If you’re retired and thinking about relocating, one of your first concerns about a prospective new neighborhood is the crime rate. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to crime, especially burglary, so it’s important to pay attention to this consideration. No matter how many advantages a destination may have to offer, if you’re constantly on the lookout for your personal safety, your quality of life will suffer accordingly.
That said, measuring crime rates is an inexact science. Various organizations compile statistics and derive comparative lists, often with differing results. No municipality wants to be near the top of such a list, and a crime-ridden city may try to skew the results.
FBI Stats-broad areas
Many measures of crime rate by city begin with statistics compiled by the F.B.I., particularly the “Uniform Crime Reports.” This program is a cooperative effort involving more than 18,000 local law enforcement agencies in the United States, who report data on crimes brought to their attention. There are four broad areas of data collection:
- offense and arrest data
- hate crimes statistics
- cargo theft reporting
- and a program reporting law enforcement officers killed in action
FBI Stats-specific areas
The specific crimes for which statistics are compiled include:
- violent crime
- murder and manslaughter
- forcible rape
- aggravated assault
- property crime
- motor vehicle theft
However, murder is the only statistic that all jurisdictions are required to report. With different jurisdictions possibly reporting only selected crimes, results cannot be 100 percent conclusive.
Most dangerous cities
Based on 2010 statistics, two Michigan cities come out near the top of most lists of dangerous cities: Detroit and Flint. High unemployment plays a role in the high crime rates of these two rust belt cities; the closure of several General Motors facilities in Flint in the early 1980s was the subject of Roger and Me, a documentary film by native son Michael Moore. Detroit has also suffered from population loss, leaving large parts of the city under populated. This has led to plummeting property values and, in turn, speculation, as investors have moved in and scooped up homes at bargain-basement prices. If you’re looking for extra retirement income with a large possible upside, have a nose for investing in properties, have the patience to be a landlord, and can find a safe neighborhood for your own home, Detroit may in fact be an attractive retirement destination regardless of the crime statistics.
St. Louis is another city that comes out near the top of recent high-crime cities. The city’s murder rate and rate of aggravated assault were third-worst in the United States; when combined with other statistics, St. Louis comes out number one on many lists of dangerous large U.S. cities. Crime in the suburb of East St. Louis, across the Mississippi River in Illinois, is even worse by some accounts. Likewise, crime in Camden, New Jersey, tops that of adjacent Philadelphia. This trend of crime moving to the suburbs is perhaps a reflection of the continuing development and gentrification of inner cities, forcing low-income families to the suburbs, where property is more affordable and taxes less burdensome.
New Haven has traditionally been one of the most violent cities on the eastern seaboard — a “tradition” the city would perhaps rather do away with! New Haven has several wealthy neighborhoods, and Yale University, one of the country’s most prestigious, is located in the center of the city. Nevertheless, the number of murders doubled from 2009 to 2010. The city’s police department is considering adding surveillance cameras at every intersection in more troubled neighborhoods.
A few northern California cities make most top-ten lists, namely Oakland and Stockton, only about 50 miles apart from each other. Stockton has an unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent (as of 2010), greatly contributing to crime in the city. In March 2010, Forbes Magazine rated Stockton as one of the most miserable cities in the United States in terms of quality of life, citing violent crime as a major determining factor. Oakland, meanwhile, has attempted to stem crime by keeping potential perpetrators off the streets, by initiating late-night basketball programs and other diversions. It is unclear whether these policies have had a positive effect.
Other cities cracking the top ten in many lists include Baltimore, Memphis, Little Rock, and Rockford, Illinois. Rockford, located at a sort of crossroads between Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, Wisconsin, blames drug traffickers as a major cause of crime in that city.