While West Virginia lags behind much of the U.S. economically, the state boasts impressive violent and property crime rates below the national average in both categories. Much of the credit for this can be attributed to the state’s five safest cities.
West Virginia’s safest city is Weirton, a city of 18.5K straddling the counties of Brooke and Hancock in the Northern Panhandle region of the state. Weirton recorded just 9 violent crimes in 2018, which adds up to a violent crime rate of 0.49 per 1K that is significantly below the U.S. average, as well as those of all other West Virginia communities.
Ranking #2 is Fairmont, a city of 18.5K beautifully positioned along the Monongahela River in Marion County. Though the city’s crime figures do not compare with those of Weirton’s, Fairmont’s violent and property crime rates are nevertheless below the national averages.
The 3rd safest city in West Virginia is Morgantown, which is also located alongside the Monongahela River near #2 Fairmont. Home to West Virginia University, Morgantown has one of the best reputations of any city in the state for its academics, art & culture scene, and athletics, in addition to a respectively low crime rate.
Coming in at #4 is St. Albans, a small city of around 10,000 located at the confluence of the Kanawha and Coal rivers. St. Albans boasts the second lowest violent crime rate of any city in West Virginia, with 1.87 per 1K.
#5 Martinsburg, the county seat of Berkeley County, is marred by a higher-than-average property crime rate, yet its violent crime rate is comfortably below the national average.
West Virginia’s Safest Cities
WV City Population Violent
Total crimes Crime rate per 1,000 Violent crimes per 1,000 Property crimes per 1,000 Law enforcement per 1,000
1 Weirton 18,542 9 166 37 175 9.44 0.49 8.95 2.00
2 Fairmont 18,430 63 261 43 324 17.58 3.42 14.16 2.33
3 Morgantown 30,855 82 500 83 582 18.86 2.66 16.20 2.69
4 St. Albans 10,161 19 187 29 206 20.27 1.87 18.40 2.85
5 Martinsburg 17,428 55 540 60 595 34.14 3.16 30.98 3.44
6 Vienna 10,306 23 351 24 374 36.29 2.23 34.06 2.33
7 South Charleston 12,357 47 577 47 624 50.50 3.80 46.69 3.80
8 Beckley 16,234 147 836 69 983 60.55 9.06 51.50 4.25
9 Charleston 47,470 331 2853 187 3184 67.07 6.97 60.10 3.94
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.