Above the lawlessness

New study salutes Austin as one of the safest big cities in the U.S.

New study salutes Austin as one of the safest big cities in the U.S.

Downtown Austin Sixth Street and Congress Avenue
Austin is one of the safest large cities in the country. dszc/Getty Images

Outraged by the Austin City Council’s decision in August to “defund the police,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott repeatedly blasts the Capital City and threatens reprisals. In making their case, Abbott and other critics point to an uptick in certain crimes this year versus last year, such as a 55 percent rise in murders through November and a 32 percent spike in car thefts.

In response, supporters of this summer's cut in police funding continue to hail Austin as one of the safest big cities in the country. They point to year-over-year drops in crimes like rape, shoplifting, and drug violations, and note that the city's fiscal year actually begins in October, meaning most of the crime numbers Abbott refers to are from before the cuts. 

A new study, published December 15 by the MoneyGeek website, bolsters this claim. The report finds Austin is the ninth safest largest U.S. city (with at least 300,000 residents). Other Texas cities in the top 15 are El Paso (No. 12) and Arlington (No. 13). At No. 1 is Raleigh, North Carolina.

For its study, MoneyGeek analyzed crime data for 303 cities with a population of at least 100,000. The website then calculated each city’s cost of crime and ranked the cities based on the cost of crime per capita.

In Austin, MoneyGeek computed the cost of crime per capita at $1,052. That figure is $1,167 for El Paso and $1,234 for Arlington. The cost of crime per capita in top-ranked Raleigh is $531.

“There’s an ongoing stereotype that larger cities are more dangerous. While no larger cities … made the overall safest list, fewer than half of the 15 least-safe cities in the U.S. were large cities,” MoneyGeek says. “Four of the cities that are least safe also rank in the top 15 best cities to buy a home during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that even cities that are not among the safest places to live can be attractive markets for homeowners.”

Overall, Arlington, Virginia, ranks as the safest city in the MoneyGeek study. Its cost of crime per capita is $132. Two Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs — Allen and Frisco — also appear on MoneyGeek’s list of the 20 safest U.S. cities. Allen ranks third, with a cost of crime per capita of $176. The cost of crime in seventh-place Frisco comes to $237.

Among other major cities in Texas:

  • San Antonio shows up at No. 215, with a cost of crime per capita of $1,909.
  • Houston appears at No. 252, with a cost of crime per capita of $2,616.
  • Dallas comes in at No. 257, with a cost of crime per capita of $2,682.

In last place, at No. 303, is what MoneyGeek characterizes as the country’s most dangerous city — St. Louis. The cost of crime per capita there totals $9,334.

A number of monetary factors contributed to MoneyGeek’s rankings, such as medical and mental health care for victims, damage to property, police and jail costs, home values, and auto insurance premiums.

“Despite progress overall, crime still impacts America’s communities. Crime and safety are intertwined with prosperity, income, and economic opportunity. Crime is costly to individual victims, perpetrators, communities, and society at large,” MoneyGeek says.