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What are the Safest Cities in California?

The safety of a city has ripple effects throughout your life. It affects where you go to school, work, and play—and how safe you feel getting around to all of those places.

The safety of a city also impacts your overall wellbeing. The less safe you feel, the more stressed out and worried you are—on both a conscious and unconscious level. This constant stress to your nervous system interferes with the quality of your sleep.

Without quality sleep, you’ll feel grumpier and less focused. This lowers your quality of life on a daily basis. In the long-term, chronic sleep deprivation can put you at increased risk for serious health conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

As you can see, the safety of your city is a big deal. At Tuck, we understand how your sense of safety impacts your sleep, and we’re here to help people sleep better. That’s why we set out to find the safest cities in America.

We didn’t stop there. Since it’s the most populous state in the nation (Texas is behind by a neat 11 million), we felt California deserved special attention. And whether you’re moving to California or already live there, you deserve to know how safe your city of residence is.

Relying on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the FBI, we found the five safest and least safe cities in California. Read on to learn how we selected our cities and see where your city stacks up.

Safest Cities in California Least Safe Cities in California
  1. San Ramon
  2. Thousand Oaks
  3. Irvine
  4. Sunnyvale
  5. Glendale
  1. Oakland
  2. Vallejo
  3. San Francisco
  4. San Bernardino
  5. Modesto

Methodology: Choosing our Cities

For an official list of California cities, we looked to the United States Census Bureau. The U.S. Census is performed every ten years. In the interim, the Bureau provides population estimates for each year. We referenced their 2017 Population Estimation for California, and narrowed our list to cities with a population of 20,000 or more.

Then, we sourced the crime rates for each of those cities, using the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program data for 2016. While the FBI has released some data for the first half of 2017, we elected to use the 2016 report since it is the most recent, comprehensive report covering an entire year.

The FBI’s UCR is based on data that is voluntarily submitted by 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the U.S. If a California city didn’t submit information to the UCR, we removed that city from our list.

Our final list came to 57 cities in total. We ranked these according to their crime rate.

Methodology: How We Ranked the Safest Cities in California

The FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) provides crime rates for several types of crimes. We calculated the number of crimes committed per 10K residents for each of the below categories of crime:

  • Violent crime, which includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault
  • Property crime, which includes burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson
  • Burglary crime, which includes any unlawful entry into a structure to commit a felony or theft

While the FBI classifies burglary as a sub-type of property crime, we felt it was important to analyze on its own. Burglary occurs in the home, where we sleep, and how safe we feel in our own home significantly colors our overall sense of safety.

Based on these crime rates, we determined the safest and least safe cities in California.

Crime in California

The good news is that both violent and property crimes in the Golden State are at historic lows.

violent crime in california

The bad news is that they’re still above the national average. California’s property crime and burglary rates are slightly above the national average, while California’s violent crime rate is nearly 15% higher than the national average. However, California’s homicide rate is slightly below the national average.

Type of Crime California Crime Rate (per 100K residents) National Crime Rate (per 100K residents)
Property Crime 2,544.5 2,450.7
Burglary 478.1 468.9
Violent Crime 443.9 386.3
Murder 4.9 5.3

*Crime rates provided by the California Office of the Attorney General and the FBI UCR.

The Top 5 Safest Cities in California

Below we reveal our rankings for the top five safest cities in California. All five of these cities boast the lowest rates of violent crime, property crime, and burglary in the Golden State. These are all decently sized cities, too, ranging in population from 75,000 to nearly 300,000.

If you’re lucky enough to call one of these California cities home, you can sleep easy at night, knowing you live somewhere safe. Read on to discover why these cities are the safest places to live in California.

1. San Ramon

  • san ramonPopulation: 75,931
  • Lowest violent crime rate: 5.1 per 10K residents
  • Lowest property crime rate: 107.02 per 10K residents
  • Lowest burglary rate: 18.21 per 10K residents

San Ramon is the safest city in California. This Northern California city of 75,931 has the lowest crime rate across all three categories.

San Ramon’s violent crime rate is only 5.1 per 10K residents, which is nearly 9 times less than the state average. Property crime rate is also low here, at only 107.02 per 10K residents, which is less than half the state average. Burglaries are even more rare, occurring at a rate of 18.21 per 10K residents, which is over 2.5 times below the state average.

In addition to its safety, the city of San Ramon has also received awards as one of the best places to live—not just in California, but in the entire country. The city has a suburban feel, with lots of parks, top-rated schools, and a low unemployment rate, thanks to its proximity to the Bay Area. The town continues to invest in itself, with a brand new downtown city center about to open.

2. Thousand Oaks

  • Population: 128,995
  • 10th lowest violent crime rate: 12.63 per 10K residents
  • 2nd lowest property crime rate: 129.84 per 10K residents
  • 2nd lowest burglary rate: 20.95 per 10K residents

Located just north of Los Angeles, the Southern California town of Thousand Oaks is called sleepy, and for good reason. This city of 128,995 has some of the lowest crime rates in the state.

Thousand Oaks has the second lowest property and burglary crime rates in California, at 129.84 and 20.95 per 10K residents, respectively. Both of these are both well below half the state and national averages. The violent crime rate here is the tenth lowest in the state, at 12.63 per 10K residents.

The city relies on a strong community-police relationship, with several safety programs that are volunteer-run to improve the safety of streets near school and reduce incidents of speeding.

Sadly, Thousand Oaks was the victim of a high profile mass shooting in fall of 2018, so we will likely see that have an effect on its crime rates in upcoming years.  

3. Irvine

  • irvine caPopulation: 277,453
  • 2nd lowest violent crime rate: 5.7 per 10K residents
  • 4th lowest property crime rate: 140.14 per 10K residents
  • 3rd lowest burglary rate: 24 per 10K residents

Not only is Irvine one of the safest cities in California, it’s one of the safest cities in the entire country. The city of 266,663 has the second lowest violent crime rate in California, at 5.7 per 10K residents, which is just slightly higher than our #1 pick of San Ramon.

Irvine’s property crime rate is the fourth lowest in the state, at 140.14 per 10K resident. This Orange County city also has the third lowest burglary rate, at 24 per 10K residents, just over the state’s average.

Irvine has enjoyed its safest city ranking since the early 2000s, which local university professors attribute to its wealth and highly-educated population. The average household income here is $97.5K  and over two-thirds of residents are college graduates. As studies show, wealth (or lack of it) is also correlated to the quality of your sleep.

4. Sunnyvale

  • sunnyvalePopulation: 153,656
  • 4th lowest violent crime rate: 10.25 per 10K residents
  • 3rd lowest property crime rate: 139 per 10K residents
  • Lower burglary rate: 33.74 per 10K residents

Life is sunny in Sunnyvale, and not just because it enjoys 260 days of sunshine each year. Sunnyvale residents also enjoy low crime rates. Sunnyvale holds the fourth lowest violent crime rate in California, at 10.25 per 10K residents, which is over 4 times below the state average.

This Bay Area city of 153,656 also has the third lowest property crime rate in California, at 139 per 10K residents. That’s well below half the state and national averages. Burglaries are relatively rare in Sunnyvale, too, at a rate of 33.74 per 10K residents.

Sunnyvale has a unique approach to public safety, wherein officers are cross-trained in police, fire, and emergency medical services. The city also supports the community through a large number of volunteer-run crime prevention programs.

5. Glendale

  • glendalePopulation: 203,054
  • 6th lowest violent crime rate: 11.19 per 10K residents
  • 5th lowest property crime rate: 170 per 10K residents
  • 9th lowest burglary rate: 29.37 per 10K residents

Rounding out our list of the safest California cities is Glendale. Nestled between Los Angeles and the San Gabriel mountains, Glendale’s population of 203,054 enjoys beautiful scenery and low crime rates.

This Southern California city has the sixth lowest violent crime rate in the state, at 11.19 per 10K residents. That’s four times below the state average.

As the fifth lowest in the state, property crime here is well below the state average here, too, at 170 per 10K residents. Glendale’s burglary rate is the ninth lowest in the state, at 29.37 per 10K residents.

Glendale attributes its high safety ranking to the responsiveness of their police department, their focus on crime prevention education, and a “Community First” approach to policing. To further reduce property crime, the city has a Business Watch program in addition to Neighborhood Watch.

The 5 Least Safe Cities in California

Below we reveal the cities at the bottom of our list. With the highest rates of violent, property, and burglary crime in California, these cities represent the state’s least safest places to live.

With such high crime rates, some of these cities, such as Oakland, are also some of the most dangerous cities in the country. Read on to learn more about these cities and understand why they’re the most dangerous cities in California.

1. Oakland

  • oakland caPopulation: 425,195
  • Highest violent crime rate: 143 per 10K residents
  • Highest property crime rate: 564 per 10K residents
  • 9th highest burglary rate: 68.24 per 10K residents

With the highest rates of both violent crime and property crime in California, Oakland is the least safe city in California, and one of the least safe in America.

At 564 property crimes per 10K residents, Oakland’s property crime rate is more than double the state and national averages. The burglary rate in Oakland is the ninth highest in the state, at 68.24 per 10K residents. The violent crime rate in Oakland, at 143 per 10K residents, is over three times higher the state and national averages.

However, the city is making efforts to reduce crime, and early data show those efforts are paying off. Oakland’s Ceasefire program aims to prevent gun violence, and 2017’s murder rate was the lowest it’s been in over 30 years.

2. Vallejo

  • vallejoPopulation: 122,105
  • 5th highest violent crime rate: 86 per 10K residents
  • 10th highest property crime rate: 393 per 10K residents
  • Highest burglary rate: 193.47

North of San Francisco, Vallejo is home to 122,105, and the highest burglary rate in California. The burglary rate here is 193.47, which is over 4 times the state and national averages. It’s also 78% higher than the city with the next highest burglary rate, which is San Bernardino.

At 393 per 10K residents, Vallejo’s property crime rate is the tenth highest in the state, and over 50% higher than the state average. Vallejo also has the fifth highest violent crime rate in California, at 86 per 10K residents.

Vallejo is another city that suffered from the 2008 recession, with a rising homeless population. Nearly 17% of its residents live below the poverty level. However, recent years have seen some revitalization in the city, as people are taking advantage of the cheap real estate and building new businesses.

3. San Francisco

  • san franciscoPopulation: 884,363
  • 9th highest violent crime rate: 71 per 10K residents
  • 2nd highest property crime rate: 544 per 10K residents
  • 3rd highest burglary rate: 102.62 per 10K residents

As a rich, prospering city, it may surprise some to find San Francisco on our list of the least safe cities in California. However, this city of 884,363 is also a major tourist destination, which can make it attractive for criminals (a trend we saw with our ranking of the safest cities in Florida).

San Francisco holds the ninth highest violent crime rate in California, at 71 per 10K residents, nearly double the state average. Golden Gate City has the second highest property crime rate, at 544 per 10K residents, and the third highest burglary rate, at 102.62 per 10K residents. Both of these are roughly double the state average.

While property crime has been declining nationally, it’s risen in San Francisco in recent years across the board: for burglaries, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. City officials are working to eliminate legislative obstacles that make it difficult for them to prosecute property crimes.

4. San Bernardino

  • san bernardinoPopulation: 216,995
  • 3rd highest violent crime rate: 132 per 10K residents
  • 7th highest property crime rate: 422 per 10K residents
  • 2nd highest burglary rate: 108.28 per 10K residents

With a population of 216,995, San Bernardino ranks fourth on our list of the least safe cities in California. This Inland Empire city, just east of Los Angeles, holds the state’s third highest violent crime rate, at 132 per 10K residents. That’s nearly three times above the state average.

Burglaries are common in San Bernardino. The city holds the state’s second highest burglary rate, at 108.28 per 10K residents, and the seventh highest property crime rate, at 422 per 10K residents.

Just under 20% of San Bernardino’s residents live below the poverty level. The city itself filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and the economy hasn’t quite recovered from the 2008 recession, resulting in a growing homeless population and cuts to services like law enforcement. Unfortunately, poorer cities tend to be less safe.

Last year, San Bernardino police launched a new program, modeled after the ones used in cities like Oakland, to reduce gun violence and foster better relationships with at-risk segments of the community.

5. Modesto

  • modestoPopulation: 214,221
  • 4th highest violent crime rate: 99 per 10K residents
  • 5th highest property crime rate: 438 per 10K residents
  • 10th highest burglary rate: 66.75 per 10K residents

Located in California’s Central Valley, Modesto rounds out our list of the most dangerous cities in California. The county seat of Stanislaus County has a population of 214,221 and relatively high crime rates for a city of its size.

Modesto has the fourth highest violent crime rate, at 99 per 10K residents, which is more than double the state and national averages. The city has the fifth highest property crime rate, at 438 per 10K residents, and the tenth highest burglary rate, at 66.75 per 10K residents.

Like many unsafe cities, Modesto has a high amount of people suffering from poverty and unemployment. Over 18% of residents live below the poverty level. The unemployment rate in Modesto is currently above 5%, a full percentage point higher than the state average.

The Safest Cities in California, Ranked

Now that you know the top five safe and least safe cities in California, you may be wondering how your own city stacks up when it comes to safety. See where your city ranks by viewing our full rankings below.

To compare your city’s crime rates, here’s a reminder of the state and national averages for each type of crime:

  • Violent crime: 44.4 per 10K residents in California and 38.63 for the U.S.
  • Property crime: 254.5 per 10K residents in California and 245.1 for the U.S.
  • Burglary: 47.8 per 10K residents in California and 46.9 for the U.S.

If your city wasn’t large enough to be included in our list, you can still view your crime rates in the FBI’s UCR.

Rank City 2017 USCB Population Estimate Violent Crimes per 10K residents Property Crimes per 10K residents Burglaries per 10K residents
1 San Ramon 75,931 5.1 107.02 18.21
2 Thousand Oaks 128,995 12.63 130 20.95
3 Irvine 277,453 5.7 140 24
4 Sunnyvale 153,656 10.25 139 33.74
5 Glendale 203,054 11.19 170 29.37
6 Redwood City 86,685 18.84 173 29.87
7 Folsom 78,038 9.84 179 34.18
8 Orange 140,560 16.07 184 32.71
9 Pleasanton 83,007 12.28 197 25.53
10 Santa Rosa 175,269 37.31 171 29.25
11 Carlsbad 115,330 18.17 190 32.08
12 Santa Clara 127,134 12.4 220 28.24
13 Milpitas 78,106 12 224 25.25
14 Tustin 80,498 14.7 221 28.05
15 Torrance 146,758 17.31 216 30.72
16 Mountain View 81,438 16.15 217 34.26
17 Temecula 114,327 12.68 226 29.81
18 San Diego 1,419,516 38 203 33.56
19 Corona 167,836 11.11 222 44.49
20 Napa 79,774 36.49 195 53.87
21 Santa Ana 334,136 48 207 33.16
22 Roseville 135,329 15.11 250 29.65
23 San Jose 1,035,317 37 238 40.89
24 Newport Beach 86,160 12.57 256 49.95
25 Chino 89,797 23.77 247 50.41
26 Fairfield 116,266 41.56 248 36.67
27 Pasadena 142,647 33.29 240 60.09
28 Burbank 104,834 20 277 37.08
29 Santa Maria 107,014 47.65 248 49.06
30 Anaheim 352,497 34 272 41.55
31 Los Angeles 3,999,759 72 247 39.47
32 Ontario 175,841 34.88 273 51.27
33 Carson 92,735 53.95 259 46.9
34 Hayward 160,500 39.16 288 43.88
35 Oxnard 210,037 45.35 291 46.78
36 Salinas 157,596 63 299 43.78
37 Santa Barbara 92,101 42.91 331 46.8
38 Long Beach 469,450 60 299 62.71
39 Victorville 122,441 60.6 286 77.2
40 Visalia 133,010 36.59 320 76.08
41 Sacramento 501,901 72 308 61.96
42 Chico 93,293 32.15 361 54.76
43 Riverside 327,728 53 346 60.66
44 Merced 83,081 58.84 334 67.14
45 San Leandro 90,553 53 384 54.32
46 Costa Mesa 113,825 36.2 405 64.58
47 Fresno 527,438 61 391 70.45
48 Santa Monica 92,306 50.57 430 66.33
49 Berkeley 122,324 49.08 442 65.63
50 Redding 91,794 78.33 417 77.24
51 Stockton 310,496 142 377 73
52 Bakersfield 380,874 48 452 102.62
53 Modesto 214,221 99 438 66.75
54 San Bernardino 216,995 132 422 108.28
55 San Francisco 884,363 71 544 57.14
56 Vallejo 122,105 86 393 193.47
57 Oakland 425,195 143 564 68.24

Conclusion

The rankings above represent the top five safe and least safe cities in California, according to the FBI’s 2016 Uniform Crime Report for violent crime, property crime, and burglaries. On the whole, California is less safe than other states, with nearly a 15% higher violent crime rate and nearly a 4% higher property crime rate than the national averages.

However, there are many places in California that are very safe, not just when compared to the Golden State but compared to the rest of the country. Cities like San Ramon, Irvine, and Sunnyvale have thriving economies, engaged law enforcement, and access to employment opportunities both within their city limits and nearby.

By contrast, with the exception of San Francisco, many of California’s more dangerous cities are still reeling with homelessness and unemployment from the Great Recession that’s made their cities less safe.

The good news is that cities on both of our rankings—the safest and the least safe cities in California—are working to reduce crime rates and make life safer for their residents.

Now that you’re aware of the safest cities in California, learn about the safest cities in the rest of the country at the links below. You can also compare our safe city rankings to the best and worst cities for sleep.

Additional Resources

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