After adding about 95,000 residents between the 2010 and 2020 Census periods, Montana has passed the one-million mark for the first time in its history. While the resulting growth rate of 10 percent was the 15th fastest among the states, it signaled a slight decline in growth rates since 2000.
However, Montana is clearly an attractive place for many people considering relocating, while many others who already live there may be searching for a change of pace. Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand how common crime is in Montana before making a major investment.
While violent crime gets most of the headlines, property crime is much more common in Montana and across the country. So, we wanted to explore property crime in Montana, including trends and which areas of the state are most prone to incidents like burglary and vehicle theft.
At A Glance:
- With #1 being the best, Montana is ranked #28 for property crime out of 50 states + Washington, D.C.
- You have a 2.19% chance of being a property crime victim in Montana in the next 12 months.
- Montana’s property crime rate is 4% higher than the average crime rate in the United States.
- Great Falls has the highest property crime rate in Montana (58 incidents per 1,000 people).
- The leaders in property crime in Montana tend to be the state’s biggest cities. Great Falls, the state’s third biggest city, has the highest rate, while state capital Helena was second with a rate of 42 crimes per 1,000 people. Billings and Missoula, the state’s two biggest cities, have a nearly identical property crime rate of about 41 per 1,000.
Montana’s combined property crime rate barely exceeds the overall U.S. rate, but its rate is higher than the rates in each of its neighboring states. The closest is North Dakota with a rate of about 19.8 per 1,000, while Idaho’s rate is just 12.2 per 1,000, giving it the third lowest rate in the country.
Montana’s Most Current Property Crime Rates (2019)
- Rate of Property Crime
- Montana average:: 21.9 crimes per 1,000 people
- National average: 21.1 crimes per 1,000 people
Like almost every other state, Montana has seen property crime decline over the past decade. Only Alaska and North Dakota saw rates increase. The drop in Montana was below average, though, with the typical reduction at 27 percent compared to Montana’s 14 percent.
Montana’s Overall Property Crime Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Average Rate of Property Crime:
- Montana 10-year average: 25.29 crimes per 1,000 people
- National 10-year average: 25.61 crimes per 1,000 people
- -14% Has property crime increased or decreased during this time?
- There was a 14% decrease in property crime in Montana from 2010 as compared to 2019.
- 2016 Which year had the highest rate of property crime in Montana?:
- The highest rate of property crime in Montana was 2016 (27.1 crimes per 1,000 people)
- 2019 Which year had the lowest rate of property crime in Montana?:
- The lowest rate of property crime in Montana was 2019 (21.9 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.
Montana’s Property Crime Category Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Which type of property crime occurred the most in Montana over the past decade?
- Larceny occurred more than any other property crime at a rate of 19.6 crimes per 1,000 people.
- Average property crime rate by category
- Average burglary rate: 3.5 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average larceny rate: 19.6 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average vehicle crime rate: 2.1 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average arson rate: 0.17 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 Montana.
- +42% Which types of property crime have increased during this time period?
- Vehicle theft rose 42%, making it the only type of property crime to rise in Montana over the past 10 years.
- -27% Which types of property crime have decreased during this time period?
- Rates of burglary (27%), larceny (16%), and arson (18%) all fell.
What factors make Montana a roughly average state when it comes to property crime? While that’s a complex question with few easy answers, researchers have concluded that high rates of poverty, unemployment, and urbanization tend to be correlated with high rates of property crime.
Looking at statistics in those areas is a bit murky, though, as Montana has a similar poverty rate to the U.S. as a whole but far lower rates of both unemployment and urbanization:
- Poverty: About 12.6 percent of Montana residents live below the poverty line compared to 12.3% of all Americans.
- Unemployment: Montana’s most recent unemployment rate was just 3.7 percent, ninth lowest in the country and well below the national rate of about six percent.
- Urbanization: About 56 percent of Montana residents live in urban areas, which is one of the lowest rates in the U.S.
Crime is a primarily local issue, and it’s not uncommon for nearby communities to have vastly different crime rates. Of course, few communities in this vast state can be described as nearby. Still, rates vary dramatically across the state, from a low in Colstrip (2.2 incidents per 1,000 people) to a high in Great Falls (58.1 per 1,000).
Top 5: Best Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):
- Colstrip, Montana (Rosebud County)
- Glendive, Montana (Dawson County)
- Dillon, Montana (Beaverhead County)
- Baker, Montana (Fallon County)
- Ennis, Montana (Madison County)
Bottom 5: Worst Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):
- Great Falls, Montana (Cascade County)
- Helena, Montana (Lewis and Clark County)
- Missoula, Montana (Missoula County)
- Billings, Montana (Yellowstone County)
- Polson, Montana (Lake County)