10 Safest Cities in Iowa

Updated On October 10, 2023

Some 2022 reports about the 10 safest cities in Iowa might seem like they contradict one another because they do not all include the same list of cities.

If that does not confuse you enough already, the most recent FBI crime data sheets come from 2019.

So, how do you determine the safest places to live in this state for this year?

Location Safety Indicators

When calculating the safest places to live anywhere, and in this case Iowa, both crime rates (scores) and safety indexes matter.

For instance, it reveals the concentration of people who have the chance of experiencing a violent crime regardless of population totals.

Concerning personal safety, most people probably would rather have a “zero” violence rate in their community.

However, property destruction and theft reportedly happen in the United States more often than incidences that physically harm people.

10 Safest Cities in Iowa

Statewide, Iowa ranks the third safest place to live in the United States based on personal safety.

That means you will not find it difficult to find refuge for your household and pets here.

You have at least a couple of safe choices each according to population sizes.

This will help you decide whether you prefer living around many people or few people.

Not all large Iowa cities have the highest crime rates. 

Prairie City, Iowa
Prairie City, Iowa

1. Prairie City (Population 1,736)

It is listed as the number one safest place with less than 3,000 people living in it.

It has a violent crime score of about .58 per 1,000 people.

It did not make the top 10 safest places to live in Iowa though according to its violent crime rate index.

That title went to Polk City instead.

You’d choose Prairie City if you want to live in a less population-dense location.

Places of similar populations include Clarion, Sac City, and Lansing.

These include some of the safest communities of their size, but they do not have the lowest statewide crime scores.

Polk City, Iowa
Polk City, Iowa

2. Polk City (Population 5,013)

Polk City ranks number one safest in Iowa and also comes in second for cities with less than 10,000 residents but more than 3,000 people.

It has a low violent crime score impressive by most standards: Only a rating of .20 per 1,000 people affected here.

Eldridge comes in as almost as safe as Polk City with a violent crime rating of only .29 per 1,000 people.

Norwalk, Iowa
Norwalk, Iowa

3. Norwalk (Population 11,871)

Norwalk ranks first safest of cities with between 10,000 and 30,000 residents in them.

It is also the third safest in the entire state, and it only has a violent crime score of .34 of 1,000 people.

Spencer, another city with at least 11,000 people in it, also made the top 10 safest Iowa cities with a crime rate measuring .64 per 1,000.

Clive, Iowa
Clive, Iowa

4. Clive (Population 17,305)

Clive came in second in places with populations of 10,000-30,000 residents.

It also ranks the fifth safest in the entire state of Iowa.

It has a violent crime score of .40 per 1,000 people.

The next largest city to make the top 10 safe list is Waukee, a place where about 24,255 people live that has a crime score indicating that the area experiences violent crimes at a rate of only a .62 per 1,000 people.

Urbandale, Iowa
Urbandale, Iowa

5. Urbandale (Population 44,541)

Urbandale, a city of more than 40,000 people, ranks seventh on the top 10 statewide safest places to live.

Depending on selection criteria, it is the last of the cities to make the 10 safest Iowa cities of that population size or larger.

It has a crime rate index of about .63 violent incidences per 1,000 people.

Bettendorf and Marion have fewer people living in them.

However, their scores rank at more than 1 point per 1,000 people, so you may feel slightly safer in Urbandale—an example of when more people do not always indicate fewer violence ratios.

Dubuque, Iowa
Dubuque, Iowa

6. Dubuque (57,973)

This city ranks number four of 12 cities that have at least 30,000 residents in them.

It probably has just enough people in it to feel less isolated than if living in a small rural town.

However, it does have a violent crime rate that totals about 1.90 per 1,000 people.

Iowa City, Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa

7. Iowa City (77,390)

It ranks as the sixth-safest place of the dozen cities where at least 30,000 people live.

It is also the sixth-largest city in Iowa as of May 2022.

Its violent crime rating of 2.16 comes in about half of what you may see for Davenport, and it is only about a third of what would occur in Des Moines.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

8. Cedar Rapids (Population 134,007)

This city has enough people in it for researchers to call it a “mid-sized city” in the U.S.

Cedar Rapids ranks as the second-largest city population-wise in Iowa as of May 2022.

What is interesting is this: Its violence rating of only 2.57 per 1,000 people comes in almost as low as Iowa City, which has approximately 56,610 fewer people living in it.

This equals about 345 in Cedar Rapids and 167 total in Iowa City.

Davenport, Iowa
Davenport, Iowa

9. Davenport (Population 102,392)

It has fewer people in it than Cedar Rapids but ranks a bit lower in safety.

Davenport came in at the tenth safest of a dozen cities with at least 30,000 people in it, and it is the third-largest city in Iowa as of 2022.

Its violent crime rate measures 5.95 per 1,000, which is about twice what Cedar Rapids would have.

Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa

10. Des Moines (218,384)

This city did not quite make the top ten list of the safest Iowa cities with more than 30,000 people in it.

However, it did receive recognition in January 2021 as the second safest city to live in the U.S. based on its crime rate per 100,000 people.

It is the largest city in Iowa according to 2022 population records and is the 11th safest place to live of the 12 largest cities here.

Council Bluff, which only has about 62,327 ranks less safe than Des Moines, which has a violent crime index of 7.12 per 1,000.

Council Bluff’s rate equals 7.90 per 1,000.

5 Safety Tips for Traveling to Iowa

Violence will not probably be your worst worry if you travel to Iowa.

You have other concerns to deal with, such as checking the road conditions or making sure you are prepared for a roadside emergency next to a cornfield.

1. Check The Weather

The Department of Transportation recommends that you check road conditions before you travel.

They provide tools from their website regarding weather, too.

Of course, popular apps, such as AccuWeather, Weather.com, or whatever app you have installed on your phone would help if you set the location to Iowa.

2. Bring Blankets and Jackets

Even if you know it will be 80 degrees and sunny, Iowa weather may change as fast as Wisconsin weather does.

For instance, it could rain later in the day even if your weather app says it is less than a 20 percent chance that it will.

You may also need extra layers in case of a roadside emergency when traveling in the winter.

3. Tune Up Your Vehicle

Although you have a greater chance of being stranded in the “middle of nowhere” than being attacked by a mugger, you need a safe vehicle to arrive in.

Even if traveling to a larger metro Des Moines or Iowa City neighborhood by car, you never know where you could end up if traveling in an unsafe vehicle.

4. Leave Valuables At Home

Theft ranks higher than violent crimes in Iowa.

Keep a few of your belongings at home as possible, especially if staying in a hotel or at a campground instead of at a friend or family’s house.

5. Watch Out for Aggressive Drivers

If you know anyone who has been to Iowa, Wisconsin, or other Midwest states, you might hear them make fun of the way people drive here.

People in these locations might not always use their turn signals or may cut you off in traffic even downtown.

It is probably because they are used to traveling on county trunks where you do not see cars for miles.

Iowa Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: Iowa Safety Review

Safety Index:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most dangerous thing about Iowa?

You might not have expected this answer: Tornados rank the first of three most dangerous things about Iowa.

Try not to drive in this area if you hear weather warnings.

Floods also occur here, and deer crossing the road – as lovely as those animals may be—cause road hazards.

How do I avoid hitting deer in Iowa?

Make sure your primary headlights, fog lights, and high beams work if you plan to drive at night.

Otherwise, just do not drive at night.

Either way, make sure you look both left and right, especially when driving in rural areas.

Where should I not live in Iowa?

Cedar Rapids ranks the 20th worst place to not live in Iowa.

Council Bluffs ranks 14th.

You can see the rest of the list of where not to live in this state at the Money Inc website.

It is not always just about danger, however.

It just might cost more to live in certain cities.

4 Comments on 10 Safest Cities in Iowa

  1. Based on the data and rankings, it seems like there are many safe cities to choose from in Iowa, but it ultimately depends on your personal preferences and priorities.

  2. L
    Lily Deleon says:

    I’m thrilled to see Iowa City on this list! With its low crime rates and friendly neighborhoods, it’s no surprise it’s considered one of the safest cities in the state.

  3. T
    Tyler Murphy says:

    I lived in Cedar Rapids for years, I can say it’s a wonderful feeling knowing I’m in one of the safest cities in Iowa. The city’s proactive approach to safety is truly commendable.

  4. S
    Sarah Haines says:

    Des Moines rightfully deserves its spot on this list. With its thriving economy and strong law enforcement presence, it’s a comforting place to call home.

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