Safest Cities in South Dakota – 2021

Last Updated on December 24, 2020

South Dakota has violent crime slightly above national levels, averaging around 4 offenses per 1,000, compared to the U.S. rate of 3.7 per 1,000. However, the good news is that violent crime dropped in the state for the first time in half a decade in 2018. With one exception, South Dakota’s five safest cities all have violent crime levels below state and national levels.

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

Brandon is the safest city in South Dakota, as well as the wealthiest. Though Brandon’s population is just over 10K, the city is the largest suburb of Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city. With a violent crime rate of 1.09 per 1,000, and a property crime rate less-than-half of those of every other municipality in the state, Brandon easily earns its title.

The second safest city in South Dakota is Brookings, the state’s 4th largest with a population of over 24,000. Home to South Dakota State University, Brookings is a family friendly community, boasting a violent crime rate of under 2 per 1,000 and a property crime rate of about half of nationwide levels. 

#3 Watertown is similar in size to Brookings, and is one of the most wealthy communities in the state. Compared to the first two cities in the ranking, Watertown’s crime rates aren’t quite as impressive, though its 3 violent offenses per 1,000 is still below state and national levels.

Huron is 4th on the list. The county seat of Beadle County is home to the annual South Dakota State Fair and “The World’s Largest Pheasant” statue. Though Huron’s violent crime rate is above the state average, the city balances it with a low rate of property crime and a solid law enforcement-to-residents ratio of 2.05 per 1,000.

The strikingly named city of Vermillion rounds out the list of South Dakota’s top 5 safest cities, logging violent and property crime rates significantly below national levels.

South Dakota’s Safest Cities

Law enforcement
Total crimesCrime rate per 1,000Violent crimes per 1,000Property crimes per 1,000Law enforcement per 1,000
9Rapid City752904922194165268635.686.5329.142.19
10Sioux Falls1803357885288293607633.694.3729.321.62


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.