Despite rising housing costs, California remains an attractive state for many people across the country. With a huge and diverse population and weather that runs the gamut from pleasant to extremely pleasant, it’s no wonder why the Golden State has continued to expand its population size over the past decade.
For people considering relocating to California or pursuing housing options across the state, security is a primary concern. Investing in a new home or a new community comes with a certain degree of risk. What should people who live in California or are considering moving to the state know about how common property crime is?
Like most states, there’s a mix of good news and bad news when it comes to crimes like theft and burglary in California.
At A Glance:
- With #1 being the best, California is ranked #32 for property crime out of 50 states + Washington, D.C.
- You have a 2.33% chance of being a property crime victim in California in the next 12 months.
- California’s property crime rate is 10% higher than the average crime rate in the United States.
- Industry, which is in Los Angeles County, has the highest property crime rate in California (5,871 incidents per 1,000 people).
- While Industry and Vernon have by far the highest property crime rates of any city in California, the numbers are a bit misleading. To account for population differences, crime rates are adjusted based on the number of residents per city or state. Industry is a largely commercial area with fewer than 400 residents, while Vernon is even smaller — only about 130 people live there.
Diving into the details of comprehensive property crime data published by the FBI reveals which types of property crime are most common in California, how rates have changed, and how the state compares to the nation as a whole.
California’s Most Current Property Crime Rates (2019)
- Rate of Property Crime
- California average:: 23.31 crimes per 1,000 people
- National average: 21.1 crimes per 1,000 people
Over the past decade, California’s average annual property crime rate is just under the national average, and it’s on the decline. In fact, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state’s property crime rate in 2019 was the lowest since 1960. Whether this reflects the broader national trend of declining property crime or something unique about California is the subject of ongoing analysis.
California’s Overall Property Crime Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Average Rate of Property Crime:
- California 10-year average: 25.45 crimes per 1,000 people
- National 10-year average: 25.61 crimes per 1,000 people
- -11% Has property crime increased or decreased during this time?
- There was an 11% decrease in property crime in California from 2010 as compared to 2019.
- 2012 Which year had the highest rate of property crime in California?:
- The highest rate of property crime in California was 2012 (27.62 crimes per 1,000 people)
- 2019 Which year had the lowest rate of property crime in California?:
- The lowest rate of property crime in California was 2019 (23.31 crimes per 1,000 people)
What incidents fall under the umbrella of property crime? Burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson are the four major property crime categories reported by the FBI. In every case, if the incident involves violence or threats of violence, it no longer is a property crime and is classified as a violent crime.
California’s Property Crime Category Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Which type of property crime occurred the most in California over the past decade?
- Larceny occurred more than any other property crime at a rate of 16.1 crimes per 1,000 people.
- Average property crime rate by category
- Average burglary rate: 5.2 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average larceny rate: 16.1 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average vehicle crime rate: 4.1 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average arson rate: 0.2 crimes per 1,000 people
- Note: There were no FBI estimates for arson rates, so we used all available data that was reported by individual cities in California.
- +6% Which types of property crime have increased during this time period?
- As of 2019, all types of property crime have decreased, except for arson, which climbed 6%.
- -37% Which types of property crime have decreased during this time period?
- Burglary crime has decreased the most – it was down 37% in 2019.
As we mentioned, the causes of California’s property crime decline are the subject of ongoing research and analysis. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice credits the crime rate decline, including both violent and property crimes, to changes in how the state handles incarceration, providing reduced penalties for low-level or non-violent offenses. These measures were designed to address prison overcrowding and encouraged offenders to participate in programs aimed at reducing recidivism, or the act of committing another offense.
Longer-term studies of crime rates have credited things like expanded economic opportunities, reduced joblessness, and other economic factors. Currently, just under 12 percent of California’s residents live below the poverty line, but that rate has fallen by about one-quarter over the past decade. Just under 16 percent of Californians lived in poverty in 2010.
Of course, crime is a hyper-local phenomenon. The five cities with the highest property crime rates in California are all either in the Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay areas. Siskiyou County, one of the northernmost in the state, is home to three of the five cities where property crime is least common — Etna, Lake Shastina, and Tulelake.
Top 5: Best Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):
- Etna, California (Siskiyou County)
- Imperial, California (El Centro Metro Area, Imperial County)
- Monte Sereno, California (Santa Clara County)
- Lake Shastina, California (Siskiyou County)
- Tulelake, California (Siskiyou County)
Bottom 5: Worst Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):
- Industry, California (Los Angeles Area)
- Vernon, California (Los Angeles Area)
- Colma, California (San Francisco Bay Area)
- Emeryville, California (San Francisco Bay Area)
- Sand City, California (San Francisco Bay Area)