Safest Cities in Montana – 2020

Last Updated on January 19, 2020

While Montana has a lot of things in common with its neighbor Wyoming, an excellent safety record is not one of them. While a number of Wyoming cities earned a violent crime rate below, or around, 1 offense per 1,000 residents, no Montana city managed that feat. Property crime is also an issue in Montana, as 3 of the 5 cities in the sparsely-populated state had property crime rates over double the national rate in 2018. 

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Crime rate per 1,000
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Law enforcement per 1,000

Bozeman is Montana’s safest city by a considerable margin. The city, which is home to Montana State University, is the sole city in the state to record violent and property crime rates below national levels in both categories in 2018. Bozeman’s 2.16 per 1,000 violent crime rate is impressive considering its size, and the fact that it is a major university city, which typically produces an uptick in crime.

The 2nd safest city in Montana is Kalispell, a city of 23,700 that serves as the gateway to the expansive Glacier National Park. Kalispell is an issue with property crime–it’s rate is nearly 30% higher than the national level–yet the city is one of two Montana cities to record a violent crime rate below the national rate.

There’s a significant increase in crime between the two safest cities in Montana, and the rest of the state’s cities: #3 Helena’s 6.14 per 1,000 violent crime rate is considerably higher than the national rate, and its property crime is double national levels. However, the city has the highest ratio of law enforcement-to-residents at 2.41 per 1,000, which should serve as comfort to some.

The final two cities in Montana’s top 5, #4 Missoula and #5 Billings, logged very similar crime rates in 2018: their property crime rates are almost identical (and over twice the national rate), while Billing’s violent crime rate of 5.42 is about 20% higher than Missoula’s.

Montana’s Safest Cities

MTCityPopulationViolent
crime
Property
crime
Law enforcement
employees
Total crimesCrime rate per 1,000Violent crimes per 1,000Property crimes per 1,000Law enforcement per 1,000
1Bozeman481011048856898920.562.1618.401.41
2Kalispell23700726755174731.523.0428.482.15
3Helena31898196169477189059.256.1453.112.41
4Missoula743003333521128385451.874.4847.391.72
5Billings1103975985276185587453.215.4247.791.68

Methodology

To identify the safest cities, we reviewed the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics. We eliminated any cities that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI and cities with populations under 10,000. This left 3,381 cities (out of a total of 9,251). 

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 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 normalized.

Data from 2,831 law enforcement agencies was then collected to determine police adequacy (TotalCrimes / Number of police employees).  We consider that the smaller the police adequacy statistic is, the safer the city is. This variable was also transformed and normalized.

Finally, the two variables were combined to create a safety score for each city.