Tennessee added more than 550,000 new residents between the 2010 and 2020 Census reports, according to federal data, which equates to a nine percent growth rate. While that’s a slight drop from Tennessee’s most recent Census growth rate, it’s clear the Volunteer State remains an attractive spot for many people.

Families and individuals considering taking up residence in Tennessee should know how the state ranks when it comes to property crime. While violent crime understandably gets most of the press attention, the reality is that the average person is far more likely to be victimized by property crime than violent crime.

How common are incidents like theft, arson and burglary in Tennessee, and how does the state compare to the rest of the country?

At A Glance:

    • With #1 being the best, Tennessee is ranked #40 for property crime out of 50 states + Washington, D.C.
    • You have a 2.65% chance of being a property crime victim in Tennessee in the next 12 months.
    • Tennessee’s property crime rate is 26% higher than the average crime rate in the United States.
    • Berry Hill has the highest property crime rate in Tennessee (233 incidents per 1,000 people).

 

  • The highest rate of property crime in Tennessee is in the Nashville of Berry Hill, which has a permanent resident population of just over 500. More than 60 Nashville recording studios are located in Berry Hill, along with bars, restaurants, shops, and many other types of businesses. The high rate of frequent, temporary visitors combined with a low resident population creates the perfect setting for a high property crime rate.

 

Tennessee’s average property crime rate is more than five points higher than the overall U.S. rate. Even among Southern states, which tend to have higher rates of property crime, Tennessee’s rate is above average (26.5 per 1,000 vs. 24.9 per 1,000). Only 10 states and the District of Columbia have higher property crime rates than Tennessee.

Tennessee’s Most Current Property Crime Rates (2019)

  • Rate of Property Crime
    • Tennessee average:: 26.5 crimes per 1,000 people
    • National average: 21.1 crimes per 1,000 people

While the state is more prone than the average state to property crime, there are reasons for optimism. One is that since 2010, property crime has declined in Tennessee, which puts the state in good-if-ample company. All but two states (Alaska and North Dakota) have seen property crime drop over the past decade. Another bit of good news is that Tennessee’s decline is slightly higher than the average drop.

Tennessee’s Overall Property Crime Trends (2010 – 2019)

    • Average Rate of Property Crime:
      • Tennessee 10-year average: 31.14 crimes per 1,000 people
      • National 10-year average: 25.61 crimes per 1,000 people
    • -28% Has property crime increased or decreased during this time?
      • There was a 28% decrease in property crime in Tennessee from 2010 as compared to 2019.
    • 2010 Which year had the highest rate of property crime in Tennessee?:
      • The highest rate of property crime in Tennessee was 2010 (36.6 crimes per 1,000 people)
    • 2019 Which year had the lowest rate of property crime in Tennessee?:
      • The lowest rate of property crime in Tennessee was 2019 (26.5 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.

Tennessee’s Property Crime Category Trends (2010 – 2019)

      • Which type of property crime occurred the most in Tennessee over the past decade?
        • Larceny occurred more than any other property crime at a rate of 21.7 crimes per 1,000 people.
        • Average property crime rate by category
          • Average burglary rate: 7.1 crimes per 1,000 people
          • Average larceny rate: 21.7 crimes per 1,000 people
          • Average vehicle crime rate: 2.3 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 Tennessee.
      • +20% Which types of property crime have increased during this time period?
        • Vehicle theft rose by 20% in Tennessee over the past 10 years.
      • -57% Which types of property crime have decreased during this time period?
        • Burglary declined by 57%.

 

Researchers tend to point to socioeconomic issues like wealth, jobs, and population density when it comes to diagnosing why certain areas have higher property crime rates than others. Looking at the related data from Tennessee seems to add credence to that notion, though it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

 

On the one hand, Tennessee has the nation’s ninth highest poverty rate (nearly 14 percent), and median household income is well below average (about $56,000 vs. $65,000 nationally).

 

But on the other hand, unemployment in May 2021 was five percent, half a point below the national rate, and Tennessee’s urbanization rate of 66 percent is well under the overall U.S. rate of 81 percent.

 

Of course, the hyperlocal nature of crime makes state-level comparisons tricky to begin with. We’ve already touched on why Berry Hill has such a high property crime rate, but it’s notable that Ridgetop, the community with the lowest rate, is only about 20 minutes away, as the two towns lie in the same county.

 

And while Berry Hill’s high property crime rate is connected to the statistical method used to calculate the rate, Memphis, the state’s second-largest city, doesn’t have that excuse. However, preliminary data from Memphis shows that the city will likely see property crime continue to decline through 2021.


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

  • Ridgetop, Tennessee (Davidson and Robertson counties)
  • Gainesboro, Tennessee (Jackson County)
  • Mason, Tennessee (Tipton County)
  • Tusculum, Tennessee (Greene County)
  • Wartrace, Tennessee (Bedford County)

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

  • Berry Hill, Tennessee (Davidson County)
  • Newport, Tennessee (Cocke County)
  • Rocky Top, Tennessee (Anderson and Campbell counties)
  • Athens, Tennessee (McMinn County)
  • Memphis, Tennessee (Shelby County)

* Excludes cities with zero property crime reported