The commonwealth of Massachusetts grew by nearly 500,000 people between the 2010 and 2020 Census periods, which equates to a rate of about seven percent. Though that growth rate is about average for all the states, it represents Massachusetts’ fastest 10-year Census growth rate since 1970.

One potential reason Massachusetts is an attractive landing spot is that it has the lowest overall property crime rate, including incidents like burglary, larceny, and auto theft.

Let’s look more closely at property crime in Massachusetts, including how the commonwealth stacks up with its neighbors and which communities have the highest and lowest property crime rates.

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At A Glance:

    • With #1 being the best, Massachusetts is ranked #1 for property crime out of 50 states + Washington, D.C.
    • You have a 1.18% chance of being a property crime victim in Massachusetts in the next 12 months.
    • Massachusetts’ property crime rate is 44% lower than the average crime rate in the United States.
    • Holyoke has the highest property crime rate in Massachusetts (37.2 incidents per 1,000 people).
  • In many states, the community with the highest property crime rate is a tiny hamlet with so few residents that the crime taking place there seems more prevalent than it might actually be. But Holyoke is a city of more than 40,000 people, which means its high property crime rate isn’t a statistical anomaly. One potential reason property crime is so prevalent in the city is that its poverty rate is nearly 30 percent. For comparison, Massachusetts’ poverty rate is only about nine percent and the overall U.S. rate is about 12 percent.

With a combined property crime rate that’s not much higher than half the U.S. rate, Massachusetts is the national leader when it comes to avoiding property crime. Neighboring New Hampshire has the nation’s second-lowest combined property crime rate.

Massachusetts’ Most Current Property Crime Rates (2019)

  • Rate of Property Crime
    • Massachusetts average:: 11.8 crimes per 1,000 people
    • National average: 21.1 crimes per 1,000 people

In all but two states (Alaska and North Dakota), property crime has become less common over the past 10 years, and it’s declined by 50 percent in Massachusetts. That’s the biggest drop, with Maine a close second.

Massachusetts’ Overall Property Crime Trends (2010 – 2019)

    • Average Rate of Property Crime:
      • Massachusetts 10-year average: 17.73 crimes per 1,000 people
      • National 10-year average: 25.61 crimes per 1,000 people
    • -50% Has property crime increased or decreased during this time?
      • There was a 50% decrease in property crime in Massachusetts from 2010 as compared to 2019.
    • 2010 Which year had the highest rate of property crime in Massachusetts?:
      • The highest rate of property crime in Massachusetts was 2010 (23.6 crimes per 1,000 people)
    • 2019 Which year had the lowest rate of property crime in Massachusetts?:
      • The lowest rate of property crime in Massachusetts was 2019 (11.8 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.

Massachusetts’ Property Crime Category Trends (2010 – 2019)

      • Which type of property crime occurred the most in Massachusetts over the past decade?
        • Larceny occurred more than any other property crime at a rate of 12.8 crimes per 1,000 people.
        • Average property crime rate by category
          • Average burglary rate: 3.7 crimes per 1,000 people
          • Average larceny rate: 12.8 crimes per 1,000 people
          • Average vehicle crime rate: 1.3 crimes per 1,000 people
          • Average arson rate: 0.07 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 Massachusetts.
      • +43% Which types of property crime have increased during this time period?
        • All four types of property crime have declined in Massachusetts over the past 10 years, but the drop in larceny was the lowest (43%).
      • -69% Which types of property crime have decreased during this time period?
        • The most rapid property crime rate decline was in burglary, which fell by about 69% since 2010.

Crime is a complex issue with many root causes, and exploring why Massachusetts has such a low property crime rate is a bit of a mixed bag. Some researchers have connected three major factors — poverty, unemployment, and urbanization — to high rates of property crimes.

Of those, poverty would appear to have the biggest impact. About 12 percent of Americans live below the poverty line, but that rate is just over nine percent in Massachusetts.

About 6.5 percent of Massachusetts residents were unemployed in April 2021, which is about average, while the commonwealth is considerably more urbanized than the nation as a whole. About 92 percent of people in Massachusetts live in urban areas compared to just 81 percent of all Americans, making Massachusetts the fifth-most urbanized state.

The commonwealth’s improvement in violent and property crime rates can be attributed to law enforcement officials building positive relationships with community members, Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl C. Clapprood said, while Western New England University professor Creaig Dunton cautioned that the veracity of FBI data relies on accurate reporting by police agencies.

Still, regardless of why property crime rates are low in Massachusetts as a whole, the reality is low rates are not the norm in every corner of the commonwealth. For example, Wayland’s property crime rate of 0.07 per 1,000 people is based on a single incident, while Holyoke’s rate of 37 per 1,000 people was the result of about 1,500 property crimes.

Top 5: Best Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data)*:

  • Wayland, Massachusetts (Middlesex County)
  • Cheshire, Massachusetts (Berkshire County)
  • Boylston, Massachusetts (Worcester County)
  • Norton, Massachusetts (Bristol County)
  • Clinton, Massachusetts (Worcester County)

Bottom 5: Worst Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):

  • Holyoke, Massachusetts (Hampden County)
  • West Springfield, Massachusetts (Hampden County)
  • Hadley, Massachusetts (Hampshire County)
  • North Adams, Massachusetts (Berkshire County)
  • Springfield, Massachusetts (Hampden County)

* Excludes cities with zero property crimes reported