Virginia added about 600,000 new residents between the 2010 and 2020 Census reports, according to the federal government. While that equates to an above average expansion rate of eight percent, it’s Virginia’s lowest Census growth rate since 1930.
Still, Virginia remains the 12th largest U.S. state, which means that it’s obviously an attractive place to call home. Whether you’re coming from outside the commonwealth or are Virginia residents looking for a change of pace, it’s important to understand how common property crime is there.
While violent crime like assault and murder understandably gets more attention, the fact is that in Virginia and across the country, the average person is far more likely to fall victim to a property crime than a violent one. How common are such incidents in Virginia and which communities in the commonwealth have the highest and lowest rates?
At A Glance:
- With #1 being the best, Virginia is ranked #15 for property crime out of 50 states + Washington, D.C.
- You have a 1.64% chance of being a property crime victim in Virginia in the next 12 months.
- Virginia’s property crime rate is 22% lower than the average crime rate in the United States.
- Damascus has the highest property crime rate in Virginia (71.1 incidents per 1,000 people).
- Damascus is a tiny town of fewer than 800 permanent residents. It’s known as Trail Town USA because seven nationally known trails intersect there, including the Appalachian Trail, which runs through downtown Damascus. The influx of temporary visitors combined with a low resident population creates the town’s high property crime rate, which was the result of just 56 reported property crime incidents in 2019. For comparison’s sake, more than 7,700 property crimes were reported in Virginia Beach, which has about 600 times the population of Damascus.
Virginia’s average property crime rate is nearly five points lower than the overall U.S. crime rate, and only 14 states have lower rates than the commonwealth. Among Southern states, Virginia is quite an anomaly. The average property crime rate in the South is about 25 crimes per 1,000 people, and Virginia and neighboring West Virginia have the lowest two rates.
Virginia’s Most Current Property Crime Rates (2019)
- Rate of Property Crime
- Virginia average:: 16.4 crimes per 1,000 people
- National average: 21.1 crimes per 1,000 people
Property crime rates in Virginia have declined by 30 percent since 2010, as they have in all but two states (Alaska and North Dakota). The average rate of decline was 27 percent, which puts Virginia just over the average.
Virginia’s Overall Property Crime Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Average Rate of Property Crime:
- Virginia 10-year average: 19.63 crimes per 1,000 people
- National 10-year average: 25.61 crimes per 1,000 people
- -30% Has property crime increased or decreased during this time?
- There was a 30% decrease in property crime in Virginia from 2010 as compared to 2019.
- 2010 Which year had the highest rate of property crime in Virginia?:
- The highest rate of property crime in Virginia was 2010 (23.4 crimes per 1,000 people)
- 2019 Which year had the lowest rate of property crime in Virginia?:
- The lowest rate of property crime in Virginia was 2019 (16.4 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.
Virginia’s Property Crime Category Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Which type of property crime occurred the most in Virginia over the past decade?
- Larceny occurred more than any other property crime at a rate of 15.7 crimes per 1,000 people.
- Average property crime rate by category
- Average burglary rate: 2.8 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average larceny rate: 15.7 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average vehicle crime rate: 1.1 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 Virginia.
- +9% Which types of property crime have increased during this time period?
- All types of property crime fell in Virginia over the past 10 years, but vehicle theft declined by the lowest rate, 9%.
- -58% Which types of property crime have decreased during this time period?
- Burglary dropped the most, falling 58% since 2010.
Many researchers have tied crime rates to socioeconomic factors like wealth, jobs, and population density. Examining the statistics in Virginia related to those areas would seem to lend credence to that hypothesis.
Just under 10 percent of Virginia residents live below the poverty line compared to the overall U.S. rate of about 12 percent, and the commonwealth’s unemployment rate in May 2021 was a full point below the overall national rate of 5.5 percent. Median household income in Virginia is also among the nation’s highest sums ($76,456 vs. $65,712), while the commonwealth’s urbanization rate is below average — 76 percent of Virginia residents live in urban areas compared to 81 percent of all Americans.
In addition to being a complex issue, crime is also a hyperlocal one, which means property crime rates vary tremendously across the commonwealth. We’ve explored why Damascus has a high property crime rate, but comparing it with the town that has the lowest rate (La Crosse) creates an even more stark picture.
Property Crime in La Crosse occurs at a population-adjusted rate of 1.8 incidents per 1,000 people or nearly 40 times lower than the rate in Damascus. Even nearby communities can have extreme variations. Pocahontas, a town of about 350 in Tazewell County, has the commonwealth’s fourth-lowest property crime rate (about three incidents per 1,000 people). Just nine miles away, Bluefield has the third-highest rate, nearly 57 per 1,000.
Top 5: Best Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data)*:
- La Crosse, Virginia (Mecklenburg County)
- Glasgow, Virginia (Rockbridge County)
- Occoquan, Virginia (Prince William County)
- Pocahontas, Virginia (Tazewell County)
- Buena Vista, Virginia (independent city)
Bottom 5: Worst Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):
- Damascus, Virginia (Washington County)
- Portsmouth, Virginia (independent city)
- Bluefield, Virginia (Tazewell County)
- Rocky Mount, Virginia (Franklin County)
- South Boston, Virginia (Halifax County)
* Excludes cities with zero property crime reported