The rankings of safest and most dangerous cities were determined through a multi-step process. First, a randomly selected group of 500 American adults were surveyed about crime in their communities. Conducted by MONEY through Roper Starch, respondents were asked the extent to which they felt threatened by specific crimes -- robbery, forcible rape, criminal homicide, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft and how the incidence of these crimes influenced the decisions they made, such as where to live or work.
The poll revealed that Americans feel most threatened by burglary in their communities. The next most threatening crime was car theft, followed by robbery, assault, rape and murder. Based on the numbers of specific responses to the poll questions, Morgan Quitno determined, through a mathematical formula, how much weight to assign each type of crime. Once the weights were determined, city crime rates were plugged into a formula that measured how a particular city compared to the national average for a given crime category. The outcome of this equation was then multiplied by the weight assigned to that particular crime category. Finally, these weighted numbers were added together to achieve a citys final score. These scores were then ranked from lowest to highest to determine which cities were safest and most dangerous.
While this approach appears rather complicated, it results in fairer treatment of cities in that a citys crime record is measured against the national average. The farther below the national average, the higher (and better) a city ranked in the final Safest Places list; the farther above the national average, the lower (and worse) a city ranked in the final list.
Weights given to each crime (equal weight would have each crime making up about 16.7% (100/6 = 16.7) of total score):
Murder: 13.9%; Rape: 14.8%; Robbery: 17.8%; Assault: 15.7%; Burglary: 19.9% and Motor Vehicle Theft: 18.0%