By Steve Dinnen from the Christian Science Monitor
My neighbor recently returned from a family vacation to Billings, Montana. He pronounced it "relaxing and safe." Well, he’s from Montana, so that’s more or less to be expected. But the FBI backs him up on the safety issue, as it ranks Billings as one of the safest cities in the nation when it comes to violent crime.
If you’re looking for trouble, you won’t have many problems finding it. But if you’d rather not risk letting a mugging or carjacking ruin a perfectly good summer vacation, there are plenty of places to vacation this summer.
While Billings is hard to beat in the violent crime category, Honolulu is not far behind it (and sorry, Billings, but Hawaii’s capitol city is leagues ahead as a tourism draw). Also ranked on the safe side – according to the FBI’s 2010 Survey of Metropolitan Statistical Areas – is Austin, Texas, home to a great music scene. Then there is Columbus, Ohio, which joins Dallas, Denver, and Omaha as cities with relatively low violent crime numbers.
Crime is more than just violence; it also takes in non-violent offense such as burglaries and car thefts. In this arena, Pittsburgh scores relatively well, as do Boston and New York. In fact, the overall crime rate in all three of these big cities scores rather well.
Of course, these statistics are just for cities, while millions of us opt for resort areas like the Carolina beaches, the Black Hills of South Dakota, or Yellowstone. No word on crime rates in those places, but it’s safe to say they’re lower than, say, Memphis or Detroit.
Another thing a traveler should heed is traffic safety. Allstate Insurance publishes an annual ranking of the two hundred cities with the best drivers, i.e., lowest accident rates. Large cities didn’t fare well here: New York at 171 out of 200, Los Angeles at 182, and Philadelphia at 188. For safe driving, you’ll want to head to smaller cities, as the best in that category according to Allstate includes Lincoln, Nebraska, and Boise, Idaho.
A cautionary word about these rankings is in order. The absolute safest city traffic-wise in 2011 is Fort Collins, Colorado. Sure, you could go there and drive around and around all day, but then what? Drive around some more? And Forbes Magazine recently ran a story on its list of safest cities and named Plano, Texas, as "best in class." Is that what you want to do? Drive to Dallas and then go hang out in one of its suburbs?
Personally, I’ve been to the Big Apple a dozen times in the past few years and have never once had or even witnessed a crime problem. I travel by subway at hours when a heavy passenger count makes for a relatively safe journey. I don’t walk down unlighted streets or venture into what are known to be the "seedier" parts of town. Common sense and an awareness of your surroundings can go a long way toward making just about any city safe.
For more information on safe traveling, check out these websites:
FBI Uniform Crime reports 2010 by MSA"