoe0.21
39Monrovia0.21
40Menlo Park0.2
41Simi Valley0.19
42Morro Bay0.19
43Cypress0.16
44Orange0.15
45Arroyo Grande0.15
46Rocklin0.14
47Redondo Beach0.13
48Novato0.13
49La Palma0.12
50Morgan Hill0.11
51Pleasanton0.11
52Placerville0.1
53Corona0.09
54Tustin0.09
55Placentia0.09
56Seal Beach0.08
57Bell Gardens0.08
58Martinez0.07
59Burbank0.07
60Hercules0.06
61Lincoln0.06
62Port Hueneme0.05
63Grover Beach0.05
64Livermore0.04
65Soledad0.04
66Vacaville0.03
67Mountain View0.03
68Santa Clara0.03
69Oakdale0.03
70Davis0.03
71San Gabriel0.02
72La Habra0.02
73Shafter0.02
74Paso Robles0.01
75Exeter0.01
76Monterey Park0.01
77Cathedral City0.01
78Dixon0.01
79Huntington Beach0.01
80Albany0
81Carlsbad-0.01
82Central Marin-0.01
83Marina-0.01
84Arcadia-0.02
85Claremont-0.02
86Walnut Creek-0.02
87Redwood City-0.02
88Roseville-0.03
89Milpitas-0.03
90Chino-0.04
91Fountain Valley-0.04
92La Mesa-0.04
93Alhambra-0.04
94Daly City-0.05
95Pasadena-0.05
96La Verne-0.05
97Fremont-0.06
98Burlingame-0.06
99Pacifica-0.06
100Seaside-0.06
101Tracy-0.08
102San Mateo-0.09
103Newark-0.09
104Livingston-0.1
105Brea-0.1
106Clovis-0.1
107Fullerton-0.1
108Azusa-0.11
109Brentwood-0.11
110Elk Grove-0.11
111Paradise-0.11
112Farmersville-0.11
113Galt-0.11
114Tehachapi-0.12
115Napa-0.13
116Kingsburg-0.13
117Reedley-0.13
118Chula Vista-0.13
119Auburn-0.16
120West Covina-0.16
121Glendora-0.16
122Ontario-0.17
123San Diego-0.17
124Kerman-0.19
125San Bruno-0.19
126West Sacramento-0.19
127Covina-0.19
128Hollister-0.19
129Fontana-0.19
130Culver City-0.2
131Campbell-0.2
132Santa Barbara-0.2
133Santa Paula-0.2
134South San Francisco-0.2
135Lindsay-0.21
136Corcoran-0.21
137King City-0.22
138Whittier-0.22
139Petaluma-0.22
140Escondido-0.23
141East Palo Alto-0.23
142Atascadero-0.24
143Rialto-0.25
144Anaheim-0.25
145Montebello-0.25
146National City-0.26
147Union City-0.27
148Chowchilla-0.27
149Hayward-0.27
150McFarland-0.28
151San Fernando-0.29
152San Rafael-0.29
153Oceanside-0.29
154Santa Rosa-0.29
155El Cajon-0.29
156Sanger-0.29
157Los Banos-0.3
158Gilroy-0.31
159Suisun City-0.31
160Rohnert Park-0.32
161Beaumont-0.33
162Tulare-0.33
163Alameda-0.33
164Garden Grove-0.34
165Upland-0.34
166Santa Maria-0.35
167El Monte-0.36
168Downey-0.36
169Redlands-0.36
170Avenal-0.37
171Oxnard-0.37
172Arcata-0.37
173Ukiah-0.37
174Woodland-0.38
175Calexico-0.38
176Westminster-0.38
177Visalia-0.39
178Ridgecrest-0.4
179Manteca-0.4
180Santa Ana-0.41
181Costa Mesa-0.41
182Buena Park-0.41
183Concord-0.41
184San Jose-0.42
185Baldwin Park-0.42
186Porterville-0.42
187Monterey-0.43
188Lemoore-0.44
189Los Angeles-0.44
190Fortuna-0.44
191Colton-0.44
192Pleasant Hill-0.44
193Anderson-0.46
194Citrus Heights-0.46
195San Luis Obispo-0.46
196Blythe-0.47
197Capitola-0.47
198Signal Hill-0.47
199Ventura-0.49
200Greenfield-0.49
201Long Beach-0.5
202Pittsburg-0.51
203Banning-0.52
204Yuba City-0.52
205Delano-0.53
206Hanford-0.53
207Fairfield-0.54
208Lodi-0.54
209Santa Monica-0.55
210Lompoc-0.56
211Palm Springs-0.57
212Pinole-0.58
213San Pablo-0.6
214Gardena-0.61
215Riverside-0.62
216California City-0.62
217Mendota-0.63
218Pomona-0.63
219Watsonville-0.65
220El Centro-0.65
221Chico-0.66
222Ceres-0.67
223Fresno-0.69
224Inglewood-0.71
225Bell-0.71
226Coalinga-0.72
227Turlock-0.76
228Sacramento-0.76
229Hawthorne-0.77
230Madera-0.77
231Bakersfield-0.78
232Brawley-0.82
233Berkeley-0.82
234Parlier-0.82
235Antioch-0.83
236Hemet-0.83
237Montclair-0.84
238Dinuba-0.84
239Salinas-0.88
240San Leandro-0.89
241San Francisco-0.92
242Merced-0.92
243Atwater-0.95
244Indio-0.97
245Huntington Park-1
246Grass Valley-1.02
247South Gate-1.05
248Marysville-1.06
249El Cerrito-1.1
250Redding-1.13
251Santa Cruz-1.14
252Richmond-1.17
253Eureka-1.28
254Vallejo-1.37
255Arvin-1.44
256Oroville-1.46
257Desert Hot Springs-1.48
258Clearlake-1.5
259Modesto-1.51
260Selma-1.71
261Barstow-1.76
262Red Bluff-1.82
263San Bernardino-1.92
264Stockton-1.97
265Susanville-2.06
266Oakland-2.07
267Emeryville-3.22

Methodology

We used the most recent FBI crime statistics to create state rankings. There were initially 7,430 cities in the data set. After filtering out the cities with populations of less than 10,000, 2,929 cities remained. We then calculated violent crime rates and property crime rates by dividing the crime numbers by the population to get rates per 1,000. We also calculated the ratio of law enforcement workers to per 1,000. These were weighted with -50% for the violent crime rate, -25% for the property crime rate, and +25% for the law enforcement rate. The resulting metric gave us a the safety index score. The higher this number more safe the city is.

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Safest Cities in Arkansas, 2021

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Though Arkansas does not rank with the top states in terms of public safety and law enforcement, very safe communities are to be found within its borders. Here’s a glance at The Natural State’s safest cities.

Two Arkansas cities, Maumelle and Bentonville, share the honor of the state’s safest city, each earning a 0.32 score in our Safety Index. Of the two cities, Bentonville edges out Maumelle in crime rate, with a 1.4 per 1,000 violent crime rate and 17.54 per 1,000 property crime rate. Yet, Maumelle benefits from a higher law enforcement employee to resident ratio, which elevates its Safety Index score, allowing it to share the top spot on the list.

Third in rank is Cabot, a suburb of state capital Little Rock, posted a very good 2.18 violent crimes per 1K and an even more impressive 15.54 property crimes per 1K to earn its high Safety Index score.

Fourth on the list is the idyllic resort and retirement community of Bella Vista, which just incorporated into a city in 2006. WIth the lowest property crime rate of any of Arkansas top five safest cities, Bella Vista residents can rest easy knowing there is little chance of their homes or property being vandalized or broken into.

Arkansas #5 safest city is Batesville, a small community of 10,806 in the foothills of the Ozarks that just edges within our population parameters. The city’s violent and property crime rates are well below the state average.

Safest Cities in Arkansas, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Maumelle0.32
2Bentonville0.32
3Cabot0.25
4Bella Vista0.17
5Batesville0.15
6Mountain Home0.14
7Centerton0.04
8Siloam Springs-0.06
9Van Buren-0.18
10Bryant-0.24
11Rogers-0.26
12Benton-0.31
13Conway-0.33
14Arkadelphia-0.38
15Malvern-0.41
16Harrison-0.42
17Sherwood-0.49
18Jonesboro-0.55
19Russellville-0.57
20North Little Rock-0.7
21Hot Springs-0.73
22Magnolia-0.79
23Paragould-0.82
24Texarkana-0.86
25Fayetteville-0.88
26Jacksonville-1.1
27Blytheville-1.18
28El Dorado-1.2
29Marion-1.25
30Helena-West Helena-1.27
31Fort Smith-1.42
32Camden-1.82
33West Memphis-2.25
34Pine Bluff-2.52
35Little Rock-2.54

Methodology

We used the most recent FBI crime statistics to create state rankings. There were initially 7,430 cities in the data set. After filtering out the cities with populations of less than 10,000, 2,929 cities remained. We then calculated violent crime rates and property crime rates by dividing the crime numbers by the population to get rates per 1,000. We also calculated the ratio of law enforcement workers to per 1,000. These were weighted with -50% for the violent crime rate, -25% for the property crime rate, and +25% for the law enforcement rate. The resulting metric gave us a the safety index score. The higher this number more safe the city is.

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Safest Cities in Arizona, 2021

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Overall, Arizona is one of the safer states in the country, with property and violent crime rates below the national average, so you never have to be too worried while traveling through the Copper State. Yet, many of Arizona’s communities are even a great deal safer than the state average, as long as you are adequately protected from the sun.

Maricopa County’s Paradise Valley, by some accounts the wealthiest community in Arizona, is also its safest, earning a Safety Index score of 0.82. With extremely low rates of 0.41 violent crimes and 15.18 property crimes per 1,000 residents, Paradise Valley truly lives up to its name.

In terms of safety, #2 Oro Valley, a suburb of Tucson, is not far behind Paradise Valley, with even lower violent and property crimes than the prior entry in the ranking. Its Safety Index score is only lower due to a slightly lower ratio of 2.94 law enforcement officers per 1,000 residents compared to Paradise Valley’s 3.08.

Florence, one of the oldest towns in the state, ranks #3 on the list due to impressively low crime rates, including a property crime rate of just 4.8 per 1,000 that bests the previous two entries on the list.

Fourth is Marana, a fast-growing community also in the Tucson area notched a property crime rate higher than the top 3 at 26.24 incidents per 1,000, but is still a very safe city with a violent crime rate below 1 incident per 1,000 residents.

Closing out Arizona’s top five is the small city of Cottonwood, in Yavapai County. Cottonwood benefits from a large ratio of law enforcement employees to residents: 4.62 for every 1,000.

Safest Cities in Arizona, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Paradise Valley0.82
2Oro Valley0.8
3Florence0.47
4Marana0.44
5Cottonwood0.44
6Bullhead City0.43
7Somerton0.43
8Buckeye0.4
9Nogales0.38
10Sahuarita0.36
11Scottsdale0.36
12Gilbert0.29
13Maricopa0.25
14San Luis0.22
15Surprise0.22
16Prescott Valley0.2
17Apache Junction0.18
18Lake Havasu City0.14
19Camp Verde0.06
20Chandler0.04
21Peoria0.02
22Douglas-0.01
23Coolidge-0.01
24Mesa-0.06
25El Mirage-0.13
26Goodyear-0.13
27Payson-0.16
28Prescott-0.16
29Show Low-0.22
30Snowflake-Taylor-0.24
31Yuma-0.25
32Avondale-0.26
33Sierra Vista-0.36
34Tempe-0.4
35Flagstaff-0.43
36Eloy-0.44
37Kingman-0.58
38Glendale-0.62
39Phoenix-0.88
40Tucson-1.23

Methodology

We used the most recent FBI crime statistics to create state rankings. There were initially 7,430 cities in the data set. After filtering out the cities with populations of less than 10,000, 2,929 cities remained. We then calculated violent crime rates and property crime rates by dividing the crime numbers by the population to get rates per 1,000. We also calculated the ratio of law enforcement workers to per 1,000. These were weighted with -50% for the violent crime rate, -25% for the property crime rate, and +25% for the law enforcement rate. The resulting metric gave us a the safety index score. The higher this number more safe the city is.

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Safest Cities in Alaska, 2021

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Due to our population parameter filtering out cities with a population under 10,000, just four communities in Alaska qualified for our ranking of the state’s safety cities. Let’s see how Alaska’s four largest cities compare in terms of overall safety.

With a safety index score of 0.15, Wasilla just edges out #2 Fairbanks, while doing much better than Alaska’s other two 10,000+ population cities. The Anchorage suburb recorded 5.35 violent crimes per 1,000 inhabitants along with 45.97 property crimes per 1K.

Second place goes to Fairbanks, which at 32,937 is over three times the size of #1 Wasilla, posted very similar crime statistics, with a slightly higher 6.224 violent crimes per 1K. However, it’s 1.34 law enforcement employees per 1000 residents is significantly lower than Wasilla’s, leading to a much lower safety index score.

Third in Alaska’s safest cities ranking is Juneau, which is about the same size as Fairbanks, yet is plagued by a 51% higher violent crime rate of 9.37 incidents per 1000 inhabitants.

With a population dwarfing other Alaskan cities, Anchorage is by far the largest in the state, as well as the least safe of those that qualify for our ranking. Anchorage ranks #4 due to a high violent crime rate of 12.03 per 1000K and a similarly high property crime rate of 54.15 per 1000K.

Safest Cities in Alaska, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Wasilla0.15
2Fairbanks-1.09
3Juneau-1.43
4Anchorage-1.99

Methodology

We used the most recent FBI crime statistics to create state rankings. There were initially 7,430 cities in the data set. After filtering out the cities with populations of less than 10,000, 2,929 cities remained. We then calculated violent crime rates and property crime rates by dividing the crime numbers by the population to get rates per 1,000. We also calculated the ratio of law enforcement workers to per 1,000. These were weighted with -50% for the violent crime rate, -25% for the property crime rate, and +25% for the law enforcement rate. The resulting metric gave us a the safety index score. The higher this number more safe the city is.

Did your district make the list? Share the good news!

Due to our population parameter filtering out cities with a population under 10,000, just four communities in Alaska qualified for our ranking of the state’s safety cities. Let’s see how Alaska’s four largest cities compare in terms of overall safety.   With a safety index score of 0.15, Wasilla just edges out #2 Fairbanks, while doing much better than Alaska’s other two 10,000+ population cities. The Anchorage suburb recorded 5.35 violent crimes per 1,000 inhabitants along with 45.97 property crimes per 1K.  #2 Fairbanks, which at 32,937 is over three times the size of #1 Wasilla, posted very similar crime statistics, with a slightly higher 6.224 violent crimes per 1K. However, it’s 1.34 law enforcement employees per 1000 residents is significantly lower than Wasilla’s, leading to a much lower safety index score.  Third in Alaska’s safest cities ranking is Juneau, which is about the same size as Fairbanks, yet is plagued by a 51% higher violent crime rate of 9.37 incidents per 1000 inhabitants.  With a population dwarfing other Alaskan cities, Anchorage is by far the largest in the state, as well as the least safe of those that qualify for our ranking. Anchorage ranks #4 due to a high violent crime rate of 12.03 per 1000K and a similarly high property crime rate of 54.15 per 1000K.

Safest Cities in Alabama, 2021

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On a whole, Alabama is not one of the safest states in the United States, yet many of its individual communities score very highly on our Safety Index due to low crime rates and well-staffed police forces. The state’s top five safest cities prove to excellent places to live peacefully and raise a family without fear of violent incident or home invasion, let’s take a look at them here.

Cullman, a city of nearly 16,000 and county seat of Cullman County, is Alabama’s safest city. The city scores a 0.72 on the Safety Index due to its low crime rates and excellent police force. 

Following at #2 is Vestavia Hills, a lush, fast growing suburb of large city Birmingham. The city of 34,781 logged a mere 24 violent crimes in 2017.

Third on the list is Hoover, located in the same north-central region of Alabama as the first two entries in the ranking. With a population topping 85,000, Hoover is unusually large city to log such impressive crime statistics, yet the regional shopping and economic hub posted a very low violent crime rate of less than one incident per 1K in 2017.

Ranking #4 is Foley, a small city of just over 18,000 in Baldwin County. Foley owes its safety in part to a high ratio of over 5 law enforcement officers for each 1,000 residents.

Rounding out Alabama’s top five safest cities is Albertsville, a small city of 21,588 with a violent crime rate of just 1.02 per 1,000 residents.

Safest Cities in Alabama, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Cullman0.72
2Vestavia Hills0.69
3Hoover0.68
4Foley0.61
5Albertville0.52
6Northport0.5
7Helena0.45
8Daphne0.44
9Pleasant Grove0.43
10Athens0.39
11Eufaula0.05
12Irondale0
13Madison-0.02
14Oxford-0.12
15Auburn-0.13
16Tuscaloosa-0.19
17Decatur-0.2
18Florence-0.24
19Muscle Shoals-0.48
20Leeds-0.63
21Opelika-0.65
22Jasper-0.65
23Phenix City-0.67
24Dothan-0.74
25Jacksonville-0.93
26Scottsboro-1.13
27Troy-1.25
28Ozark-1.31
29Alexander City-1.76
30Prichard-2.85
31Bessemer-4.24
32Anniston-4.89

Methodology

We used the most recent FBI crime statistics to create state rankings. There were initially 7,430 cities in the data set. After filtering out the cities with populations of less than 10,000, 2,929 cities remained. We then calculated violent crime rates and property crime rates by dividing the crime numbers by the population to get rates per 1,000. We also calculated the ratio of law enforcement workers to per 1,000. These were weighted with -50% for the violent crime rate, -25% for the property crime rate, and +25% for the law enforcement rate. The resulting metric gave us a the safety index score. The higher this number more safe the city is.

Did your district make the list? Share the good news!

A Parent’s Guide to Smartphone Security

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Keeping your child safe online is a modern problem that many parents face today. After all, technology is moving faster than many people can keep up with. If you have a child, then you are well aware of the new devices that are becoming integrated in a child’s life. It may begin with your child using your personal device to play games, watch videos, read books, and learn about new topics online. That routine can quickly turn into a situation where your kids may have their own tablets and, before you know it, are asking for their own Apple iPhones and/or Google Android devices. When stress and overwhelm sets in, remember one thing: this is not a unique challenge that only your family faces. It’s something that families around the world are grappling with, and unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of history or experience to draw from.

With any connected device, regardless of age or experience using the device, security is a top concern. There are hackers looking to steal information, criminals looking to connect with people online, and a growing concern about the availability of information and the types of information that people may be accessing. Since children are inexperienced online, learning more about their world, and developing their own understanding of themselves, these factors can pose an even greater risk.

So, how do you, as a parent, ensure that your child is safe and secure when using a smartphone? Other than banning your children from using mobile devices, there is no way to completely remove this risk. With the right education for both yourself and your children, however, smartphones can be powerful, positive tools for both learning and connectivity.

How many children are actually using smartphones?

The growth of the smartphone industry has been nothing short of amazing. More than 80% of American adults now have smartphones, which is more than double the rate from surveys conducted in 2011. Essentially, almost every household in the country has at least one Internet access enabled smartphone, and those numbers are only expected to continue growing as the remaining holdouts move from so-called dumb phone ownership to smartphones.

But how has this growth affected children? Smartphone ownership among children is lower than adults, but this rate is increasing rapidly year over year. Around age 9 or 10, many parents begin purchasing smartphones for their children. In fact, nearly half of kids between age 10 and 12 have a smartphone with their own service plan. This age makes sense as children become more independent around this age. They may begin walking home from school alone, spending some time alone while parents are out, and visiting friend’s homes. Most parents want to be connected to their children at all times, and the best way to accomplish this is with a mobile device.

As kids enter their teenage years, smartphone access spikes. In fact, up to 95% of teens have regular access to their own smartphone. This is a rate that actually outnumbers adult ownership in the United States. By the time kids are in their high school years, nearly every student will have their own smartphone, which means that smartphone security is something that should concern nearly every parent in America.

Why do your kids need smartphones?

A lot of parents take the stand that their child doesn’t need a smartphone. However, this point of view often changes as children get older and becoming more independent. The most common reason to give your kid a smartphone is to stay connected when they may not always be in a location where you can easily reach out to them, like at school or at a daycare. A smartphone is a simple and effective way to keep a point of contact as kids begin to do things on their own like go to the park, visit friends, join sports teams, or take on volunteer opportunities.  Location services alone can offer peace of mind that simply wasn’t available a decades ago.

It’s also important not to look past the usefulness of a smartphone when your child begins to increase their homework workload. Older kids can use smartphones to help them do research for papers, as an example. Plus, with many schools moving more towards online systems, a smartphone is a great way for kids to manage their class schedule, communicate with teachers, plan group projects with other students, and check their own grades or due dates on assignments.

Of course, there are some situations where you, as a parent, may not have complete say in the matter. For example, teens that work part-time jobs often have the means to purchase their own smartphone, without the help of a parent. Being proactive about smartphone security and online safety can help you and your family prepare for the inevitable day when a working teen has saved up enough money to buy a smartphone of their own. Plus, the smartphone can be very helpful for working teens as they manage work schedules, communicate with their employer, and organize transportation to and from work.

What are the concerns regarding children and smartphones?

Not all scenarios involving smartphone use and children are positive. Smartphones have become powerful communication tools that essentially open up the entire Internet to your child, which also means opening up opportunities for risky situations to arise. It’s important to take all necessary precautions to try and keep your kids safe.

One of the main concerns when it comes to children being online is the potential for interacting with online predators. The Internet has made it easy for people to communicate and that includes those who may have negative intentions. Adults can use social media apps like Facebook and Snapchat to connect with children and pressure them into sharing information, engage in inappropriate relationships and send explicit content, and participate in illegal activities.  Worst of all, many of these online encounters can become real life encounters if predators are able to advance the relationship in such a way. Startling numbers show that there may be as many as 500,000 predators online that target children, and more than half of younger children share personal information with strangers online.

Another growing epidemic in many countries around the world is cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can come from other children, people your child may know, and also complete strangers. There was a time that bullying was confined to the classroom or playground and children could escape bullies at the end of the day. With the growth of smartphones, your children can be contacted by a bully at all hours of the day, and bullies can – and often do  – share information with others easily to make the problem even worse. Sadly, nearly 40% of children in the United States have experienced cyber bullying at some point, yet only 38% of those kids are comfortable going to their parents about the issue.

One extremely important concern you may have regarding your child using a smartphone simply comes down to privacy. While sharing information online doesn’t necessarily mean something bad is happening, many people of all ages are unaware just how much of their data they are putting out there. As kids sign up for online services, download specific apps, and make posts on social media, they are creating a detailed online footprint that can be used by advertisers, governments, and hackers. Plus, in most cases, this data cannot be taken back once it has been published.

What laws and regulations are in place to protect my child?

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same is true when it comes to online activity and mobile phones. Government’s around the world have begun to take the privacy and well-being of children online more seriously, which has resulted in a multitude of new laws and regulations being introduced.

In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was passed to help set up a framework for companies that may have users who are minors. It outlines rules around providing consent for collecting of information for underage users. For example, parental consent must be given when children sign up for services where their private information may be shared with companies and other users. This includes guidelines for how parental consent is to be verified, the responsibility companies must have when marketing to underage users, and the requirement of a clear privacy policy that parents and their children can review.

Many experts and parents feel the current laws in many places around the world don’t go far enough, however. COPPA, as an example, was passed in 1998. While it may have been adequate at the time, a lot has changed since then and many aspects of online interactions may not be covered by the act.

Some countries have taken further steps to protect children online with new laws. In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced in 2018 with sweeping new rules for online service providers. Within these new rules were laws specifically designed with underage Internet users in mind. Users under the age of 16 have specific protections, and online service providers must seek parental consent before opening accounts for children and teenagers. 

The hard truth is that no law will ever be able to completely protect children online, and a lot of the responsibility ultimately falls on you as a parent to ensure that your child is safe.

What can I do to help protect my child?

When your child holds a smartphone in their hands, they are connected to the entire world. As such, protecting your child may seem like a daunting task, but there are a number of things you, as a parent, can do to ensure your child is enjoying the best that their smartphone has to offer while avoiding potential risks.

The most important thing you can do is to have honest and ongoing conversations about smartphone use and online safety. Take time to discuss the risks of communicating online and help your child understand that the people they are communicating with may not always have the best intentions. You can also help your child read and understand terms of service documents or privacy policies so that they are aware of just how much information they are about to share when signing up for a service or downloading apps in app stores like iTunes and Google Play. The same thing goes for in-app purchases.  Many people, adults included, simply ignore the important details of these documents and don’t consider the reality of what they are agreeing to.

Setting clear rules around smartphone usage can also go a long way in ensuring your child’s security. Things like sharing passwords with you, limiting smartphone usage to certain hours, taking away phones before bed, and allowing review or approval of apps and services before they are used can be very effective solutions. Also be sure to make it clear that you are always available to answer questions and concerns for your child. It’s unrealistic to expect that any family rules can completely eliminate the risks associated with smartphone use, but if your child feels comfortable coming to you then you are able to help address situations before they get out of hand.

Many companies have also introduced tools to help your monitor and control what your child does with their smartphone. Some apps can be installed that block certain services or websites, limit smartphone screen times, and even monitor conversations for problematic keywords that may indicate your child is at risk. Tracking apps can be helpful in monitoring your child’s location.  Many online interactions turn into real life meetings. A tracking app can help you verify that your kids are where they are supposed to be.

Ultimately, like implementing new laws, apps and services can only go so far in protecting your child when they use their smartphone. Education at home is key to ensuring that your kid has a positive experience online. Be available, be approachable, and stay up-to-date on the latest news and information regarding online security.

Some apps, services, and resources to consider

There are a number of services you can use to help you keep your child safe and secure when they begin using their own smartphone. Some of these services are free, while others may require a monthly or annual subscription.

Norton Family Premier is a paid service that costs $49.99 per year. With this service, you can protect and monitor an unlimited number of users and device, which is helpful if you have multiple children using smartphones, tablets, and laptops. While the service is one of the more expensive ones available, the peace of mind offered is priceless. Parents can set detailed rules and restrictions for blocking websites and inappropriate content, limiting device usage to specific hours, setting usage limits, tracking device location, and even remotely locking devices. In addition, Norton Family Premier can save a 30-day log of conversations on the device, including texting, so that parents can review who their child is talking to and the content they are discussing. This is an extremely valuable feature, especially if your the parent of a teenager, since sexting is becoming a rampant problem.  

Qustodio, much like Norton Family Premier, offers a variety of different monitoring and privacy settings. Plan pricing tiers begin at $39.95 per year and the price increases based on the number of devices you wish to protect. With cross-platform support, Qustodio offers some of the boadest protection available in the industry. You can get detailed reports delivered to you that outline how much time your child is using their device, what services they are using, and the content they are viewing or sharing online. One major downside of Qustodio is the limited social networking monitoring, which only includes major social networks like Facebook. Smaller networks that tend to attract kids who are always looking for the newest trend may not be covered.

Another top rated parental control app is Net Nanny. The web interface on Net Nanny is among the easiest to use and parents can set schedules for device usage much like other competing services. The location tracking feature provides a look into the location history of your child and monitoring of where they are when they’re out of the home. The one major downside of choosing Net Nanny is the lack of call or text message monitoring, which means that your child’s messages aren’t reviewable unless you physically check the device yourself.

In addition to monitoring services and apps, you may want to consider educational tools designed to help children understand their role in their own online security. Many Internet service providers have created their own child-friendly education portals and other companies have developed both paid and free solutions. These services put topics in a way kids can understand and even offer gaming-style elements to keep kids engaged in the content. An online privacy education tool can be a great way to supplement your own discussions with your children and give them the opportunity to explore and learn in a way that may be, dare we say, fun.

With these solutions, honest discussions at home, and a good awareness of what your child is doing online, you can feel well-equipped to ensure your child is safe, secure, and happy when they begin using their own smartphone.

Guide to Getting Your Record Expunged in 2022

It can be tough to progress in modern society if one has a criminal record. For example, it’s much harder to find a job, rent an apartment, or obtain financing arrangements like a car loan or mortgage. Therefore, it’s wise to consider all options to possibly remove criminal records like expungement. Expungement refers to removing criminal offenses of a record or even diminishing them to lesser misdemeanors. For example, reducing a DUI to a wet reckless is a common way to lessen criminal offenses.

This alone will make it much easier to progress in modern society and know that each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding expungement. Use this guide to learn about expungement, eligibility, related terms and case studies by state.

What is expungement?

Expungement or expunction is a process that entails erasing criminal history from one’s record. These criminal convictions can range from a variety of offenses from robbery, drug possession, prostitution, DUIs, petty theft, disorderly conduct and more. Generally, offenses that can be expunged are relatively minor, which is why they’re eligible for this treatment. Conversely, major crimes like child molestation, rape, murder and assault with a deadly weapon can’t be expunged as they have severe impacts on society,

After this has occurred, the individual doesn’t need to disclose this offense to prospective landlords nor employers. Some landlords conduct a background check, credit check, and require three references. They do this to ensure that the renter can pay the rent on time and has good character. However, fewer landlords ask about criminal backgrounds and it varies by company. Employers have asked candidates about criminal records in the past, via questions on the application form. Per legal website Nolo, 92% of employers check an applicant’s history for criminal offenses and this is more common in highly regulated industries like financial services.

Also,  expunged offenses won’t appear on a background check, so important circles of influence won’t know about it. Applicants can legally answer “no” if they’ve been convicted of a crime if they have expunged offenses. This process can be seen as a second chance for the convicted party, as it won’t impact their societal progression.

However, keep in mind that expunged crimes are never truly gone as legal jurisdictions and other government agencies can still see these past offenses.  Some government agencies ranging from local police departments, state highway patrol or even federal agencies like the DEA and FBI will be able to see expunged records. This access would be limited to just these groups.  Unlike other similar terms, it can’t be accessed by the public, even with a court petition. These past offenses can be used by government officials against a defendant in a court of law for other crimes committed or even during immigration hearings. 

For instance, immigrants that have committed new crimes and have expunged offenses could be deported. Legal authorities could use expunged offenses to push for deportation, which occurs in states with a high immigrant population like California.

Some minor offenses like parking tickets or petty theft that are expunged won’t have an impact on immigration. Conversely, major offenses related to undocumented entry, drugs, trafficking, and violent crimes can be used against a non-citizen. Another exception to this rule is for the nondocumented entry of asylum seekers waiting for approval.

Who is eligible for it?

Eligibility is based on many factors like the severity of the crime, state, and years passed. Also, each state sets its own rules for expungement, which is important to know. However, most states share common basic tenants for eligibility in their court records such as:

  1. The person has paid all fines and restitution in full.
  2. He or she has met all waiting periods prior to petitioning expungement.
  3. This person has no new or pending charges.
  4. He or she has completed all probation or community service requirements.
  5. Crimes and infractions must be deemed eligible by each state. Lesser ones like first time DUIs can generally be expunged with a clean driving record and time. Conversely, murder and rape will almost never be expunged.
  6. Criminal proceedings were either dismissed or the person was found not guilty. This can also apply to those that were acquitted after a trial or found not guilty after being proven innocent. Unfortunately, some people have been convicted of crimes, served time only to be acquitted through DNA evidence. These people would have these crimes expunged and the  Innocence Project is a group that is committed to ending wrongful convictions using DNA testing.

It’s also important to note that each state treats the expungement of minors and adults differently. Minors are considered children and apply to those who are under the age of majority. The age of majority can vary by state, but it’s usually around 18. Also, each state has different rules for ages when one can marry, file for emancipation, or enter into contracts.

Fortunately, most states automatically expunge most crimes for minors as they don’t want these youth to have their juvenile record impact their transition to adulthood. This simple step can prevent repeat offenders as those with criminal records are more likely to return to prison, as their records prevent them from accomplishing standard societal tasks.

The three main steps toward expungement

Expungement can vary based on many variables, but it has a straightforward three-step process:

1. Learn about eligibility

As mentioned above, many non-serious crimes are eligible for expungement after sufficient time and if the person hasn’t committed any additional offenses. It’s wise to use a site like a state’s courthouse or consulting with the defense and prosecuting attorneys on that particular case. Sometimes, defense attorneys will negotiate with the prosecution regarding expungement if the person meets all the requirements. Check with the defense attorney to see if this conversation occurred along with the specific terms of the agreement.

2. File a petition

If the defendant is eligible, he or she has to file a petition with the courthouse. Then, the defendant will have to pay a fee, wait for paper processing and book a hearing with a judge. Keep in mind that the paperwork for each state is different with some states like Florida only requiring a certificate of eligibility form. Conversely, California requires three forms which are the petition for dismissal, order for dismissal and a declaration.

Be sure to meticulously fill out the paperwork as small mistakes can impede this process by months. Some large mistakes will force the defendant to start over, wasting both money and time. In many states, defendants have to file petitions in the counties in which they were convicted of a crime.

3. Hire a competent attorney

Working with the right attorney can save the defendant money and time. Attorneys might seem expensive, but they can save more money over the long term as they can expedite the process and ensure the paperwork is filled out correctly. Also, the attorney can accompany the defendant in the expungement hearing and speak on his or her behalf. Some counties have attorneys that specialize in this process like the team with the “New Leaf” program in Orange County, CA.

Expungement mistakes

Expungement is a detailed process that has many moving parts and can be complex. Therefore, it makes sense to learn about these errors as this will prevent unnecessary hardship when removing it from the public record. Some common mistakes to avoid are:

1. Doing it all yourself

There are some options that allow you to do this process by yourself, but these aren’t recommended. Expungement is an intricate process and there is significant room for error. For example, using one wrong form or incorrectly filling out the paperwork can delay claims by months. Also, most candidates will have to present themselves before a judge, which can be nerve-wracking and presents another challenge.

Instead, consider working with a competent attorney or even a public defender to find legal representation. Having professional guidance will alleviate any necessary headaches and streamline the expungement process.

2. Not being proactive

Self-starters have a great advantage in many aspects of life from getting a job, starting a business, achieving fitness goals and even getting past offenses expunged. Many people erroneously believe certain offenses will automatically fall of their records. For example, they assume first-time DUIs will vanish after 7 years in California. This isn’t the case, making it crucial to start the process, use the right counsel and complete deadlines on time.

3. Failing to understand the differences between similar terms

Expungement has many related terms like dismissal, sealing, and rehabilitation. Each process has similarities and differences. For instance, sealing records keeps them out of the public view like expungement. It differs as the records can be accessed by the public only via a court petition. Other times, it makes sense to seek a case dismissal if there is faulty or insufficient evidence. These terms and a few others will be explained in more detail below.

Related terms

There are many related terms to expungement laws that can similar, yet different meanings. It’s important to understand these thoroughly as each one has a unique impact on criminal records.

1. Pardon

A pardon is similar to expungement, but it still shows that the person committed the crime. Unlike an expungement, the crime isn’t sealed away and can be accessed by the public. So, if the defendant is filling out a job application asking about criminal offenses, he or she would have to mark that they’ve had a criminal offense. Also, they can explain the pardon and the reasoning behind it in these applications.

Pardons also restore certain rights like the ability to purchase guns or not have to register as a sex offender. These applicants must also complete parole, probation and not commit further crimes. Using pardons are becoming rarer as government officials fear a backlash. For example, President Clinton pardoned tax evader Marc Rich during his last week in office. Marc’s crimes could have made him eligible criminal charges like a life sentence, but President Clinton pardoned him, which caused controversy among both democrats and republicans.

2. Dismissal

Dismissal occurs when a court has insufficient evidence for a conviction. These can include having unscrupulous witnesses, poor DNA evidence or a lack of other reasonable evidence. This process can also occur if the defendant has completed community service or another treatment program. However, a dismissed case will still appear on a background check, but it will say that the person wasn’t convicted of a crime.

3. Sealing

Sealing can be seen as a less extreme form of expungement as it still has the record of the offense. This record can’t be accessed through a background check although it still exists in a court database. So prospective lenders, landlords, and employers can’t access sealed records. Also, applicants can legally answer no if they’ve been convicted of a criminal offense. The only time these records can be accessed by the public is via petitioning a court order.

4. Certificate of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation shows that the defendant has committed the crime, but paid their debts to society and is rehabilitated. This process is used to recover important rights that were forfeited with a criminal record. Some of the most important rights that can be restored are not having to register as a sex offender and those related to occupations. For instance, many professional fields like nursing don’t allow people with criminal records to practice. A certificate of rehabilitation will help these people re-enter or train to become licensed professionals.

This program can even be used to automatically file for a governor’s pardon and can be obtained by filing a court petition with letters of character. These letters of character can be references from parole officers, former employers, and counselors.

5. Certificate of Innocence

A Certificate of Innocence goes beyond a pardon as it states that the person should have never been convicted or arrested and was innocent. Some states allow people to gain a certificate of innocence if their crime was already expunged. People can acquire this certificate if a court acquitted them or if the court dismissed their case. There have been times when courts dismiss cases due to lack of evidence or poor quality witnesses. Others suggest working with a public defender, petitioning the judge or asking the arresting law enforcement agency for this certificate.

Record expungement case studies by State

Each state has different rules, and this section will highlight some of the rules from the largest ones like Texas, California, and New York. First, the person must ask the court for the records to be sealed. This process was explained above, but it generally means that the crime will not be available for the public.

Texas

In Texas, some offenses don’t have waiting periods while others do and this is based on the severity of the crime. For example, the following offenses have no waiting period:

  • Gambling
  • Prostitution
  • Marijuana Possession
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Burglary of a coin operating machine

More serious offenses, like the ones shown below, have a two-year waiting period. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Assault
  • Bigamy
  • Possession of an unauthorized weapon
  • Riot
  • Public Lewdness

Once the waiting period and the paperwork is filed, it can take an additional 6 months to a year to expunge a case.

New York

New York is an interesting state as defendants can’t expunge their records there. Instead, defendants have the option to seal their records. These records won’t be accessed by employers but can be shown to government agencies. Like most states, New York allows juvenile offenders to seal most crimes committed under the age of 16. This is beneficial as this rap sheet won’t follow them into their adult years.

New York also has stricter rules for common offenses like DUIs (Driving under the influence)  or DWIs (Driving while impaired). These two offenses are similar and many states define DUIs as driving with alcohol impairment and DWIs as being impaired via illegal drugs or prescription medication. New York doesn’t allow expungement for either offense, yet other states can have these records expunged after a certain amount of time. For example, most first time DUI offenders in California can get their record expunged between 4-7 years. Most people assume that DUIs will automatically be expunged after 7 years, but this isn’t the case, making it imperative to be proactive, and when in states like California (up next), a necessity to attempt to reduce penalties for a DUI conviction.

California

California is one of the largest states and has many expungement rules including prohibiting employers asking candidates about arrests that didn’t lead to convictions. So, these employers can’t ask interviewees if they’ve been arrested nor if they’ve participated in rehabilitation programs. Labor law also prohibits using this information when hiring, promoting or terminating an applicant. However, private employers in California can ask about past convictions on job applications.

The expungement process generally takes between 90 - 120 days. However, filing a petition for expungement can take 6 or more depending on the time passed, case complexity, if it’s a felony or misdemeanor, and case location. If a case is in the courthouse’s computer system, it will be processed quicker than a hard or even non-existent copy. Larger California counties like Los Angeles County have slower expungement times, with it taking 60 - 90 days just to retrieve the old case. Keep in mind that this usually applies to cases that are older than 10 years.

Conversely, smaller counties like Orange County are much quicker and can turn cases around in the 90-day range.

Expungement Resources

Nolo:

Nolo is a premier online legal resource that has many legal products like ebooks, software, and forms. It offers guidance on a wide variety of legal topics including dismissals, expungement, and sealing. This site is a helpful resource, but it’s not a substitute for formal legal advice.

Innocence Project: 

The Innocence Project is an organization that exonerates innocent prisoners of crimes they didn’t commit. Many of these prisoners were convicted decades ago when technology like DNA testing couldn’t prove their innocence. Fast forward to the present day, technology has become very precise especially tools relating to forensic science.

This group also helps reform the justice system and prevent unjust convictions by identifying inadequate defense strategies, government misconduct, and false confessions. They also assist law enforcement agencies to improve their forensic processes to stop innocent people from being sent to prison.

New Leaf Program: 

The New Leaf Program is conducted through the Orange County Public Defender. This California based organization helps those that have been convicted of past crimes get on their feet through providing opportunities to obtain employment, improve credit and even professional licenses. This group also works with offenders by reducing felonies to misdemeanors and providing certificates of rehabilitation. These certificates of rehabilitation are available to those that have completed prison sentences and haven’t committed any additional crimes.

They can also assist past offenders with other related services like sealing arrest records, pardons, and dismissals.

State rules for the age of majority, emancipation, etc..

Each state has its own unique government and rules. This link breaks down each state’s policy on topics like the age of majority, marriage, emancipation, and contracts. For example, South Carolina allows people as young as 16 to marry each other, provided they have parental permission.

Ban the Box

Ban the Box is a civil rights campaign that strives to exclude questions about past crimes on housing and job applications. This organization was founded in 2004 and seeks to give past convicts that have been rehabilitated a fair chance in society. Fortunately, their efforts have been successful as over 45 counties and cities have banned conviction questions on job applications. Recently, Newark, New Jersey has banned this question on the housing application, leading to diminished housing discrimination.

Bottom line

Having a criminal record isn’t optimal and can set one back in society. It makes fundamental tasks like finding a good job or place to live much harder. Luckily, expungement or record sealing can reduce misdemeanor convictions or even eliminate these offenses, allowing people to get on the right track. Keep in mind that each state has different expungement rules, making it important to be able to adapt to those. There are also many mistakes to avoid when going through the expungement process and related terms like a pardon. This guide went into detail regarding case studies and criminal records after expungement as well.

Disclaimer: This guide is general education, not legal advice. Consult an attorney or legal advisor for legal advice.

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