10 Safest Cities in California in 2024

April 24th, 2024  / Author: Zachariah Peterson
Insights / Locations

The cost of living, employment opportunities, schools in the area, home prices, and emotional attachments are all important factors when deciding where to live (at least for those who get to choose). However, crime statistics always rank at the top – Californians want to find the safest cities to raise their children.

This is entirely natural. You want to freely walk the city streets at night, know there’s a minimal chance of your home getting burglarized, and not worry about your kids’ safety every waking moment. Unfortunately, a majority of Californians regularly report not feeling safe in their communities.

Because of this, choosing a safe place to call home is essential to sleeping soundly. To help you make plans, we've provided a list of the 10 safest cities to live in California. Let’s see how California compares to the rest of the nation and how safety is even determined before we dive in.

Is California a Safe Place to Live? California vs. the Rest of the US

Unfortunately, California is not one of the safest states. By volume, the most crimes are committed in California annually out of the entire US; that is to be expected as it is the state with the largest population. However, even when adjusted for its population, CA still ranks in the upper half of states for crime per capita.

California's property crime average is 23% higher than the U.S. national average of 20.7, while the violent crime rate is just 6% higher than the corresponding national crime rate average of 4.0. However, common crime is often hyper-localized, so there can be large discrepancies between cities. When we look at the safest cities in California, those numbers drop quite a bit – we're talking an average of 1.7 for violent crime and 12.8 for property crime. 

Fun fact? Californians rank third in concern about package theft, with 63% expressing daily worries, compared to the national average of 53%. Also, 61% of residents regularly worry about property crime, surpassing the national average of 52%. 

All in all, although California is somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to per capita crime rates, it still has some of the safest cities to live in the US.

Where Is the Safest Place to Live in the United States in 2024?

In 2024, the safest states in the United States with the lowest crime rates are Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, with Jackson Township, NJ, Johns Creek, GA, and Wylie, TX, being the top three safest cities.  But is it where most people look for a home? Find out where are people moving to in another interesting read.

If you're looking to be a bit more cautious, you might want to tread carefully in New Mexico, which unfortunately tops the charts as the most dangerous state in the U.S. Wondering what area in California has the most crime? As of 2024, Emeryville, California, tops the list for the highest crime rate in the state, with a PC rate of 165.71 and 2,356 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

terranea resort at rancho palos

The Criteria Used to Assess the Top 10 Safest Cities to Live in California

Compiling FBI statistics, Safewise issues an annual report on two types of crime - violent and property crime rates per 1000 residents in Californian towns and cities. This means that other public safety issues, such as natural hazards, are not counted in determining the safest cities in California.

Violent crime (VC) includes aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery; property crime (PC) encompasses burglary, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft. The safest place to live in California is the one with the lowest combined VC and PC rate per 1000 residents, but we’ll also separate both statistics so that you have better insight.

As a side note, places that did not submit a crime report to the FBI are excluded from the rankings. Now that you understand how we define a safe city let’s get to the list of the 10 safest cities in California.

1. Rancho Santa Margarita

Situated in Orange County close to the Santa Ana Mountains, Rancho Santa Margarita leads the chart as the safest city in California in 2024. This charming city has a current population of slightly below 50,000, a multitude of homeowners associations, high-quality living conditions, and a significantly higher rate of people holding bachelor’s and higher degrees than the rest of CA.

It is no big surprise that Rancho Santa Margarita is one of the safest places to live in California. The violent crime (VC) rate per 1000 people is 0.4, and the property crime (PC) rate is 4.8, combining for only 5.2. Rancho Santa Margarita is an excellent community to call home with an easygoing charm, where you'll see the least headlines about crime rates. At least this year.

2. Aliso Viejo

A second representative from Orange County (you will start noticing a trend), Aliso Viejo, is located in the San Joaquin Hills. It has a VC crime rate of 0.9 and a PC crime rate of 6.8. On top of the significantly lower level of concern that comes with living here, Aliso Viejo is also a suburban city with a small-town charm and a sense of community. 

Sitting right next to Laguna Beach means that it also offers life with access to most benefits of an urban lifestyle, including beach activities, plus scenic beauty. 

3. Yorba Linda

Located approximately 37 miles SE of Downtown LA in Orange County, Yorba Linda is a beautiful city that comes in at number 3 when it comes to safety, with a VC rate of 0.5 and a PC rate of 10.2, combining for a 10.7 crime level. A relatively small but wonderful city, Yorba Linda is best known as the birthplace of former president Richard Nixon. It's a great choice for families, even if it's just family outings.

4. Laguna Niguel

Like the second-safest bordering city of Aliso Viejo, Laguna Niguel city comes close on the heels of its neighbor as one of the safest places to live in California. With a VC crime rate of 0.9 and PC crime rate of 10.5, it's an affluent community, with the median household income (as well as housing prices) of Laguna Niguel nearly doubling the US average. 

It might not be the cheapest place to live in southern California, but can you really a price tag on safety? 

5. Mission Viejo

The first larger city on the list, Mission Viejo, has a population slightly below 100,000. Unsurprisingly, it is also located in Orange County. It has a VC rate of 0.8 – the same as in 2022, and a PC rate of 11.4.

Mission Viejo isn't just one of California's safest cities; it's a shining example of what happens when a nice community really comes together to keep things safe. Thanks to some smart crime prevention moves and active community involvement,  this place has earned its status as one of the safest places to live in California.

But there's more to this wonderful town than safety alone - two awesome community parks, a family-friendly charm, and tons of activities to keep everyone happy and entertained. Sounds like a pretty great place to live, doesn't it?

6. Lake Forest

Yet another representative and one of the best places to live in Orange County (surprise, surprise), Lake Forest is a safe community that comes in at no. 6 on our list of the safest cities in California in 2024. It has an extremely low VC rate of 1.2 and a PC rate of 10.6, adding up to 11.8.

As a side note, if you are wondering about the name, the immediate area of Lake Forest is not actually forested land, but the forest from which it got its name is located relatively close. However, it is situated between two man-made lakes, so that part of the name and unspoiled beauty holds true.

7. Linkoln

Nestled in Placer County, Lincoln, a small but active town, has once again earned its place among the top 10 safest cities in the state, with a VC rate of 1.7 and a PC rate of 9.0. The community’s commitment to security extends beyond crime statistics, reflected in its high-ranking schools and harmonious atmosphere. 

8. Poway

The first city from San Diego County to make it on the list of the safest places in California, Poway's 2024 VC rate is 1.7, and its PC rate is 9.8, with an average crime score of 11.5. Poway is an unincorporated community and only became a city in 1980. Its rural charm is reflected in its motto, "The City in the Country." Today, approximately 50,000 people call Poway home. 

9. Rocklin

Rocklin, California, located approximately 22 miles northeast of Sacramento, is another nice city with a small-town vibe in Placer County, known for its proximity to the state capital. With a verz low VC rate of 1.1 but a higher PC rate of 13.0, this midsize city has experienced steady growth over the years, attracting families and individuals seeking a family-friendly community.

10. Irvine

Irvine, a vibrant city in Orange County, is the last one of the safest cities in the state on our list. With a population of 311,696, in 2024, Irvine reported a VC rate of 0.7 and a PC rate of 15.1, making it an attractive place to call home. and raise a family.

Irvine is home to several excellent schools, both public and private, while its residents enjoy a high quality of life thanks to well-maintained community parks, recreational activities, and a strong sense of community. The city’s master-planned neighborhoods provide safe and family-friendly environments, and commitment to green spaces, bike paths, and community events fosters a healthy lifestyle and a strong sense of belonging.

An Honorable Mention

Santee from San Diego County just barely didn’t make the list, but it deserves a mention. It has a violent crime rate of 2.6 and a property crime rate of 9.1. Now, while Sante has a low total crime rate, the number of violent crimes committed is the highest on this list.

San Francisco sunset

How the List of the 10 Safest Places to Live in California Looked in 2022

What was the level of crimes in these California cities back in 2022? How does 2024 compare to our previous 2022 update on the safest places in CA?

  1. Danville (out)
  2. Rancho Santa Margarita (▲ 1)
  3. Moorpark (out)
  4. Aliso Viejo (▲ 2)
  5. Poway (▼ 3)
  6. Yorba Linda (▲ 3)
  7. Rancho Palos Verdes (out)
  8. Laguna Niguel (▲ 4)
  9. Mission Viejo (▲ 4)
  10. San Juan Capistrano (out)

Crime Rate Trends

According to studies by the Public Policy Institute of California, overall crime rates in California were on a downward trajectory during the height of the pandemic. In 2020, property crime rates dropped by 8.9% and violent crime rates by 0.5% compared to 2019 – comparable to the rates of the late 1960s.

However, preliminary data from 2021 showed an uptick in crime. The most concerning is the rising homicide rate, as well as auto thefts and break-ins quickly becoming popular crimes. On a positive note, even with the post-pandemic increase, crime rates are still lower than they were pre-2010 when major criminal justice reforms were introduced.

Crime rates across the U.S. have been changing over the last few years. The violent crime rate has stayed steady at 4.0 incidents per 1,000 people for the last three years running. On the other hand, property crime has gone up for the first time in a decade, going from 19.3 incidents to 20.7 per 1,000 residents.

Thinking of Moving to California?

If you wish to move to one of the safest cities in California, you’ll likely need to sell your old home. The first thing you should do is contact SleeveUp Homes. We buy houses across Southern California for top dollar. We’ve seen too many people get lowballed and pressured by wholesalers and investors, which is why we always do better

Because we are direct buyers, you won’t waste money on realtor commissions. Plus, you also don’t have to invest in repairs or remodeling – we’ll buy your home as-is. Request a cash offer and see how we can help finance your new city life in one of the safest places in California.



If you want to sell fast and are worried about how long the traditional process takes, and the commission and fees involved, consider working with SleeveUp Homes.