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Is Des Moines Safe? Here’s What to Know

Is Des Moines Safe? Here’s What to Know

If you’re visiting the Iowa city of Des Moines for a brief business trip, an extended stay, or thinking about moving to the “Hartford of the West,” it’s crucial to know if the city is safe and what areas and neighborhoods are the best for tourists and travelers.

Des Moines is a relatively safe place. But, you may need to concern yourself with minor property crimes like a stolen bicycle. Is the Des Moines crime rate a reason to avoid the city entirely?

Before you travel or relocate to any American city, it’s vital to understand the crime rate and some basic safety statistics. I took some time to delve into the numbers and put together information on Des Moines safety. Here’s everything you need to know about the crime rate in Des Moines, where you’ll find safe neighborhoods and other helpful statistics about the city’s crime index.

And as with any travel, don’t skip out on travel insurance! We highly recommend SafetyWing and VisitorsCoverage for insurance or shopping around for the right policy on TravelInsurance.com.

Des Moines Crime Rates

Skyline and city of Des Moines, Iowa
pabrady63 / Adobe Stock

Per the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Des Moines saw a 6.83 percent rise in crime from 2021 to 2022. While that statistic may seem disappointing, the jump was mainly due to property crimes like arson and robbery and non-violent crimes like extortion and embezzlement.

The city only experienced one homicide in 2021 and zero in 2022. Crimes like fraud, burglary, counterfeiting, and destruction of property were all down, too, from 2021 to 2022. During that same time, Des Moines residents saw minor increases in the rates of weapons charges, drug activity, and larceny.

Des Moines has a violent crime rate that’s lower than the national average, according to statistics published by US News & World Report. The publication measures its crime rate as the number of crimes committed per 100,000 people and gives Des Moines an average violent crime rate of 336.5, which is lower than the national average of around 400.

Skyline, Road, and Cityscape

If we compare Des Moines to other similarly-sized metro areas, the city is much safer than Fresno, California, which has a crime rate of 594.4, and Omaha, Nebraska, which has a crime rate of 425.1.

It looks even better if you broaden your scope. We can also look at the violent crime rate in Des Moines compared to major destinations around the country.

The violent crime rate in Los Angeles is higher than in Des Moines at 476.6. However (and quite surprisingly), the violent crime rate in New York City is considerably lower at only 256.3.

Now, it’s all very well and good for me to throw facts and figures in your face like that, but to help you get a better idea, here’s a handy guide to compare crime in Des Moines versus other major U.S. cities and the national median:

City Crime Rate (per 1,000 residents) Violent Property
Des Moines, IA 6.32 31.89 38.21
Los Angeles, CA 7.40 24.60 32.00
New York City, NY 5.21 19.62 24.83
Chicago, IL 8.70 23.82 32.51
Omaha, NE 5.81 27.73 33.54
Madison, WI 3.09 25.63 28.72
Minneapolis, MN 13.42 44.74 58.16
U.S. National Median 4 19 23



As we can see from the data presented here, Des Moines shakes out pretty evenly compared to a lot of U.S. cities. Nonetheless, If you’re planning a trip to Des Moines, you should check out travel insurance rates from TravelInsurance.com, SafetyWing, or Visitors Coverage.

Neighborhoods to Avoid in Des Moines, Iowa

  • Laurel Hill: Situated east of Downtown, Laurel Hill has a higher violent crime rate than the rest of the city but is a pretty small area with less than 500 people in the neighborhood.
  • Capitol East: People are drawn to the Capitol East neighborhood of Des Moines for its affordable real estate, but residents do experience higher rates of aggravated assault than other areas.
  • Jordan Park: Located on the south side of Des Moines, Jordan Park has an unfortunate reputation as an impoverished area and is also close to a large homeless encampment with a high crime rate.
  • East Village: While not the most dangerous, this east Des Moines neighborhood possesses slightly higher rates of assault, theft, and burglary. Tourists seem to be largely unaffected.
  • River Bend: The northeast neighborhood of River Bend has an unfortunate reputation as an area for higher-than-average drug use and arrests related to drug crimes and property crimes.

See Related: Day Trips from Des Moines, Iowa

Where to Visit & Stay in Des Moines

Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, Iowa
Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock

Choosing a place to live or stay in Des Moines requires a quick look at the major neighborhoods around the area and their crime rates. The city’s safest neighborhoods don’t possess huge rates of violent crime, but you may see a property crime rate that’s just a little higher than you might expect for a modestly-sized Iowa town.

Selecting a neighborhood in Des Moines starts with examining why you’re visiting or moving to the city and continues with examining the experience you might expect in that neighborhood.

Here are some of the diverse neighborhoods in Des Moines and the types of neighbors you might encounter while visiting.

Arbor Peaks

Based on data from Niche, the residents of Arbor Peaks are often young professionals who frequent the area’s bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. The neighborhood has an urban look, and it’s easy to feel safe as the crime rate is almost negligible.

Arbor Peaks is not too far away from Downtown Des Moines, too, so it’s a neighborhood to consider when you work Downtown but don’t want to live there.

Our favorite place to stay in Arbor Peaks: This Classic Family Home.

Beaverdale

Beaverdale is one of the best neighborhoods in Des Moines
Beaverdale Neighborhood Association / Facebook

For those who want a less urban feel but are interested in something other than the slow pace of suburbia, Beaverdale offers a great combination of dense suburban activity. Data about Beaverdale from Niche indicates the neighborhood has a super low rate of crime incidents and that a healthy number of residents own their homes.

If you’re searching for a home for your young family but want to avoid living in the middle of nowhere, Beaverdale has a decent level of fun and activities within its borders.

Our favorite place to stay in Beaverdale: This Family-Friendly Des Moines Retreat With Patio

Downtown Des Moines

Aerial View of the Des Moine, Iowa Skyline facing West
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock

Des Moines is home to the largest metropolitan area in the state, and the city has a thriving downtown, but it is the neighborhood where you’ll find the highest crime. Based on details from Area Vibes, the crime index in Downtown Des Moines is higher than the national average at 3,803 crimes per 100,000 residents.

Our favorite place to stay in Downtown Des Moines: The Surety Hotel.

East Village

Drone image of East Village in Des Moines, Iowa
BKP / Adobe Stock

The East Village neighborhood of Des Moines, not to be confused with the famous East Village of New York City, is a pretty trendy area with many residents living in lofts and condos.

Data from Niche indicates that the vast majority of residents in the East Village rent their condos, so you might find yourself looking for a short-term rental there if you’re only visiting for a few days or a month for business.

Our favorite place to stay in the East Village: AC Hotel by Marriott Des Moines East Village.

Sherman Hill

Sherman Hill Historic District, Des Moines, Iowa
Cadeseth / Wikimedia Commons

If your aim in moving to Des Moines, Iowa, is to find a historic and beautiful neighborhood, you might want to explore Sherman Hill. You’ll see some 19th-century Victorian homes close by and enjoy a relatively low crime rate versus other neighborhoods in Des Moines.

Recent renovations to properties have turned Sherman Hill into one of the safest neighborhoods in the city.

Our favorite place to stay in Sherman Hill: This Sherman Hill Des Moines Apartment.

See Related: Best Weekend Getaways in Iowa: Top Vacations

Safety While Traveling to Des Moines

Aerial View of Des Moines is the capital of Iowa
Grindstone Media Group / Shutterstock.com

The highest concentration of hotels and places to stay are near and around the Downtown area. That makes sense: business travel is common due to the state capitol and government buildings.

Des Moines doesn’t have a reputation as a crime-riddled city and with good reason. The crime rate isn’t really any higher or lower than in other major metropolitan areas across the country. Simply remaining aware of your surroundings is usually enough to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

The crime rate drops dramatically the further you travel from the dense urban center of Des Moines. Violent crime becomes almost non-existent as you travel into the outlying areas of the city.

Tips to Keep Safe in Des Moines, Iowa

  1. Always lock the doors of your hotel room or vacation rental and activate the security system if available.
  2. Keep copies of travel documents and personal identification
  3. Remain aware of your surroundings at all times
  4. Buy a travel insurance policy before you depart
  5. Travel with a group after dark when in densely populated neighborhoods
  6. Tell your friends or family where you’re traveling and when

Des Moines isn’t the safest city in Iowa, and it’s definitely not the safest place in the nation, but utilizing these simple safety tips should be quite helpful in keeping you safe throughout your travels.

Safety Resources for Des Moines

You may find it helpful to have the contact information for local law enforcement agencies and other safety groups on hand when you travel to Iowa. Here are some important numbers.

If you plan to move to Des Moines, these resources will help you remain safe during your residency and find the perfect home in your ideal neighborhood. These numbers are also good to have in your back pocket, even if you’re just visiting Iowa for a few days.

Is Des Moines Safe?

Des Moines isn’t the first city that might come to mind when you think of violent crime, murder, assault, and grand theft. And if we compare Des Moines to bigger metropolitan areas in America like Los Angeles, the violent crime rate is much lower than in many large cities.

Nonetheless, there are some surprising statistics in Des Moines regarding property crime and other non-violent crimes. You don’t need to feel fearful when visiting Des Moines, but the crime index isn’t exactly zero.

No one should feel terribly unsafe in Des Moines. Do note that there are some iffy neighborhoods that travelers should avoid and where extra vigilance is necessary when walking around.

Des Moines has many quiet and safe neighborhoods and is home to a relatively friendly population, but it’s vital to always remain aware of your surroundings. Consider investigating travel insurance from a company like SafetyWing or VisitorsCoverage to enhance your safety while traveling.

And if you’re renting a car while in Des Moines, always opt for the maximum insurance coverage, too. You’re more likely to experience vandalism or theft related to your vehicle than you are to your body.

FAQ

What is the crime rate in Des Moines, Iowa, and how does it compare to other cities in the United States?

The violent crime rate in Des Moines is lower than the national average rate, according to statistics published by U.S. News & World Report. However, the property crime rate is slightly higher than the national average. As with most cities around the country, crime in Des Moines does change over time, so it’s essential to recheck the latest statistics each time you travel.

Is Des Moines safe for LGBTQIA visitors?

While Iowa isn’t the most LGBTQIA-friendly state in the U.S., LGBTQIA travelers will find several gay-friendly neighborhoods in Des Moines, like the East Village and Sherman Hill, as well as the area around Drake University. The East Village is also home to some popular gay bars. The HRC indicates the state does have non-discrimination laws on the books that include gender identity and sexual orientation.

Is Des Moines safe for solo travelers and female solo travelers?

Des Moines does have an appreciable property crime rate, which means it’s important to remain aware of your surroundings while traveling to Des Moines, particularly if you’re a solo female traveler or solo traveler. Treat Des Moines as you would any other metropolitan area: with awareness and caution. You can never be too careful, even if you’re in a safe neighborhood.

How has the crime rate in Des Moines changed over time?

Over the past few years, Des Moines has seen an increase in many types of crimes like robberies, assaults, and murders, but as with any city, rates of various crimes have gone up and down over the past decade and a half. According to City-Data, Des Moines has seen a pretty big drop in thefts and robberies.

What safety precautions should I take while living in or visiting Des Moines?

Des Moines isn’t riddled with violent crime, but it does have a higher crime rate than the state average, so it’s a good idea to remain watchful while walking around at night, particularly in the more densely populated areas like Downtown Des Moines. Owing to its large population, Des Moines does have a measurable crime rate, but it’s well within the national average.

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