More than 70,000 new residents were added to the rolls in South Dakota between 2010 and 2020, according to Census figures. The nine percent change was South Dakota’s most robust increase in a century’s worth of Census reports.
So, while South Dakota remains one of the smallest-population states, it’s clear many people may be considering relocating to the state. One possible reason is that South Dakota has a below-average rate of property crime.
While violent crime understandably gets more attention, the truth is that for the average person, property crime is a much more common issue. Let’s explore the state of property crime in South Dakota, including which communities in the state have the highest and lowest rates.
At A Glance:
- With #1 being the best, South Dakota is ranked #17 for property crime out of 50 states + Washington, D.C.
- You have a 1.77% chance of being a property crime victim in South Dakota in the next 12 months.
- South Dakota’s property crime rate is 16% lower than the average crime rate in the United States.
- Martin has the highest property crime rate in South Dakota (75 incidents per 1,000 people).
- Martin is a small town of just over 1,000 people in southern South Dakota. It’s located between the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. Like many towns with tiny populations, it has a high property crime rate due to a low rate of population and high rate of commerce. There are few residents and many businesses in Martin, including a casino, and the state-leading rate is the result of 80 reported property crime incidents in 2019. For comparison, in Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city, more than 5,000 property crimes were reported.
South Dakota’s property crime rate is almost three points lower than the overall U.S. rate, and the state has one of the lowest property crime rates in the Midwest. In its region, South Dakota has a higher rate than only three states — Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa.
South Dakota’s Most Current Property Crime Rates (2019)
- Rate of Property Crime
- South Dakota average:: 17.7 crimes per 1,000 people
- National average: 21.1 crimes per 1,000 people
Though South Dakota’s property crime rate is lower than the overall U.S. rate, there is cause for concern on the horizon. South Dakota’s property crime rate fell by about five percent between 2010 and 2019, which seems like good news at first glance. However, the broader national trend is toward much lower property crime rates. All but two states (Alaska and North Dakota) saw property crime rates drop, and the average decline was 27 percent. Taken in that context, South Dakota’s five percent decline, the second smallest, is a less positive signal than at first blush.
South Dakota’s Overall Property Crime Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Average Rate of Property Crime:
- South Dakota 10-year average: 18.94 crimes per 1,000 people
- National 10-year average: 25.61 crimes per 1,000 people
- -5% Has property crime increased or decreased during this time?
- There was a 5% decrease in property crime in South Dakota from 2010 as compared to 2019.
- 2012 Which year had the highest rate of property crime in South Dakota?:
- The highest rate of property crime in South Dakota was 2012 (20.8 crimes per 1,000 people)
- 2018 Which year had the lowest rate of property crime in South Dakota?:
- The lowest rate of property crime in South Dakota was 2018 (17.3 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.
South Dakota’s Property Crime Category Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Which type of property crime occurred the most in South Dakota over the past decade?
- Larceny occurred more than any other property crime at a rate of 14.1 crimes per 1,000 people.
- Average property crime rate by category
- Average burglary rate: 3.5 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average larceny rate: 14.1 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average vehicle crime rate: 1.4 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average arson rate: 0.1 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 South Dakota.
- +100% Which types of property crime have increased during this time period?
- Vehicle theft has surged in South Dakota, rising by more than 100% over the past 10 years.
- -23% Which types of property crime have decreased during this time period?
- Burglary fell by 23%, the highest rate.
Researchers tend to connect crime rates to socioeconomic factors like wealth, jobs, and urbanization. Considering those statistics in South Dakota would seem to lend some credence to that theory, though not every sign points in that direction.
Just under three percent of South Dakota adults were unemployed in May 2021, the fifth lowest rate and well below the U.S. average of 5.5 percent, and only 57 percent of South Dakota residents live in urban areas. Nationally, that rate is 81 percent, which puts South Dakota in the bottom 10.
On the other hand, about 12 percent of South Dakota residents live below the poverty line, which is nearly identical to the national rate, while the state’s median household income is below average ($59,533 vs. $65,712).
In South Dakota, as in all states, property crime rates vary considerably in all corners of the state. Elk Point has South Dakota’s lowest rate, less than one incident per 1,000 people, with just a single property crime incident reported in 2019 in the city of about 1,800. Even among cities with high rates, Martin’s property crime rate is extreme — the next highest rate is in Mitchell, and it’s about 40 points lower.
Top 5: Best Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data)*:
- Elk Point, South Dakota (Union County)
- Platte, South Dakota (Charles Mix County)
- Tripp, South Dakota (Hutchinson County)
- Clark, South Dakota (Clark County)
- Faith, South Dakota (Meade County)
Bottom 5: Worst Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):
- Martin, South Dakota (Bennett County)
- Mitchell, South Dakota (Davison County)
- Flandreau, South Dakota (Moody County)
- Chamberlain, South Dakota (Brule County)
- Rapid City, South Dakota (Pennington County)
* Excludes cities with zero property crime reported