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How Social Security Works: A Guide to Social Security Benefits

If you’ve held a 9-5 job, you’ve likely heard of social security. This federal program serves as a sort-of savings account that older Americans can tap into to provide income for their retirement. While most people associate social security with retirement benefits, it also provides disability benefits and support for family members who lose a spouse or parent. 

Statistics show about 180 million people worked and paid social security taxes and about 65 million people received monthly benefits as of June 2020. Most of the beneficiaries, about 49 million people, are current retirees, according to the Social Security Administration.

To better understand what social security benefits are, how the federal government calculates them, and what you can financially expect to get later on in life, this guide should provide answers to commonly asked questions. 

How does social security work?

When a person works, he or she pays into the social security system. Take a look at a pay stub. You’ll notice that your employer has taken out FICA taxes, that’s for social security retirement benefits. Most employees pay 6.2% of their income into social security and the employer matches that, paying another 6.2%, for a total of 14.4% of income delivered to the social security system. 

As a person works and pays into the system, credits are earned. Eligibility is based on earning credits. Usually, a person needs 40 credits, which are usually accumulated after about 10 years of work, to be eligible for social security benefits. 

Senior citizens choose when to start collecting retirement income. It can be collected at full retirement age, where a person receives full benefits or collected earlier, at age 62. If a person decides to collect early retirement at the age of 62, the income will be less than it would be if the person waited until full retirement age.

What age is considered full retirement age? It varies based on the year a person is born. The chart below explains when a person is considered full retirement age:

Year of birth

Full retirement age
1943-1954 66
1955 66 years and 2 months
1956 66 years and 4 months
1957 66 years and 6 months
1958 66 years and 8 months
1959 66 years and 10 months
1960 or later 67

When a person is ready to start collecting social security, he or she must apply for the benefits about four months before the payments are expected to start. Funds are deposited directly into a bank account or placed on a prepaid debit card.

How much money can you expect from social security?

The amount of money a person gets for monthly income depends on lifetime earnings and at what age the benefits are claimed. As of June 2020, the average monthly payout was $1514, which is about $18,170 a year. While that might not seem like a lot, keep in mind that social security isn’t meant to be a person’s sole source of retirement income. It’s meant to serve as a supplement. 

Of course, knowing how much money will likely come from social security can help with retirement plans. 

The federal government has a formula to calculate retirement benefits. To start, actual earnings are adjusted or indexed to account for changes in wages since a person began working. Then, an average monthly earning is reached by looking at the 35 best-paid years. From there, a primary insurance amount is computed, which is the amount a person would earn monthly if the person waited to claim benefits at full retirement age. 

Since the math behind social security benefits is a bit complicated to grasp, the Social Security Administration has a retirement estimator tool on its website (ssa.gov) that can provide this figure easily. A “My Social Security” account must be set up first.

Before using the estimator, there are certain factors that can change a retirement benefit that retired workers should be aware of, which include:

  • The age at which social security retirement benefits are claimed alters the monthly amount.
  • Cost of living adjustments are added to benefits when a person reaches 62 and continues up to the year a person starts receiving benefits.
  • A person can delay the start of their own retirement benefits past his or her full retirement age, which can increase monthly benefits. 
  • The payout formula is different for government workers with a pension that’s not tied to social security. Government employees should use this planning tool for additional information.  

What should you know about disability benefits?

Social security benefits are also available for those with disabilities from two different programs: Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance. 

Supplemental Security Income is for elderly, blind, or disabled adults or children with little to no income or assets. Social Security Disability Insurance provides benefits for people who have worked enough to qualify for social security benefits, which is usually about 10 working years.

To learn more, check out our guide to benefits for people with disabilities

What should you know about social security survivor benefits?

Social security funds are also used to pay survivor benefits. If an earner dies, qualifying spouses, or in some cases parents, can receive benefits. To start the process, the Social Security Administration must be notified of the death and a death certificate must be submitted. 

Spousal benefits are generally available to spouses once they reach the age of 60. The amount given depends on how much money the deceased person was getting from social security or would have earned, if the person wasn’t claiming benefits yet. The amount changes based on when a spouse claims the benefit as well. Waiting until full retirement age does result in more income. 

It’s possible for people to claim both their own social security benefits and survivor benefits. If that’s the case, a person will get the larger monthly sum, not both benefits combined. A person might decide to claim their own benefits early and delay survivor benefits. 

To understand more about social security survivor benefits and what the benefit amount could be, visit the survivor benefits page on the Social Security Administration website. 

How can you apply for social security benefits?

If a person is ready to collect social security benefits, there are three ways to get the process started. A person can apply online at ssa.gov, by calling the Social Security Administration office at 1-800-325-0778, or by visiting a local social security office.

Filing online takes about 15 minutes. A person must answer a series of questions to complete an application, but the process can be completed in multiple sessions, if necessary. It’s best to apply for the benefits about four months before you’d like to receive them.  

Where does social security tax money go?

Social security is a payroll tax that’s taken out of a person’s paycheck. In 2021, $0.85 of every dollar goes to a social security trust fund that pays out social security benefits. About $0.15 of every dollar goes to a trust fund used to support people with disabilities. Less than $0.01 goes to manage the fund, according to the Social Security Administration

When did social security income start?

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law in 1935. Its original purpose was to help older Americans retire more comfortably, but was amended to include disability and survivor benefits years later.

Are social security benefits taxed?

If a person earns too much money, social security income is taxed by the U.S. government. If a person files a federal tax return as an individual with a combined income between $25,000-$34,000, the person will pay income tax on up to 50% of his or her benefits. A person making more than $34,000 will pay income tax on up to 85% of his or her benefits. 

A joint return with a combined income between $25,000-$44,000 will also pay income tax on up to 50% of the benefit sum. Anything over $44,000, the earner can expect to pay tax on up to 85% of the monthly benefit. The social security website explains more about taxed benefits.

What is delayed retirement?

Delayed retirement is when a person chooses not to claim benefits until after their full retirement age. The person earns delayed retirement credits, which can increase the monthly amount the person will receive once he or she starts collecting.

What is early retirement?

A person can start collecting social security benefits at the age of 62, which is before anyone reaches their full retirement age. If the money is collected before full retirement age, it’s considered early retirement and benefits are reduced.

Can you still work and receive social security benefits?

Yes. A person can work and still get social security, but there is a limit to how much can be earned. The United States government has some strict, specific rules about earning while claiming benefits, which can be found on the social security website under receiving benefits while working.

Will social security run out?

Reports show social security funds could run out by 2028. There are many reasons behind the depleting funds. For starters, the pandemic has created a high unemployment rate, which means fewer people are paying into the system. Plus, wages are down, so even people who are paying into the system are paying less. The pandemic has shaved an estimated seven years off the social security fund’s lifespan. 

In addition, more people are claiming disability and more people taking social security before they reach full retirement age, which has also left the system strapped for cash. 

There are suggested solutions, which include increasing payroll taxes, reducing everyone’s benefit amount, and raising the minimum age to collect social security. 

Considering the future of social security is unstable, it’s best to speak with an investment advisor to review your earnings record, estimate social security benefits, and plan for shortfalls.   

What resources are available to learn more about social security? 

A person can visit the Social Security Administration website at ssa.gov, call the office at 1-800-325-0778, or visit a local social security office. Typically, offices are open Monday-Friday from 7am-7pm. 

This guide, Understanding The Benefits, may also provide additional information.

Top School Districts in Wyoming, 2021

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Many know Wyoming as a rugged, expansive natural playground, sparsely populated and home to a number of vast, beautiful state and national parks. Yet, few are aware that the Cowboy State is one of the best in the nation for education, with well-funded schools characterized by high performance in academics and standardized testing. Here’s a look at Wyoming’s five best school districts. 

Albany County School District #1 is the best public school system in Wyoming. Comprising fifteen schools with an enrollment of over 4,000 in the southeastern part of the state, ACSD#1 boasts a math proficiency rate higher than state and national averages, and 105 students of the graduating class of 2018 received the Hathaway Scholarship

Wyoming’s 2nd best school district is Sheridan County School District #2, made up of ten high-performing schools with a considerable list of accolades, including a remarkable eight National Blue Ribbon Award honors.

Placing 3rd is Park County School District #16, a single-school district based in Meeteetse with an enrollment of 121. Students of the district graduate at a rate of 92.3% and over 70% are proficient in mathematics.    

Natrona County School District earns Wyoming’s #4 spot. An expansive district based in the city of Caspar and serving around 13,000 students, NCSD is the largest employer in Natrona County and plays a central role in the lives of many of its residents.

Rounding out the list of Wyoming’s best school districts is Fremont County School District #2, consisting of a single K-12 school in the small town of Dubois. Despite its modest size, FCSD#2 offers an extensive, wide-ranging curriculum that gives students plenty of opportunity to specialize in their subjects of interest. 

Top School Districts in Wyoming, 2020

RankDistrict
1Albany County School District #1
2Sheridan County School District #2
3Park County School District #16
4Natrona County School District #1
5Fremont County School District # 2
6Lincoln County School District #2
7Sweetwater County School District #1
8Teton County School District #1
9Campbell County School District #1
10Washakie County School District #2
11Fremont County School District #24
12Sheridan County School District #3
13Sweetwater County School District #2
14Sublette County School District #1
15Sheridan County School District #1
16Laramie County School District #1
17Converse County School District #1
18Park County School District # 1
19Uinta County School District #1
20Carbon County School District #2

Methodology

The following variables contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, school funding per student, student to teacher ratio, percent of students scoring above proficient in standardized state Math test, percent of students scoring above proficient in standardized state Reading and Language test. Data from a total of 10,247 public school districts were used to compute a score for each school district. The following states were omitted due to lack of sufficient data: Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah, and Virginia. Note that high schools in some states have their own independent districts.

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

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How to Start a Neighborhood Watch Program

how to start a neighborhood watch

When you see a neighborhood watch sign on a street corner--you know the one--with a big red line slashing across the dark silhouette of a man in a fedora and trench coat, you automatically feel safer. Why? Because you know inhabitants of the neighborhood are banding together to take an active stand against crime and vandalism in their local community.   

Since its beginnings in the early 70’s, the National Neighborhood Watch program, a branch of the National Sheriff’s Association, has been motivating citizens to rally together and work with local law enforcement to prevent neighborhood crime. While a neighborhood watch isn’t a vigilante task force, it can be empowering for residents of a community that often feel helpless. Does your local area lack a neighborhood watch program? Now’s the time to start one, and we’ll help you through it, step-by-step.

Why start a neighborhood watch?

There’s several key reasons for starting a neighborhood watch program in your neighborhood. Let’s go over them here.

  • A neighborhood watch helps reduce crime and deters criminals from operating in your neighborhood.

This is the big reason for starting a watch, and they do work to lower neighborhood crime. While there is a lack of recent studies on neighborhood watch programs, a 2008 U.S. Justice Department meta-analysis of U.S., U.K. and Canadian research done between 1977 and 1994 found that there was a 16% average decrease in crime compared to control areas that lacked a neighborhood watch. There is no more effect step that residents of a neighborhood can take to reduce crime in their area.

  • Participating in a neighborhood strengthens the bonds within a community and bolsters civic pride.

These days, with fewer neighborhood residents knowing and having relationships with their neighbors than in the past, according to a recent Pew study, a neighborhood watch is a perfect way for residents to increase interaction with those that they live amongst. When residents of a community cooperate towards a common goal, they develop lifelong bonds and a renewed sense of trust in one another. A watch also grants a community a stronger sense of self-identity and responsibility to do well by their neighbors.

  • A neighborhood watch raises the level of cooperation between residents and local law enforcement, while increasing faith in the police.

The first step in kicking off any neighborhood watch is contacting the local police, and they should play an active role throughout a watch’s history. Despite their role in protecting the neighborhood, watch members are always encouraged to call the police in the event of suspicious activity, rather than personally intervening. This cooperative relationship puts a human face on the local police force and enhances the community’s faith in them.

  • Your local neighborhood watch positive influences the youth of the community, teaching them the importance of playing an active role in community programs.

When kids witness their parents and neighbors putting an effort towards keeping the neighborhood safe, it motivates them to follow suit when they come of age. Children learn best by example, so showing them that you care about their safety and the greater good of the community points them in the right direction.

  • Residents of a community live a happier life.

A neighborhood watch helps local residents to feel safe and secure, increasing their quality of life. When people worry less about becoming a victim of crime or vandalism, they can focus on the important things in life, i.e., their professions, their favorite pastimes, and their loved ones.

Checklist: Starting a neighborhood watch

The following are the key steps anyone committed to enacting a neighborhood watch should follow:

  • Step 1: Notify the local law enforcement agency.

The local police department in your community will play an integral role in your neighborhood watch program, so informing them of your intention to start a program, before all else, is key. You’ll want to secure their support and commitment to participation. If possible, request that an officer be present during the first meeting of a neighborhood watch to answer questions and demonstrate support.

  • Step 2: Hold an initial meeting.

Since it’s likely the most important meeting your neighborhood watch will hold, make sure that your first neighborhood watch meeting is scheduled at a date and time when residents of the neighborhood will be able to attend, such as a weekend afternoon or evening during the middle of the week. Hold the meeting in a convenient, well-known location like a community center, or library.

The keynote meeting is your chance to demonstrate why a neighborhood watch will be effective and beneficial towards the community, so come well-prepared with guidelines and goals in place. Be ready to answer any and all questions members of your community may have, and have a police officer present to assist in guiding the meeting.   

  • Step 3: Put the word out.

Do everything in your power to let residents--and potential criminals--know that a neighborhood watch is in effect. The best way to do this is by distributing flyers in the mailboxes of every home in the community detailing the goals of your program, and providing phone numbers that residents may call with questions or concerns. Signs and decals posted around the neighborhood that indicate that your neighborhood is protected by a watch is another key element of spreading the word.  

  • Step 4: Organize and assign roles.

Being well-organized and staffed is an important element of an effective program. Have an action plan in place. Know the schedules and availability of participating neighborhood watch members. The most enthusiastic members can be assigned as block captain. Be aware of members’ strengths: if one volunteer is particularly web-savvy, put them in charge of the internet and social media arm of your program. 

  • Step 5: Lead by example.

If you’re the one kicking off a neighborhood watch, you have a responsibility to fulfill your duties and motivate others to participate. If something happens at any point that prevents you from participating at a level appropriate for a community leader, then elect someone better suited to the task.

  • Step 6: Stay committed.

A neighborhood watch is hard work, and it requires a level of commitment from all involved. Don’t start strong and slack off, keep things moving and make sure volunteers remain communicative and on board. Regular meetings are a key part of an active, effective watch program.

Neighborhood safety tips

Take a look at these tips that will help make your neighborhood watch more effective in keeping your community safe:

  • Know what crime occurs in your neighborhood.

By gathering information on the local crime rate, and the types of crime common in your neighborhood, you and other watch members will know what to keep a lookout for.

  • Participate in neighborhood cleanup activities.

A clean community is a safe community. Organize neighborhood cleanup events to beautify the area, clean up vacant lots, and request that local business owners keep their storefronts in good condition.

  • Ensure that your members are well-educated on their responsibilities, as well as their limits.

Members of a neighborhood watch can patrol the area for suspicious behavior, but rarely should they become directly involved with an ongoing crime, which could lead to larger problems for everyone involved. Make sure they know that they ought to call the police, rather than attempt to stop a crime on their own.

  • If your neighborhood has a large hispanic presence, translate reading materials and signs into Spanish.

Don’t leave community members in the cold: if your neighborhood has a large hispanic population, make sure that your signs and flyers reflect this.

  • Encourage residents unable to take an active role in the watch to participate in any way they can.

Even if residents are too busy, or physically unable to take an active role in the program, let them know that they can help by being “window watchers”, and alerting the police if they ever witness suspicious activity outside their homes or from their vehicle. Another way they can help is enhancing their own home security with a security system, which helps to dissuade burglars from operating in the neighborhood.

Summary

Now that you have a firm understanding of why a neighborhood watch is important, and how you can take a leading role in starting one up, the rest is on you. You are about to begin one of the most challenging, yet rewarding projects in your lifetime. We wish you good luck in keeping your community safe!

Safest Cities in North Carolina, 2021

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Although it’s around the middle of the pack of U.S. states in terms of overall crime rates, North Carolina is home to a large number of very safe communities. We gave each North Carolina city (with a population above 10,000) a score on our Safety Index, which combines FBI crime statistics and law enforcement employment numbers to calculate the safety of a given city, and 24 cities in the state earned a 0.24 or above, indicating a high level of public safety well above the U.S. average. 

Of these 24 North Carolina cities, 6 achieved a 0.5 Safety Index score or above, placing them in the upper echelon of safe cities in the country. Let’s take a closer look at these cities to see what makes them so safe.

Pinehurst, a village in Moore County, is North Carolina’s safest community. Renowned as home to Pinehurst Resort, a historic golf resort designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the pioneer of American landscape architecture, Pinehurst earned a 0.6 Safety Index score on the strength of a very low property crime rate that is less than half of the U.S. average.

In terms of safety, #2 Archdale is not far behind. The cozy city of 11.6K 15 miles outside of Greensboro is home to wine vineyards as well as the John Deere Vintage Tractor Museum, which should be on visitor’s short list of North Carolina tourist destinations. 

Sharing the #3 spot are Holly Springs and Mount Airy, two North Carolina cities that earned a 0.54 Safety Index Score, owing to low crime rates and favorable ratios of police officers to residents. Holly Springs, in particular, has received acclaim as a great town to live in, on account of its great public school system and many public parks. Currently boasting a population of around 35,000, Holly Springs has more than tripled its population since the year 2000.

With it’s 0.51 Safety Index score, Elon, a town in Alamance County best known as home to Elon University, just edges out Apex (Safety Index score: 0.5) for North Carolina’s #5 spot. However, both are great family-friendly communities to settle down in.  

Safest Cities in North Carolina, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Pinehurst0.6
2Archdale0.58
3Holly Springs0.54
4Mount Airy0.54
5Elon0.51
6Apex0.5
7Knightdale0.47
8Mount Holly0.45
9Davidson0.44
10Boone0.42
11Clayton0.42
12Stallings0.41
13Kings Mountain0.39
14Waxhaw0.39
15Wake Forest0.39
16Mooresville0.38
17Concord0.36
18Cary0.36
19Leland0.35
20Morrisville0.31
21Fuquay-Varina0.31
22Kannapolis0.28
23Huntersville0.27
24Chapel Hill0.27
25Lenoir0.16
26Southern Pines0.16
27Carrboro0.15
28Havelock0.15
29Matthews0.11
30Newton0.08
31Hendersonville0.07
32Mint Hill0.07
33Tarboro0.05
34New Bern0.04
35Kernersville-0.03
36Lincolnton-0.04
37Jacksonville-0.11
38Garner-0.15
39Belmont-0.22
40Mebane-0.33
41Smithfield-0.33
42Albemarle-0.37
43Rocky Mount-0.39
44Eden-0.39
45Hickory-0.42
46Thomasville-0.44
47Elizabeth City-0.49
48Wilmington-0.49
49Asheboro-0.56
50Asheville-0.6
51Greenville-0.62
52Charlotte-Mecklenburg-0.68
53High Point-0.7
54Fayetteville-0.7
55Greensboro-0.73
56Hope Mills-0.87
57Reidsville-0.88
58Durham-0.9
59Goldsboro-0.93
60Roanoke Rapids-0.98
61Burlington-1
62Gastonia-1
63Henderson-1.42
64Kinston-1.73

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!

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Safest Cities in North Dakota, 2021

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While North Dakota’s population has grown by a considerable 12.77% since 2010, it’s managed to do so without a spike in crime rates: the state is a respectable 21st in property crime and 14th in violent crime. 

Let’s take a look at the four North Dakota cities (with a population greater than or equal to 10,000) that earned favorable scores on our Safety Index, which factors in FBI crime statistics and law enforcement employee numbers to judge the safety of a community.

Dickinson and West Fargo share the title of North Dakota’s safest city, with each earning a Safety Index score of 0.33. Both logged violent and property crime rates below state and national averages, although West Fargo’s violent crime rate of 1.45 per 1,000 and property crime rate of 13.49 per 1,000 best Dickinson in both categories. Dickinson makes up for it by posting a higher law enforcement employees to resident ratio.

Trailing slightly behind is North Dakota’s #3 safest city, Minot, of Ward County. The city of over 50,000 recorded a violent crime rate of 2.67 per 1,000, which is considerably below the national average.

At number four, Williston is the final North Dakota city in our ranking to log a favorable Safety Index score. The city’s property crime rate of 23.34 per 1,000 is on par with the national average, though its violent crime rate is slightly below the national average. 

Safest Cities in North Dakota, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Dickinson0.33
2West Fargo0.33
3Minot0.09
4Williston0.05
5Mandan-0.05
6Jamestown-0.09
7Grand Forks-0.22
8Bismarck-0.24
9Fargo-0.44

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!

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Safest Cities in Texas, 2021

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Texas ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of safety, recording the 30th lowest property crime rate and 35th lowest violent crime rate. However, this is not the full picture, as Texas’ violent crime rate is elevated by higher crime rates in its largest cities. 

Owing to its size and the diversity of its communities, Texas is actually home to a large selection of very safe cities boasting low violent and property crime rates. Let’s take a look at some of the Lone Star State’s safest communities. 

Memorial Villages, Texas’ safest community, is actually an adjoining group of independent municipalities west of downtown Houston. Known for its exciting mix of residential architecture, the Memorial Villages area is also very safe, recording a terrifically low 0.08 per 1,000 violent crime rate based on just 1 recorded violent crime occurring in 2017.  

Mansfield, Texas #2 safest city, is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Area. The fast-growing city of 67K logged a violent crime rate less than a third of the Texas state average of 4.39 per 1,000, as well as a property crime rate half of the state average. Logging similarly low crime numbers is #3 Roma, a small border city along the Rio Grande in Starr County. 

Ranking #4 in the list of Texas’ safest cities is Seabrook, a pleasant community located on Galveston Bay with a waterfront known for its cozy bed and breakfasts and antique shops. Seabrook’s low violent and property crime rates are well under half of Texas state averages, which should provide comfort for residents and visitors alike.

Rounding out Texas’ top five safest cities is Midlothian, a fast-growing suburb of Dallas known as a steel and cement industry hub that boasts a violent crime rate below 1 incident per 1,000 residents. 

Safest Cities in Texas, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Memorial Villages1.13
2Mansfield0.82
3Roma0.79
4Seabrook0.69
5Midlothian0.67
6West University Place0.64
7Southlake0.64
8Rio Grande City0.61
9Colleyville0.6
10University Park0.58
11Keller0.56
12Hewitt0.55
13Trophy Club0.55
14Friendswood0.52
15Hidalgo0.48
16Sachse0.47
17Sulphur Springs0.47
18Santa Fe0.44
19Del Rio0.43
20Prosper0.42
21Georgetown0.41
22Allen0.41
23McAllen0.39
24Coppell0.39
25Azle0.38
26Clute0.37
27Robinson0.36
28Little Elm0.35
29Selma0.35
30North Richland Hills0.35
31Wylie0.35
32Royse City0.35
33Anna0.33
34Grapevine0.33
35Euless0.32
36Crowley0.32
37Kerrville0.31
38Bedford0.31
39Cibolo0.29
40Frisco0.29
41White Settlement0.28
42Buda0.28
43Benbrook0.28
44The Colony0.27
45League City0.26
46Pearsall0.24
47Carrollton0.23
48Saginaw0.23
49Seagoville0.23
50Belton0.21
51Alton0.21
52Beeville0.2
53Missouri City0.2
54Watauga0.2
55Ingleside0.19
56McKinney0.18
57Dickinson0.17
58Cleburne0.17
59Kilgore0.16
60Red Oak0.14
61Live Oak0.14
62Kyle0.1
63Burleson0.09
64Schertz0.09
65Lewisville0.09
66Rockport0.07
67Irving0.06
68Abilene0.03
69Athens0.03
70Galveston0
71Midland0
72South Houston0
73Ennis-0.01
74Grand Prairie-0.03
75Webster-0.04
76Nederland-0.06
77Laredo-0.06
78Wichita Falls-0.07
79Cedar Hill-0.09
80Greenville-0.1
81Baytown-0.11
82Andrews-0.11
83Denton-0.11
84El Paso-0.12
85Hereford-0.12
86Vernon-0.14
87DeSoto-0.14
88Haltom City-0.17
89Sweetwater-0.17
90Burkburnett-0.17
91Garland-0.17
92Pleasanton-0.18
93Gainesville-0.18
94Plainview-0.19
95Brownwood-0.19
96Edinburg-0.19
97Seguin-0.2
98Pasadena-0.21
99Addison-0.21
100Bryan-0.22
101Austin-0.22
102Universal City-0.23
103Denison-0.24
104Kingsville-0.25
105Sherman-0.25
106San Benito-0.29
107Orange-0.3
108Tyler-0.33
109San Angelo-0.34
110Stafford-0.35
111Glenn Heights-0.37
112Mesquite-0.41
113Waco-0.42
114Fort Worth-0.43
115Texas City-0.47
116Duncanville-0.47
117Groves-0.5
118Converse-0.52
119Terrell-0.55
120Henderson-0.61
121Corsicana-0.62
122La Marque-0.62
123Marshall-0.66
124Copperas Cove-0.67
125Port Arthur-0.68
126Dallas-0.7
127Mercedes-0.71
128Big Spring-0.75
129Paris-0.75
130Raymondville-0.78
131Killeen-0.82
132Odessa-0.88
133Balch Springs-0.91
134Corpus Christi-0.91
135Levelland-1.02
136San Antonio-1.1
137Beaumont-1.35
138Houston-1.37
139Alamo-1.39
140Texarkana-1.78
141Donna-2.11

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 Virginia, 2021

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Good news for Virginians: the state is among the safest in the nation, logging the 11th lowest property crime rate and 4th lowest violent crime rate. Furthermore, “Old Dominion” is without a doubt the safest southern state, as much of the region is marred by high crime rates. In a state full of safe communities, a handful truly distinguish themselves with their elite safety records. Let’s take a closer look at them. 

Virginia’s safest community is Vienna, a town of 16.5K in Fairfax County that frequently gets touted as one of the best places in the country to live due to its excellent public schools, the strong job market of the surrounding area, and last but not least, its very low crime. Vienna posted terrifically low crime rates for 2017: a violent crime rate of 0.24 per 1,000 and property crime rate of 7.96 per 1,000, meaning that’s title as the state’s safest is well deserved.

Following just behind Vienna are #2 Salem and #3 Falls Church, which scored a 0.75 and 0.74, respectively, on our Safety Index. Both boast a violent crime rate of about 0.7 per 1,000 (less than a fifth of the national average), though Salem’s property crime rate is a notch lower. 

Three other Virginia cities belong in the upper echelon of safe US cities based on their high safety scores: Fairfax City, Herndon, and Manassas Park.  Each are smaller cities with populations under 25,000 that recorded violent crime rates less than half of the national average, as well as correspondingly low property crime rates. 

Safest Cities in Virginia, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Vienna0.95
2Salem0.75
3Falls Church0.74
4Fairfax City0.7
5Herndon0.66
6Manassas Park0.6
7Williamsburg0.57
8Blacksburg0.51
9Alexandria0.48
10Bristol0.44
11Staunton0.38
12Culpeper0.38
13Martinsville0.37
14Manassas0.37
15Poquoson0.35
16Virginia Beach0.34
17Hopewell0.31
18Waynesboro0.25
19Harrisonburg0.22
20Charlottesville0.19
21Radford0.19
22Suffolk0.16
23Winchester0.02
24Hampton0.02
25Fredericksburg0.01
26Lynchburg0.01
27Colonial Heights-0.09
28Chesapeake-0.11
29Newport News-0.12
30Roanoke-0.24
31Norfolk-0.3
32Danville-0.5
33Petersburg-0.52
34Portsmouth-0.9

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 Washington, 2021

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Like its neighbor Oregon, Washington has lower than average violent crime, yet high levels of property crime. In the state’s larger cities such as Seattle and Spokane, you’re more likely to have your car broken into than become the victim of an assault. Still, despite Washington’s property crime issue, there are plenty of communities in the state with an all-around high level of safety. Let’s take a look at Washington’s five safest cities. 

The safest city in Washington is Snoqualmie, a compact suburb of Seattle well known to fans as the setting for many exterior shots of the cult television show, Twin Peaks. Recording just two violent crimes in 2017, Snoqualmie logged a very low 0.15 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, along with a property crime rate half of the U.S. national average.

Second place goes to Enumclaw, a King County city whose name derives from a Native American legend about two brothers that became thunder and lightning, boasts an excellent violent crime rate -- just 0.85 per 1,000 residents -- along with a property crime rate lower than state and national averages.

There’s not much of a drop-off between #2 Enumclaw and #3 West Richland. In fact, the latter city actually has lower overall crime rates, factoring in its very low property crime rate of 11.71 per 1K, and falls to the #3 spot on account of a lower ratio of law enforcement personnel to residents.

Fourth in the ranking is Sunnyside, a small city in eastern Yakima county. Sunnyside did not muster the low crime rates of Washington’s top three safest cities, but its violent and property crime rates are both below the national average.

Closing out the top five is Oak Harbor, a city on Whidbey Island whose crime rates are quite a bit lower than #4 Sunnyside’s, but logged a lower law enforcement to resident ratio that worsens its overall safety rating. 

Safest Cities in Washington, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Snoqualmie0.59
2Enumclaw0.52
3West Richland0.37
4Sunnyside0.36
5Oak Harbor0.35
6Maple Valley0.34
7Lynden0.31
8Sammamish0.31
9Mercer Island0.3
10Grandview0.29
11Lake Forest Park0.28
12Kenmore0.27
13Camas0.26
14Bainbridge Island0.26
15Pullman0.25
16Newcastle0.23
17Woodinville0.21
18Shoreline0.2
19Anacortes0.18
20Mukilteo0.17
21Bothell0.16
22Kirkland0.15
23Issaquah0.14
24Ferndale0.13
25Battle Ground0.12
26Lake Stevens0.12
27Washougal0.12
28Cheney0.08
29East Wenatchee0.07
30Ellensburg0.07
31Poulsbo0.05
32Redmond0.04
33Bellevue0.04
34Edmonds0.03
35SeaTac0.02
36Covington0.02
37Burien0
38Bonney Lake-0.01
39Mill Creek-0.01
40Sedro Woolley-0.01
41Mountlake Terrace-0.02
42Richland-0.03
43Auburn-0.03
44Monroe-0.06
45Pasco-0.07
46Wenatchee-0.08
47Snohomish-0.08
48Edgewood-0.11
49Marysville-0.14
50Kennewick-0.21
51Mount Vernon-0.27
52Longview-0.28
53Tumwater-0.29
54Walla Walla-0.32
55Lacey-0.34
56Kelso-0.37
57University Place-0.39
58Bellingham-0.4
59Aberdeen-0.42
60Vancouver-0.43
61Spokane Valley-0.44
62Port Angeles-0.46
63Sumner-0.49
64Arlington-0.5
65Lynnwood-0.56
66Des Moines-0.57
67Everett-0.61
68Renton-0.65
69Port Orchard-0.65
70Olympia-0.67
71Puyallup-0.68
72Kent-0.74
73Bremerton-0.77
74Seattle-0.82
75Centralia-0.86
76Federal Way-0.89
77Moses Lake-0.92
78Yakima-0.92
79Lakewood-1.06
80Fife-1.31
81Spokane-1.37
82Tacoma-1.44

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!

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