Safest Cities Iowa - header

Iowa – A Midwestern state that was part of the famous “Louisiana Purchase” from Napoleonic France. Today the state’s flag continues to be a link to the French tricolor and history.

Until as late as the 1980s, Iowa’s population was predominantly rurally-based and engaged in agricultural work. A farming crisis in the 1980s caused major economic hardship in the state and led to the development of today’s more diversified economy which includes manufacturing and biotechnology. Although it still has a reputation for being an agricultural center, manufacturing now generates more of the state’s income.

3.84 Average violent crime per 1,000
28.27 Average property crime per 1,000

The population is approximately 3.1 million. Average household income at $58,500 and personal income at $30,800 are both below US averages. The state is widely regarded as being one of the safest states in the US to live. This is not entirely supported by crime statistics though. Figures for the state show that:

  • It’s the 24th safest state for property crime (where 1st = lowest crime)
  • Iowa has a violent crime rate that is over the national average with a ratio of 1.11 based upon 3.84 crimes per 1,000 versus a national average of 3.47 (making it the 31st safest state in violent crime terms).
  • By contrast, its property crime levels are below national averages being 28.27 per 1,000 compared to the national average of 40.43 – giving a ratio of 0.70.

As is to be expected, there is significant variation by location. The safest parts of Iowa include:

  1. Norwalk
  2. Pella
  3. ​Spencer
  4. Johnston
  5. Clive

Safest Cities in Iowa, 2019

RankCityViolent CrimesProperty CrimesViolent Crime RateProperty Crime Rate
1Norwalk9900.8288.277
2Pella191351.85513.184
3Spencer152301.34820.674
4Johnston322421.46711.093
5Clive142720.78215.185
6North Liberty561902.8739.748
7Urbandale1155382.63512.329
8Waukee312381.52311.690
9Boone641615.07712.771
10Marion686231.74115.954
11Bettendorf546501.49417.989
12Ankeny1308312.12813.603
13Storm Lake712826.58026.135
14Muscatine1944798.10420.008
15Dubuque1661,6062.82927.372
16Oskaloosa462423.99120.998
17Mason City438341.57430.519
18Fairfield163381.54832.698
19Waterloo3411,9275.02528.399
20Iowa City1561,7672.06623.398
21Altoona245451.29329.371
22Ames1241,3921.83820.634
23Indianola903595.64222.504
24Cedar Falls868222.06019.691
25Cedar Rapids3704,9522.80637.550
26Newton714994.73433.269
27Coralville477532.27636.461
28Des Moines1,4569,5896.70144.133
29Burlington2349859.27639.045
30Sioux City3603,5614.34442.966
31Fort Dodge1511,0756.20644.182
32Council Bluffs1503,7172.39859.425
33Keokuk906568.67463.223
34Clinton2951,25511.55449.154
35Ottumwa1431,2945.86153.039
36Davenport7505,2497.27750.930

METHODOLOGY

To identify the safest cities in Iowa, we reviewed the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics. A total of 7,639 cities were factored into this ranking with populations ranging from 7,639 to 4,007,147. However, we eliminated any cities that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI and removed cities with populations under 10,000.

Overall, data from 8,793 law enforcement agencies that represented more 193 million of the US population helped us draw interesting insights between the size of the police force and incidence of crime.

There are two broad classifications of crimes: violent crimes and non-violent crimes. According to the FBI, “Violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses that involve force or threat of force. Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims. ”

We computed the total number of crimes reported by each city by adding violent crimes and property crimes. We then rated them using the population of the city and created a crime rate as the number of crimes per 1,000 population. Then we transformed the total crime rate variable so that the skewness was reduced and we normalized it so the final number became a score between 0 and 1.

Next, we computed a new variable called Police Adequacy (TotalCrimes / Number of police employees). We consider that the smaller the police adequacy statistic is, the safer the city is. We transformed and normalized this police adequacy variable also, resulting in a score between 0 and 1. Finally, we combined the two scores to create a safety score for each city.

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