Safe Zones: 20 Most Crime-Free Cities in America

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By Amelia Acosta and Anmargaret Warner

Violent crime rose in the U.S. last year for the first time since 2006, according to FBI statistics. However, the recent 1.2 percent increase belies a long-term trend: America is becoming a much safer country.

To find out which parts of America are the safest, we looked at the FBI's latest report on crime and found cities with violent crime rates substantially below the national average.

We only included cities with populations of more than 200,000 to exclude suburban areas. Many of the cities are repeat winners from our 2011 report on America's safest cities.

Irvine, Calif., was the safest city in the country for the ninth consecutive year. The city of just more than 200,000 has one of the country's top-ranked school systems, a median household income well above the national average, and a crime prevention method that includes keeping a thorough record of violence.

Fifteen of the 20 safest cities are located in the Southwest, including six in California. Conversely, on our list of the 25 most dangerous cities, the only two Southwestern cities were in California.

Clearly there's a geographic trend here. It should be noted, however, that different crime reporting policies among police departments may make some cities appear safer or more dangerous than they really are.

Neighboring cities Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, Va., are the only two on the list with murder rates equal to or above the national average. However, rape and robbery rates that are substantially below the national average compensate for this difference.

El Paso, Texas, one of the safest cities, is located directly across the Mexico-U.S. border from Juarez, Mexico, one of the world's most violent cities. Officials there say that drug cartels keep their base of operations in Mexico to avoid encounters with U.S. law enforcement.

It also turns out that safety has its trade-offs: four of the safest cities (Chula Vista, Calif., Hialeah, Fla., Chandler, Ariz., and Henderson, Nev.) also appear on Forbes's list of the 10 most boring cities in America.

These were the safest cities in 2012:

20 PHOTOS
The 20 Safest Cities in America
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Safe Zones: 20 Most Crime-Free Cities in America

Murder rate: 25% below average

Rape rate: 15% below average

Robbery rate: 0.3% below average

Find homes for sale in San Diego.

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Murder rate: 31% below average

Rape rate: 24% below average

Robbery rate: 34% below average

Find homes for sale in Laredo.

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Murder rate: 12% below average

Rape rate: 41% below average

Robbery rate: 22% below average

Find homes for sale in Chesapeake.

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Murder rate: 35% below average

Rape rate: 46% below average

Robbery rate: 25% below average

Find homes for sale in Reno.

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Murder rate: 5% below average

Rape rate: 85% below average

Robbery rate: 32% below average

Find homes for sale in Oxnard.

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Murder rate: 47% below average

Rape rate: 42% below average

Robbery rate: 27% below average

Find homes for sale in Fontana.

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Murder rate: 28% below average

Rape rate: 2% below average

Robbery rate: 39% below average

Find homes for sale in El Paso.

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Murder rate: 37% below average

Rape rate: 25% below average

Robbery rate: 12% below average

Find homes for sale in Garland.

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Murder rate:  Equal to average

Rape rate: 52% below average

Robbery rate: 36% below average

Find homes for sale in Virginia Beach.

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Murder rate: 63% below average

Rape rate: 36% below average

Robbery rate: 2% below average

Find homes for sale in Hialeah.

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Murder rate: 32% below average

Rape rate: 50% below average

Robbery rate: 20% below average

Find homes for sale in Chula Vista.

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Murder rate: 65% below average

Rape rate: 1% below average

Robbery rate: 46% below average

Find homes for sale in Chandler.

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Murder rate: 68% below average

Rape rate: 13% below average

Robbery rate: 43% below average

Find homes for sale in Henderson.

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Murder rate: 90% below average

Rape rate: 35% below average

Robbery rate: 73% below average

Find homes for sale in Boise.

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Murder rate: 71% below average

Rape rate: 26% below average

Robbery rate: 55% below average

Find homes for sale in Scottsdale.

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Murder rate: 72% below average

Rape rate: 55% below average

Robbery rate: 47% below average

Find homes for sale in Irving.

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Murder rate: 73% below average

Rape rate: Unreported data

Robbery rate: 11 % below average

Find homes for sale in Madison.

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Murder rate: 92% below average

Rape rate: 28% below average

Robbery rate: 65% below average

Find homes for sale in Plano.

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Murder rate: 81% below average

Rape rate: 76% below average

Robbery rate: 47% below average

Find homes for sale in Fremont.

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Murder rate: 80% below average

Rape rate: 86% below average

Robbery rate: 86% below average

Find homes for sale in Irvine

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