Where Locals Feel Safer Than They Really Are: An in-depth look at American perceptions of safety


When you’re looking to buy a new home, one of the first things real estate agents might hear and prospective buyers might ask about is the local crime rate. How safe is a property? How safe is the surrounding neighborhood? Knowing about the crime rate in a potential neighborhood or part of town can be a deterrent for prospective buyers, but in some cases and places, the vibe of “bad things couldn’t happen here” is really strong. 


Have you ever noticed that in some places there’s a perception of what a location and destination might be like? It makes sense to think about how an area gives off a certain vibe, or how the local culture is a little different than you expected, or how a place feels like nothing bad could ever happen there. In Small Town, USA, there’s a general feeling that something “like that” could never happen here. Sometimes, the reality of a neighborhood doesn’t match up to the perception of it, though. 


Let’s say you found a great property in what used to be an iffy part of town. It’s been 15 years since you last visited the area, so it’s unclear whether things have changed. Your preconceived notion about what the part of town is like might make you feel less safe than you really are, or at least, it might make you feel as though you are more likely to be a victim of a crime there. That’s why the team at homes.com decided to compare people’s perceived level of safety versus the local crime rates. 


To determine where Americans feel safest, Homes.com put together a ranking system where survey respondents would answer on a 1-5 scale about how safe they felt walking alone at night in their area. As a whole, Americans’ average answer was a 3.58 on the 1-5 scale which is to say that for the most part (33% of Americans are very comfortable walking alone at night), people in the United States perceive themselves to be fairly safe. 


As with any ranking scale, there are some states on the lower end and some states, conversely, on the higher end of perceived safety. The state where residents feel the least safe happens to be Texas, whereas the state where residents feel the most safe is Kansas. The study took their comparison a step further, looking into where residents feel safer than they are as well as where they feel less safe than they really are. For instance, people living in Washington state have a higher perceived safety than what their local crime rate indicates. 


According to a different report, Maine is the safest state in the United States, as of June 2020. Maine residents report an average perceived level of safety of 3.78, which is just above the national average. 



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