The state of Wisconsin expanded its population rolls by just over 200,000 people between the 2010 and 2020 Census periods, which equates to a growth rate of about four percent. While that’s Wisconsin’s slowest decennial Census growth rate since 1990, the state clearly remains an attractive option for people considering relocating.
Still others who already live in the Badger State may be weighing their options and wondering which communities are safest. That’s why understanding the state of property crime in Wisconsin is useful.
Violent crime may garner the lion’s share of attention, but property crime is far more common. So, where does Wisconsin rank among all states, and which areas of the state have the highest and lowest rates of crimes like burglary and auto theft?
At A Glance:
- With #1 being the best, Wisconsin is ranked #10 for property crime out of 50 states + Washington, D.C.
- You have a 1.47% chance of being a property crime victim in Wisconsin in the next 12 months.
- Wisconsin’s property crime rate is 30% lower than the average crime rate in the United States.
- West Milwaukee has the highest property crime rate in Wisconsin (357.2 incidents per 1,000 people).
- West Milwaukee has the state’s highest property crime rate due to its relatively low population. Only about 4,000 people live in this Milwaukee suburb, which is a high-traffic area due to its proximity to Wisconsin’s largest city. In many cities with thriving business sectors and few residents, high crime rates are the result. For comparison, Milwaukee proper is home to nearly 600,000 people and was the site of 10 times more property crimes than West Milwaukee but its population-adjusted rate isn’t among the 20 highest.
Wisconsin’s average property crime rate is nearly seven points lower than the overall U.S. rate, and only nine states have lower rates than Wisconsin. It also has the lowest rate in the Midwest.
Wisconsin’s Most Current Property Crime Rates (2019)
- Rate of Property Crime
- Wisconsin average:: 14.7 crimes per 1,000 people
- National average: 21.1 crimes per 1,000 people
Since 2010, the property crime rate in Wisconsin has plummeted by more than 40 percent, which puts the state in good and crowded company. All but two states (Alaska and North Dakota) have also seen property crime become less common over the past decade. But Wisconsin’s decline stands out, putting the state in fifth place overall, just behind neighboring Michigan, where property crime fell by 42 percent.
Wisconsin’s Overall Property Crime Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Average Rate of Property Crime:
- Wisconsin 10-year average: 20.45 crimes per 1,000 people
- National 10-year average: 25.61 crimes per 1,000 people
- -41% Has property crime increased or decreased during this time?
- There was a 41% decrease in property crime in Wisconsin from 2010 as compared to 2019.
- 2010 Which year had the highest rate of property crime in Wisconsin?:
- The highest rate of property crime in Wisconsin was 2010 (25.1 crimes per 1,000 people)
- 2019 Which year had the lowest rate of property crime in Wisconsin?:
- The lowest rate of property crime in Wisconsin was 2019 (14.7 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.
Wisconsin’s Property Crime Category Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Which type of property crime occurred the most in Wisconsin over the past decade?
- Larceny occurred more than any other property crime at a rate of 15.3 crimes per 1,000 people.
- Average property crime rate by category
- Average burglary rate: 3.7 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average larceny rate: 15.3 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average vehicle crime rate: 1.5 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 Wisconsin.
- +11% Which types of property crime have increased during this time period?
- All four types of property crime have declined in Wisconsin over the past decade, while vehicle theft fell by the lowest rate, 11%.
- -54% Which types of property crime have decreased during this time period?
- The decline in burglary was the highest, 54%.
Researchers tend to connect socioeconomic factors like poverty, jobs, and population density to rates of property crime. Examining available data from Wisconsin in those areas would seem to lend support to that theory.
Wisconsin’s unemployment rate in May 2021 was just under four percent, the 10th lowest in the country, while just over 10 percent of Wisconsin residents live below the poverty line, which is less than the 12.3 percent national rate. Additionally, only 70 percent of Wisconsin residents live in urban areas, well below the national rate of 81 percent.
All that said, the hyperlocal nature of crime means that regardless of state-level statistics, crime rates vary dramatically across Wisconsin. We’ve already touched on the high rate of property crime in West Milwaukee, but even among Wisconsin communities with high crime rates, the suburb’s rate is notable. The second-highest rate, 152 incidents per 1,000 people in Lake Delton, is half what the rate is in West Milwaukee.
On the other side of the coin, Mukwonago Town has the lowest rate, 0.61 crimes per 1,000 people.
Top 5: Best Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data)*:
- Mukwonago Town, Wisconsin (Waukesha County)
- Fulton, Wisconsin (Rock County)
- Wind Point, Wisconsin (Racine County)
- Bangor, Wisconsin (La Crosse County)
- Cleveland, Wisconsin (Manitowoc County)
Bottom 5: Worst Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):
- West Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Milwaukee County)
- Lake Delton, Wisconsin (Sauk County)
- Monona, Wisconsin (Dane County)
- Glendale, Wisconsin (Milwaukee County)
- St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin (Polk County)
* Excludes cities with zero property crime reported