The belief that crime is less frequent in rural areas is supported by Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), created by the FBI, that presents crime by type and population group. According to this FBI database, violent crime is significantly higher in urban areas than it is in nonurban areas as is property crime such as burglary. Depending on how the FBI is classifying metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas this may simply be a result of a higher concentration of people leading to higher crime rates. But this still doesn’t exactly tell us whether rural areas are safer than urban areas.
Even though cities have higher rates of crime and murder, a new study has found that overall, urban areas are safer than the rural areas. This study by researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, is the first to look at overall death rates for all sorts of injuries (crashes, gunshots, drownings, falls, poisonings, even animal attacks) across the nation, rather than for selected areas or specific injuries. This study also separated intentional injuries/deaths from accidental ones. Although the study conceded that rates of homicide and crimes such as robbery are indeed higher in urban areas, it challenged the common stereotype that urban areas are inherently more dangerous than rural areas. The most rural counties had the highest rate of fatal injuries -- 74 deaths per 100,000 residents -- compared with 50 deaths per 100,000 in the most urbanized counties. This study also suggested that rural counties may be deadlier than their urban counterparts due to the lack and inadequacy of trauma care and health care in rural America.
The study done by UPenn and the Children’s Hospital provided an interesting and important juxtaposition to the common perception of rural areas as “safer” than urban areas. However, “safety” encompasses much more than just the typical ideas of crime. Simply looking at rates of crime doesn’t tell us much about relative safety in an area, particularly in today’s more technologically advanced world. In a study done by the National Institute of Justice it was indicated that patterns of rural crime indicate both the exporting of urban problems to rural areas as well as unique problems. Much of this probably has to do with the shrinking gap between urban and rural areas due to modern communication, transportation and other technological advancements. However, whatever the reasons behind the behind the findings in the study it remains clear that the concept of "safety" isn't nearly as cut and dry as television and other popular media might have us believe.