Home to one of the nation's most-cherished memorials, horizon-spanning plains, and the storied town of Deadwood, The Mount Rushmore State (its official nickname) remains to this day a personification of the American frontier. While South Dakota is the 17th largest state in the union, it's also the 5th-least populated, allowing visitors to experience its boundless natural beauty in the form of roaming buffalo and stunning national parks, including the Badlands and the Black Hills. Also awaiting to be experienced are the grandiose Crazy Horse Memorial, which hopes to become the world's largest sculpture upon completion, and the charming city of Sioux Falls, which sits on the 400-mile-long Big Sioux River and remains one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

28,614 avg population
3 violent crime rate per 1,000 people
24 property crime rate per 1,000 people

Safety has always been an important factor when searching for a new place to call home, but a wavering political system combined with an increase in violent crime has made safety the number one priority for many Americans. Because navigating through crime statistics can be a difficult and time-consuming process, we’ve done it for you.


As the safest city in South Dakota, Madison is home to a close-knit community of 7,282 people. You won't catch any riffraff getting into shenanigans around here, since the violent crime rate is about three times lower than the state average at 1.1 instances per 1,000 people. The property crime rate also remains about three times lower than the state average, at 8.51 per 1,000 people. When locals aren't spending their time avoiding getting into trouble, you can probably catch them cheering on their squad at a Dakota State University game.

7,282 Population
8 Violent Crimes
62 Property Crimes


One of the safest cities in the state, Belle Fourche also has the distinction of being located near the geographic center of the 50 United States. Perched on northern slopes of the famous Black Hills, the city of 5,733 residents is a regional trade center that receives travelers from adjacent Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota. It's also plenty safe, registering only 9 violent crimes and 57 property crimes per year.

5,733 Population
9 Violent Crimes
57 Property Crimes


With a population of 22,056 residents, Brookings may not be a huge metropolitan hub, yet it remains the fourth-largest city in the beautiful state of South Dakota. Locals can tell you it's a safe place to live, since it only experiences 1.06 instances of violent crime per 1,000 people, in addition to a low rate of property crime (16.68 per 1,000 people). Residents enjoy cheering on the Brookings Blizzard North American Hockey League team, as well as teams from the city's South Dakota State University. In the summer, the Brookings Summer Arts Festival is a great place to let loose.

23,501 Population
25 Violent Crimes
392 Property Crimes


Home to the Ellsworth Air Force base, Box Elder is one of the safest cities in the state. Also known as the Gateway to the Black Hills, the city is centrally located between the Badlands and Black Hills National Parks, and also boasts a relatively young population of 9,614. Residents can feel as safe as a deposit box in a bank vault here, since there are only 12.9 instances of property crime per 1,000 people, and only 28 violent crimes per year.

9,614 Population
28 Violent Crimes
124 Property Crimes


Located in southeast South Dakota near the Nebraska border, Vermillion is a city of 10,732 that's perched atop a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. It's also the state's major academic hub, boasting the University of South Dakota, as well as the state's only medical and law schools. Yeah, it's kind of a big deal, but it's also very safe, experiencing only 22 violent crimes per year and 21.52 property crimes per 1,000 people annually. Locals rave about the National Music Museum, which contains more than 15,000 instruments.

10,732 Population
22 Violent Crimes
231 Property Crimes

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The Top 15 Safest Cities in South Dakota, 2017

1. Madison

11. Watertown

2. Belle Fourche

12. Sioux Falls

3. Brookings

13. Mitchell

4. Box Elder

14. Pierre

5. Vermillion

15. Rapid City

6. Aberdeen

7. Spearfish

8. Sturgis

9. Yankton

10. Huron


To identify the safest cities in South Dakota, we reviewed the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics along with our own population data and internal research. We eliminated any cities that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI and removed cities with populations under 5,000. Note that our use of the word "cities" is versatile, refers to populations of 5,000 and over, and thus includes places with the words "town" and "township."

The remaining cities were ranked based on the number of reported violent crimes (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) and property crimes (burglary, arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft) per 100,000 people. These variables were then weighted, with violent crimes accounting for 70% of the total (due to their severity) and property crimes accounting for 30%. Finally, we moved the decimal point over a few spots to show rates per 1,000 people.

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