West Virginia was one of only three states to lose population between the 2010 and 2020 Census periods, according to federal data. The most recent report was the fourth Census study since 1910 to show that West Virginia has lost more residents than it gained, and West Virginia’s percentage population decline was larger than those of the other two states, Illinois and Mississippi.
Still, this small Southern state boasts some of the most beautiful natural vistas in the country, which is just one reason why many people may be considering a change of scenery in the form of a move to West Virginia. And many who already reside in the state may be in the market for a new community.
That’s why we wanted to analyze federal property crime data for West Virginia. While violent crime statistics are typically more well-publicized, the reality is that the average person is far more likely to experience property crimes than violent crimes.
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At A Glance:
- With #1 being the best, West Virginia is ranked #13 for property crime out of 50 states + Washington, D.C.
- You have a 1.58% chance of being a property crime victim in West Virginia in the next 12 months.
- West Virginia’s property crime rate is 25% lower than the average crime rate in the United States.
- Moorefield has the highest property crime rate in West Virginia (63.3 incidents per 1,000 people).
- The property crime rate in Moorefield is the highest among all West Virginia communities with available data, though it’s important to note that the FBI did not publish data for a majority of the state’s cities and towns. Moorefield is a small town of about 2,400 at the confluence of two branches of the Potomac River. Its state-leading rate is based on a total of 153 property crime incidents in 2019.
West Virginia’s average property crime rate is nearly six points lower than the overall national rate, and only 12 other states have lower property crime rates. Particularly in the Southern region, which has many of the highest property crime states, West Virginia stands out, with the lowest rate in the South.
West Virginia’s Most Current Property Crime Rates (2019)
- Rate of Property Crime
- West Virginia average:: 15.8 crimes per 1,000 people
- National average: 21.1 crimes per 1,000 people
Not only is West Virginia among the best states when it comes to property crime, it’s also had a noticeable downward trend. Since 2010, the property crime rate in West Virginia has fallen by 29 percent, which puts the state in good-if-crowded company. All but two states (Alaska and North Dakota) have seen property crime decline over the past decade.
West Virginia’s Overall Property Crime Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Average Rate of Property Crime:
- West Virginia 10-year average: 20.04 crimes per 1,000 people
- National 10-year average: 25.61 crimes per 1,000 people
- -29% Has property crime increased or decreased during this time?
- There was a 29% decrease in property crime in West Virginia from 2010 as compared to 2019.
- 2012 Which year had the highest rate of property crime in West Virginia?:
- The highest rate of property crime in West Virginia was 2012 (24 crimes per 1,000 people)
- 2018 Which year had the lowest rate of property crime in West Virginia?:
- The lowest rate of property crime in West Virginia was 2018 (15.5 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.
West Virginia’s Property Crime Category Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Which type of property crime occurred the most in West Virginia over the past decade?
- Larceny occurred more than any other property crime at a rate of 13.9 crimes per 1,000 people.
- Average property crime rate by category
- Average burglary rate: 4.9 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average larceny rate: 13.9 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average vehicle crime rate: 1.3 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 West Virginia.
- +3% Which types of property crime have increased during this time period?
- Vehicle theft has become more common in West Virginia over the past 10 years, with the rate rising by 3%.
- -43% Which types of property crime have decreased during this time period?
- Burglary had the biggest drop, falling 43%.
Researchers tend to tie factors like poverty and urbanization to high rates of property crime, but it’s unclear to what extent those factors are influential in West Virginia.
One the one hand, the state has the third-lowest urbanization rate — only 49 percent of people live in urban areas — but on the other hand, its poverty rate is the sixth-highest — 16 percent of residents live below the poverty line.
But given the hyperlocal nature of crime, it’s useful to examine local statistics in addition to state-level numbers. Only 21 cities had available data, according to the FBI, and the lowest property crime rate was in Weston, where there were 0.51 property crimes per 1,000 people.
Huntington, which is the state’s second-largest city, also has the second-highest property crime rate (39 per 1,000 people), but city and law enforcement leaders have recently celebrated declines in both violent crime and property crime.
Among the initiatives credited for helping reduce crime in Huntington was a city project to demolish vacant structures, and more than 100 abandoned homes were torn down in 2019.
Top 5: Best Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):
- Weston, West Virginia (Lewis County)
- Williamson, West Virginia (Mingo County)
- Oak Hill, West Virginia (Fayette County)
- New Martinsville, West Virginia (Wetzel County)
- Weirton, West Virginia (Brooke and Hancock counties)
Bottom 5: Worst Property Crime Rates (based on 2019 data):
- Moorefield, West Virginia (Hardy County)
- Huntington, West Virginia (Cabell and Wayne counties)
- Nitro, West Virginia (Kanawha and Putnam counties)
- Summersville, West Virginia (Nicholas County)
- St. Albans, West Virginia (Kanawha County)