The Safest Cities in California — And the Most Dangerous
California is known for its glamorous movie stars, its gigantic trees, its wine regions and its surfer culture. It is one of the most diverse states in America, both in terms of nature and demographics.
But it's not all sun and waves in the Golden State. If you're planning on visiting California — or better yet moving here — it's useful to know what areas of the state have the lowest and highest crime rates.
These are the safest and most dangerous cities in California.
Safest Cities in California
The five safest cities in California have two things in common: They all have a crime rate of less than 10 per 1,000 people, and they all have a population of fewer than 68,000. Most of these cities function as suburbs of Los Angeles, which is no surprise, given the massive amount of wealth accumulated in the city.
This corresponds with nationwide trends, which show that bigger cities are more prone to crime. If not worrying is important to you, head to these five Cali cities, ranked by safety stats.
*Rankings for both safest and most dangerous cities are based on Safewise's "Safest Cities in California" full report.
5. Yorba Linda
Violent crime rate: 0.5 (per 1,000 people)
Property crime rate: 8.7 (per 1,000 people)
Violent crime is extremely rare in this Orange County suburb that has golf courses, numerous parks and a museum dedicated to Richard Nixon. Yes, really.
Household income is over six figures here. Even though property crime is 8.7, that is very, very low in the grand scheme of things.
* Population stats are sourced from World Population Review.
4. Aliso Viejo
Violent crime rate: 0.5
Property crime rate: 7.6
Another O.C. city with very low crime rates, Aliso Viejo is close to Laguna Beach. Property crime here is 7.6, but both residents and travelers tend to feel at ease.
Well, at least those who can afford to live and vacation here.
Violent crime rate: 0.5
Property crime rate: 6.2
Moorpark is a small city north of Los Angeles. Residents here can enjoy numerous mountains and be near the sea without worrying about violent crime. Property crime is 6.2, which is still low, though it's higher than the top two safest cities.
With a median household income of more than $100,000, it's no surprise to see this L.A. suburb here.
2. Rancho Santa Margarita
Violent crime rate: 0.4
Property crime rate: 5.9
Though Rancho Santa Margarita has a lower violent crime rate than the No.1 safest city, its property crime rate is higher, which has delegated it to second place. This planned community in Orange County has a rich population that has the privilege of nearby golf courses, proximity to Los Angeles and a very low chance of anything bad happening.
Once again, it pays to be wealthy in California.
Violent crime rate: 0.5
Property crime rate: 5.3
With hills on both sides and a location about 30 miles east of San Francisco, Danville may just be the best place to live in California. Crime here is extremely rare, with the rate being 0.5 per 1,000 people. For property crime, the rate is 5.3, which is one of the lowest in the state.
The median income for this community is $167,827 per household — that's more than twice the national median household income of $64,994. Basically, this is one of the exclusive enclaves where the Bay Area's tech lords congregate to build communities reminiscent of Season 3 of "You."
Danville isn't really a place that people visit. But if you do venture out here, expect everything to be absurdly expensive. Hey, at least you won't have to worry about crime.
Most Dangerous Cities in California
Alas, not everyone can afford to live a peaceful and quiet life enjoying the natural beauty of California. In fact, almost no one can afford it, given the notoriously absurd housing and food prices that are causing people to leave the state in droves.
Those less fortunate than the lucky residents of the safest California cities tend to live in or near the Bay Area. Needless to say, the following list doesn't mean that you should skip the cities included. In fact, many are considered the most exciting destinations in the state. But you probably want to make sure your car doors are locked when you visit.
Violent crime rate: 9.6
Property crime rate: 33
Richmond has a privileged location right on the gorgeous San Francisco Bay, but its property crime rates are quite high, especially in the flatter areas that are easier to access than the suburbs perched up in the Richmond Hills.
Despite its relatively high crime rate, residents and tourists love the area for its proximity to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park as well as its World War II ship museum, which is right on the waterfront.
Violent crime rate: 9.9
Property crime rate: 33.3
North of Richmond, on the San Pablo Bay, Vallejo has many things to offer. People come here to enjoy Six Flags Discovery Kingdom or to hit up hiking trails with scenic views of the bay.
But Vallejo residents have to live with the reality of high crime rates, especially in the past few years. Experts say that the social and economic upheaval brought on by the pandemic is to blame.
Violent crime rate: 12.8
Property crime rate: 29.8
Even though Stockton is only an hour away from Danville, the difference in the quality of life couldn't be starker. Violent crime is 12.8 (compared to Danville's 0.5), and property crime is 29.8 (5.3 in Danville).
This Central Valley city is a pleasant place to be in, with parks, lakes and a beautiful Japanese garden. But, as California's 13th largest city and one with a seaport at that, Stockton's downtown and civic center are two of the hardest-hit spots in terms of property crime.
2. San Bernadino
Violent crime rate: 14
Property crime rate: 28
San Bernadino is the only southern California city to make it into the top five most dangerous places in the state. Just outside of Los Angeles and home to California State University, the city puts the state's famous inequality right on display.
Wealthy areas enjoy a relatively low crime rate, though no city is actually void of danger. Lower-income areas, however, have to deal with high rates of violent and property crime.
Violent crime rate: 12.9
Property crime rate: 51.65
Residents of San Francisco's most famous counterpart have to deal with a property crime rate of over 50, which is almost double that of San Bernadino! Violent crime is also extremely high, affecting 12.9 people per 1,000 residents.
That said, you shouldn't believe internet narratives that tell you to stay away from the city. Yes, there are areas where you need to be a bit more aware of your surroundings. And, yes, you shouldn't leave things unlocked. But that applies to almost every city on the planet. We think Oakland is one of the coolest cities in California, so don't hesitate to visit it.