- St. Louis, MO, is the most unsafe city during the holidays, followed by Newark, DE, and Salt Lake City, UT.
- Nearly 2 in 5 American homeowners have experienced property crime during one or both of the past two holiday seasons.
- Nearly 50% of Americans who experienced property crime during the last two holiday seasons reported at least $100 in losses and/or damages.
- Lights always being off, a pile of mail or packages, and an empty driveway are the biggest signs that a home is unoccupied, according to people with a criminal history.
Holiday home security
The holiday season is a time of warmth, family gatherings, and festive celebrations. Yet, amidst the cheer and decorations, it can also bring an uptick in home security concerns. As homes glitter with holiday lights and families travel to visit loved ones, they can become more vulnerable to security breaches. This study sheds light on these heightened risks and uncovers the most effective strategies to safeguard your home.
By analyzing a variety of data sources, including two surveys of American homeowners and people who have committed a crime, this guide will give you the knowledge and tools to ensure a safe and peaceful holiday season. From managing the increased risks of burglaries this time of year to understanding how modern technology can improve home security, we’ll explore the best ways to protect what matters most during these festive times.
Cities with the highest holiday risk
First, we looked to uncover which cities face the highest security risks during the holiday season to raise awareness of potential criminal hot spots. Taking property crime data, Google search trends, and other security factors into account, we ranked the 50 largest U.S. cities along with other highly populated cities per state. Here’s how they fared.
Among the 182 U.S. cities we analyzed, St. Louis, MO; Salt Lake City, UT; and Denver, CO, topped the list of the riskiest cities for crime during the holiday season. Focusing on the specific risk factors contributing to these rankings shows that different cities present unique security challenges.
For example, among the cities with available data, Tacoma, WA, and St. Louis, MO, had the highest number of NIBRS crime reports per 100,000 residents of all the cities on our list. This FBI data reflects the number of property crimes reported by individual police precincts. To measure criminal intent, we looked at online searches related to holiday crime per 100,000 residents. We found that Newark, DE, and Rutland, VT, topped the list with the most nefarious searches. Rutland leaders have noticed a recent rise in crime and are calling for state-supported solutions.
Our analysis also accounted for vacation rental security trends. We found all Airbnbs available to rent in a given city during the holiday season and then calculated the percentage that mentioned a home security system in their listing. According to this data, Rockville, MD, and Laramie, WY, had the highest percentage of unsecured Airbnbs. This lack of surveillance equipment in holiday accommodations could make them more vulnerable to crime. Regardless of the security features included in a listing, Airbnb recommends that guests perform a safety check upon arrival.
We also looked at each city’s number of registered National Neighborhood Watch groups per 100,000 residents. Little Rock, AR, and North Charleston, SC, had the fewest watch groups among the cities we studied. If you want to start a neighborhood watch in your community, the Department of Justice recommends:
- Organizing as many neighbors as possible
- Scheduling a meeting with your local law enforcement agency
- Develop an action plan to address community concerns
- Hold regular meetings and relevant training skill sessions
- Implement a phone tree
With car thefts skyrocketing across the U.S., we also pulled vehicle theft data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau to see where they’ve been the most common. Among cities with available data, Riverside, CA, and St. Louis, MO, came out on top as having had the most vehicle thefts per 100,000 residents. Vehicle theft in St. Louis doesn’t seem to be slowing down either: the first four months of 2023 saw a 50% increase in car theft from the year before.
In light of these findings, car owners concerned about vehicle theft can increase protection and peace of mind by installing outdoor cameras and smart car-tracking devices. Motion-detecting cameras can deter thieves, detect lurkers, and alert owners. Their recordings can also provide evidence should an incident occur. As for smart car-tracking devices, they enable owners to see their vehicle’s location in real-time, which can be crucial in aiding law enforcement in recovering a stolen vehicle.
While some cities ranked in the top 10 for multiple safety metrics, a wide variety of locations appear to have these security risks during the holiday season. Look through our table below to find the rankings of all the cities we analyzed.