Winter Springs Town Center

From Jeff Ostrowski, MoneyGeek

Florida, like much of the country, is getting safer — but trouble spots remain. In analyzing the safest and most dangerous cities in Florida, MoneyGeek looked at crime data in the context of the larger societal and economic cost of crime and determined how cities ranked.

There are some obvious reasons to live in a safe city. Property appreciation is likely to be stronger, insurance claims for property crime are less frequent, and municipalities can focus their budget on priorities aside from police. To put a dollar figure on the value of safety, MoneyGeek turned to an academic study that calculated the societal cost of crime. They used peer-reviewed research that assigned monetary values to crimes based on their severity, ranging from $10.9 million for a murder to $4,300 for a larceny (see below for more of their methodology).

For decades, the popular image of Florida — and especially Miami — has been dominated by crime. The chaotic 1980s spawned the movie “Scarface,” the TV series “Miami Vice,” and the best-selling novels of Carl Hiaasen. Times have changed, though. Miami’s crime rate has plummeted, a welcome trend that city officials tout at every opportunity. It’s not just South Florida that’s experiencing less crime. Tampa and Jacksonville have also seen declines in recent years. As a result, according to MoneyGeek’s calculations, Florida’s cost of crime per capita is down from $552 in 2014 to $523 in 2018, a 5% decline. Despite progress, Florida’s total cost of crime in 2018 was a $10.4 billion drag on the state’s productivity.

The Impact of Mass Shootings on Florida Safety

In general, safe areas remain safe from year to year, while high-crime areas continue to struggle to overcome their problems. Mass shootings, with their unpredictable nature, add volatility to crime statistics and play havoc with a community’s sense of safety. In most years, Parkland in Broward County would rank as one of Florida’s safest cities. However, the devastating school shooting in 2018 claimed 17 lives and sent Parkland plummeting in the rankings. Florida experienced five mass shootings in 2017 and 2018, estimated to have a total societal cost of $332 million:

  • At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February 2018, a student killed 14 students and three school employees.
  • At Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in January 2017, a gunman opened fire, killing five and injuring six others.
  • At an Orlando factory in June 2017, a former employee killed five workers.
  • At a Jacksonville video game tournament in August 2018, a gunman killed two and injured 10 others.
  • At a Tallahassee yoga studio in November 2018, a gunman shot six women, killing two.

Safest Smallest Cities in Florida

Now for the good news! There are still safe communities, and Seminole County is host to five that ranked in the top 50 percent of safe cities with populations larger than 25,000 residents.

The City of Winter Springs wins the third safest small city in Florida, with a safety score of 93.1. With a population of 37,137, the following statistics won them this position:

  • Violent Crimes (per 100,000): 153
  • Property Crimes (per 100,000): 738
  • Total Cost of Crime: $14,442,098
  • Cost of Crime per Capita: $389

Following close behind Winter Springs, but still in good positions for safety are the Seminole County cities of Oviedo, Altamonte Springs, Casselberry and Sanford.

Oviedo: Population 41,937 | Safety score 91.7

  • Violent Crimes (per 100,000): 157
  • Property Crimes (per 100,000): 892
  • Total Cost of Crime: $19,292,507
  • Cost of Crime per Capita: $460

Altamonte Springs: Population 44,664 | Safety score 88.2

  • Violent Crimes (per 100,000): 304
  • Property Crimes (per 100,000): 3,238
  • Total Cost of Crime: $29,884,644
  • Cost of Crime per Capita: $669

Casselberry: Population 28,744 | Safety score 72

  • Violent Crimes (per 100,000): 529
  • Property Crimes (per 100,000): 3,291
  • Total Cost of Crime: $45,046,755
  • Cost of Crime per Capita: $1,567

Sanford: Population 60,154 | Safety score 59

  • Violent Crimes (per 100,000): 700
  • Property Crimes (per 100,000): 3,546
  • Total Cost of Crime: $139,914,796
  • Cost of Crime per Capita: $2,326

Rankings Methodology

To rank cities’ cost of crime, MoneyGeek used estimated societal cost of crimes in each city, then ranked the cities based on the per capita toll of crime per city. For crime data, MoneyGeek used crime statistics reported to the FBI. For cost estimates, MoneyGeek turned to research by University of Miami professors Kathryn McCollister and Michael French and University of Colorado Denver researcher Hai Fang. Their analysis of the societal cost of crime was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a peer-reviewed scientific journal. They found that a murder cost society $10.9 million in 2019 dollars. A larceny case exacted a toll of $4,300.

Florida State-Wide Data Chart of cities with populations larger than 25,000