Our Safest Cities in America were selected by looking at FBI crime stats for cities with a population of 100,000 or higher. We looked at the violent crime rate, the number of sex offenders per capita and the Institute for Economics & Peace's index, which examines "the absence of violence" across the U.S., including factors such as availability of small arms and the presence of police.
We start our list of the Safest Cities in the America in Michigan. You'll find Sterling Heights just 25 miles north of The Motor City. Residents enjoy a peaceful environment, unlike other cities of similar size in the state, according to the peace index from the Institute for Economics & Peace. Michigan only ranks 29 out of the 50 U.S. states. Sterling Heights scored above average when it comes to low numbers of violent crime and sex offenders per capita.
Don't forget to check out our list of "Top 10 Best Cities for Families 2014."
Even through Surprise has recently experienced rapid growth, it manages to score and place well on our list of safest cities. Its Census population jumped from 30,848 in 2000 to 117,517 in 2010. While Arizona is much lower on the peace scale than Michigan (ranking 46, as opposed to Michigan's 29), it has a lower ratio on sex offenders per capita and crimes, especially violent crimes.
And remember to check out our list of "10 Best Cities for Education 2014."
Naperville is one of Chicago's many suburbs, but it scored impressively in terms of violent and property crimes per capita, which is the first drop down in numbers on the list. The city's number of sex offenders per capita is lower than many places but is higher than that of our top picks. And even though it has a higher number of sex offenders per capita than Surprise, Ariz., Naperville places higher than Surprise on our list because it rates better with our other criteria, including the peace index. It ranks 35 as opposed to Arizona's 46.
We're back in Arizona for this pick. Although Gilbert and our No. 6 city share close numbers of violent and property crimes per capita, Gilbert sits at No. 7 because of its higher number of sex offenders per capita and Arizona's low ranking on the peace index compared to New York: Arizona: 46; New York: 31.
You'll find Amherst about 10 miles northeast of Buffalo. The city is almost completely tied with our No. 5 pick. They share approximately the same number of property crimes per capita and the states sit next to each other on the peace index (New York: 31; California: 32). However, Amherst has a slightly higher number of violent crimes per capita, pushing it just outside of our Top 5.
Irvine, a suburban city in Orange County, barely beat out Amherst and was barely outranked by our No. 4 pick. While it has fewer violent and property crimes per capita than the next location, it's also located in a state with a slightly lower ranking on the peace index (California: 32; New Jersey: 28). And Irvine has a considerably higher number of sex offenders than our No. 4 city.
Woodbridge Township sits just across the river from Staten Island, N.Y. In this New Jersey city, we find the first notable drop in the number of sex offenders per capita. Woodbridge Township sits between two California cities on our list. All three are home to low violent and property crimes per capita and share similar rankings on the peace index: New Jersey: 28; California: 32.
Santa Clarita, the third largest city in Los Angeles County, beat out Woodbridge Township for the No. 3 spot with its slightly lower number of sex offenders per capita. The cities are nearly identical in their number of crimes per capita, and the states sit closely on the peace index: California: 32; New Jersey: 28.
Just barely missing out on the top spot in our list is Port St. Lucie. It's slightly higher number of violent crimes per capita and Florida's lower ranking on the peace index compared to New Jersey (Florida: 47; New Jersey: 28), left Port St. Lucie settling for second place.
1. Edison, N.J.
Our pick for the safest city in America is Edison, N.J.! It has all-around low crime rates, fewer sex offenders per capita and New Jersey has a mid-level spot on the peace index, which makes for one safe and sound city in our book. It beat out Port St. Lucie, our No. 2 pick, with its slightly lower violent crime rates and New Jersey's No. 28 ranking from the Institute for Economics & Peace index compared to Florida's No. 47 out of the 50 U.S. states.