[REPORT] Albuquerque, with One of Nation’s Lowest Rents, Has Highest Crime Rate

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Are expensive cities actually safer?

Everyone, renters and owners alike, is looking for something different in their neighborhoods. For example, some want proximity to work, quiet streets, and convenient highway access, and others want their home to be in a central location for entertainment and culture, public transportation, or shopping. But everyone shares one common goal: safety. Everyone wants to feel safe in their home or apartment.

Typically, areas with higher incidence of crime are associated with lower rents, while more affluent and expensive areas are considered “safer.” But this made us wonder — just how related are rent prices and crime rates? Are higher rents really a measure of safety? To find the answer for millions of renters everywhere, we studied crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most recent crime statistics and compared them with our 2017 median one-bedroom rents for cities around the country.

What did we find? A very clear correlation.

Comparing Rent & Crime Statistics

To check for a correlation between rent and crime, we divided our list of cities into four categories, based on their median rent, and then we pulled in crime data for those cities.

MSAs with the Most and Least Property Crime

Across the board, violent and property crime rates drop as rents increase. For cities with average rents of less than $700, the property crime rate — which includes burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson — is the highest, at 3,137.3 reports per 100,000 people. Violent crimes — including rape, murder, robbery, and aggravated assault — are also at their highest in this low-rent category, at 533.3 reports per 100,000 people.

Bumping the average rent up to between $700 and $1,000 drops the property crime rate by nearly 4% and violent crime by nearly 13%. Looking at our highest price bracket, rents averaging $1,500 and up, property crime rates are nearly 23% lower than in areas with rents lower than $700, with 2,420.2 reports per 100,000 people. And violent crime drops even more dramatically, sinking 31% below the rates for the cheapest areas. In our most expensive rental markets, the violent crime rate is 366.4 reports per 100,000 residents.

Nationally, the property crime rate is 2,450.7 per 100,000 residents, and the violent crime rate is 386.3. Although property crimes have been steadily declining since 1997 (save for a slight jump in 2001), violent crime has a more complicated trend. The violent crime rate dropped about 37% since 1997, but has been back on the rise for the past two years. After a low of 361.6 violent crime reports per 100,000 residents in 2014, that figure climbed to 373.7 in 2015, and 386.3 in 2016.

The 2016 national figures mean that three out of four of the rental market categories we examined — all but the most expensive — have above-average crime rates.

Rent & Crime by State

As with any average, in some areas, the numbers are much higher or lower. If we look at statewide numbers for crime rate and rent, more interesting trends emerge.

For example, 10 of the 11 states with the lowest total crime rate are along the East Coast. New Hampshire has the lowest total crime rate (1,710.5) and the lowest property crime rate (1,512.9). Maine has the second-lowest total crime rate (1,769.5) and the lowest violent crime rate, which, at 123.8, is less than half of the national average.

State Trends in Rent and Crime

New Jersey, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Rhode Island are the other East Coast states filling out the safest states list. New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania also have relatively low rents, less than $1,200, making them excellent choices for renters. Maryland and Delaware are just about the only New England states with relatively high crime rates.

Idaho, as the only non-East Coast state in the top 10 safest, bucks all trends, with the low monthly rent of $602 and one of the lowest crime rates in the country, at just 1,974.

Another geographic trend emerges for the states with the highest crime rates: With one exception, all of the most “dangerous” states are in the South and Southwest. New Mexico has the highest crime rate in the country with 4,639.6 reports per 100,000 residents. New Mexico also earns a few more titles, as the state with the highest rate of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Further linking crime and low rent, New Mexico also has the country’s second-lowest rent, at $600 a month, and the country’s second-highest violent crime rate, at 702.5 reports per 100,000 residents.

New Mexico’s violent crime is second only to Alaska’s, where the there were 804.2 reports of violent crime for every 100,000 residents. With an overall crime rate of 4,157.2, the state also garnered the highest rate of rape and aggravated assault. Louisiana has the third-highest crime rate, at 3,863.8, and the highest rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter. Nevada, meanwhile, takes the cake for most robberies. Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Washington round out the 10 states with most crime.

MSAs with the Most & Least Property Crime

MSAs with the Most and Least Property Crime

Setting aside violent crime for the time being, let’s look closer at the areas of the country experiencing the highest rates of property crime — the most common category of crime and therefore the most likely to present a problem to renters.

Our top two areas with the most property crime mirror state trends: Albuquerque, NM, tops the list, with an average rent of $653 and a property crime rate of 5,288.7 per 100,000 residents — more than twice the national average. Albuquerque also has the nation’s highest rate of motor vehicle theft. Anchorage, AK, comes in second for property crime, with a rate of 4,950.6, and the highest rate of larceny-theft.

A number of the MSAs with the highest property crime rates also have some of the lowest rents in the country. Springfield, MO, for example, has the second-lowest rents in our study, and comes in at #6 for crime, with a rate of 4,236.4. Lubbock, TX ($580), and Tucson, AZ ($593), also have some of the lowest rents and most crime, coming in at #4 and #5, respectively. Lubbock also has the distinction of having the highest burglary rate: 954.3 reports per 100,000 residents.

Some of the highest rents in the country also landed top spots for lowest property crime rates. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA, had the highest average rent in 2017, and also had the lowest property crime rate, at 1,356.7. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH, and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, also have high rents and low crime.

A few Midwestern cities shine when it comes to low property crime. Two Wisconsin MSAs (Green Bay and Madison) and two Michigan areas (Grand Rapids-Wyoming and Ann Arbor) landed in the top 10 safest cities.

Although rent and crime typically have an inverse relationship, the trend is not always completely consistent. Seattle rents, for example, are anything but low, averaging $1,658 per month. Yet the city also had the ninth highest property crime rate in 2016. And El Paso, TX, and Green Bay, WI, each have low rents and low crime.

Safest & Least Safe Cities by Rent Price

Although rent prices are linked to crime rates, there are MSAs at both low and high price points that offer total crime rates lower than the national average. As we mentioned above, Green Bay, WI, and El Paso, TX, each offer low rents and low crime. That’s also true for Columbia, MO; Cleveland-Elyria, OH; Fargo, ND-MN; College Station-Bryan, TX; and three New York MSAs: Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls.

America's Safest MSAs by Median 1-Bedroom Rent

As we already know, some of the country’s most expensive places, such as New York and Washington D.C., also happen to have low crime rates. Alongside New York, Pennsylvania, and three California MSAs — San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, San Diego-Carlsbad, and Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade — a few expensive, safe MSAs break away from the coasts. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI; Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI; and Madison, WI, all represent the Midwest, and Boulder, CO, holds down the western U.S.

In some affordable cities, the low rents might not make up for the higher than average crime rates. We’ve covered the problems of Albuquerque, NM; Lubbock, TX; Springfield, MO; and Tucson, AZ, torn between low rents and some of the nation’s highest rates of burglary and motor vehicle theft. Renters in Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN; Evansville, IN-KY; Toledo, OH; Dayton, OH; Oklahoma City, OK; and Tulsa, OK, also face similar, bittersweet problems of affordable neighborhoods experiencing higher rates of crime.

America's Least Safe MSAs by Median 1-Bedroom Rent

The worst of both worlds — some of the highest total crime rates and highest rents — can be found in cities like Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN; Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA; Urban Honolulu, HI; Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA; and, of course, California’s Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward.

Conclusion

Our analysis of rent and crime data shows a heavy correlation between crime rates and average rent prices. However, correlation is not causation, meaning that rents could have sunk due to crime in the area, that crime could have followed low rents into the area, or that neither of these factors caused the other at all — they might merely coincide.

Furthermore, metro areas of all sizes have dynamic neighborhoods that each have their own distinct character, crime stats, and rental market.

Even with rent price as a quasi indicator of crime, if you’re considering moving into a new area, don’t let your monthly payments be your only guide. Instead, turn to local government resources, which often post online crime reports and maps, allowing you to home in on areas of particular concern.

For press inquiries, contact contact Sam Radbil.


Methodology

We used the 2016 FBI Uniform Crime Rating Statistics on property crime and violent crime rates as well as proprietary rental data to analyze the correlation between rent and Crime rates by metropolitan statistical area and by state. We restricted our analysis to the 83 MSAs included in both the FBI’s data and our published rental data.

To line up rent price and crime, we grouped the MSAs into rent categories based on their 2017 median one-bedroom rent prices and then calculated the total crime rate (property crime rate + violent crime rate) for each category.

To determine the safest and least safe cities by rent price, we categorized each MSA as “safe” or “less safe” based on whether their total crime rate was below or above the national total crime rate. Within these groups, we found the 10 most and least expensive MSAs by median one-bedroom rent.