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Des Moines Crime: How Safe Are You?

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Aerial view of downtown Des Moines including the 801 Grand skyscraper at sunset.

Des Moines is the capital of Iowa. Like all cities in the United States, crime rates in Des Moines are higher than the national average. There are higher reports of violent crime, property crime, and petty crime, making it more dangerous to live within the boundaries of the city. However, despite the higher crime rates in Des Moines, hundreds of thousands of people choose to live there. Whether you’re a visitor or resident of Des Moines, it’s important to know how safe you really are while you’re in the city.

Des Moines has higher violent crime and property crime averages than the nation's averages.

Des Moines Crime Rate for Violent Crime

Violent crime is defined by the National Institute of Justice as “when a victim is harmed by or threatened with violence.” Violent crimes include rape, sexual assault, robbery, assault, domestic violence, and murder. Areas with high rates of violent crimes are dangerous locations to visit. Most cities in the United States will have higher rates of violent crime than the national average. The national average for violent crime is 383 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants.

Typically, large cities in the United States will have high rates of violent crime. Although Des Moine is the capital of Iowa, Des Moine does not have the highest violent crime rate in the state. The city in Iowa with the highest violent crime rate is Clinton, with a rate of 1,155 per 100,000 people, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

Des Moines, on the other hand, has a violent crime rate of 495 per 100,000 inhabitants. The state average in Iowa is closer to 200 per 100,000 inhabitants. The most common violent crime to occur in the metro area of Des Moine is assault.

Des Moines Crime Rate for Property Crime

Property crime includes burglary, trespassing, motor-vehicle theft, and theft, according to the National Institute of Justice. Both incomplete and complete crimes can be prosecuted as property crimes. The national average rate for property crime in the United States is 2,199.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. Property crime is one of the most common crimes in the United States; there are over 2.2 million burglaries every year.

In Des Moines, the property crime rate is 4,829 per 100,000, which is double the national average. Like most cities, Des Moine experiences high crime rates. To combat the high crime rate in Des Moines, the police department hires additional police officers. In Des Moines, there are 376 sworn police and 109 unsworn police, bringing the total to 485 active law enforcement members.

With over 217,521 people living in the city (as of the 2017 city census), property crime is unavoidable. Police work around the clock, hoping to prevent crime from worsening in the city.

"The Travelers" sign with the 801 Grand building in the background just as night falls.

Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in Des Moines

Whether you are visiting Des Moines or you’re a resident of the city, it’s important to know where not to go. Like all cities, some areas are more dangerous than others. The most dangerous neighborhoods are:

Laurel Hill

Laurel Hill sounds like a pleasant area to live in. The name of the neighborhood sounds calming and sweet. However, this neighborhood has the highest crime rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Des Moines. The neighborhood is small—with a population of 332 people. However, even with a small population of people in the neighborhood, there are 2,233 crimes per 100,000 people (recorded as a ratio). This area is 233 percent more dangerous than the Des Moines average.

Capitol East

The second most dangerous neighborhood in Des Moines is Capitol East. Capitol East has a population of 2,068 people, making it nearly eight times larger than our number one ranked neighborhood. However, the area isn’t that much safer than Laurel Hill. With 2,079 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants, Capital East is an area where you should avoid staying at night. Many homeowners are tempted to buy real estate in this area due to low housing prices. However, although the housing may be cheap, don’t buy the houses in Capitol East. Gun violence and aggravated assault are the two most common crimes in Capitol East.

Jordan Park

Jordan Park has a population of 2,175 people and is located near Ewing Park, a popular location for homeless tents. Due to the poverty rate in Jordan Park, the crime rate has soared. With 1,440 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants, Jordan Park’s violent crime rate is 124 percent higher than Des Moines’ average violent crime rate. This area is often patrolled by police due to a high number of reported crimes and daily criminal charges. It’s no wonder that Jordan Park is the third most dangerous neighborhood in Des Moines, Iowa.

Aerial shot exactly above a parking lot in downtown Des Moines Iowa

River Bend

Although the name “River Bend” sounds pleasant and carefree, River Bend is the fourth most dangerous neighborhood in Des Moines. With a population of 2,849 and a crime rate of 1,457 per 100,000 inhabitants, this neighborhood sees 117 percent more crime compared to the average violent crime rate in Des Moines. Crime data from River Bend reveals high levels of violent incidents, specifically at night. Police suspect that crime in River Bend is due to drug usage.

East Village

East Village has a population of 1,545 and sees a violent crime rate of 1,440 per 100,000 inhabitants. This is enough to rank the area as the fifth most dangerous neighborhood in Des Moines, Iowa. Theft, burglary, gun violence, and assault are common in East Village. Residents of East Village often report criminal activity during the day and night.

Whether you’re a tourist exploring Des Moines, Iowa, or you’re a resident walking to a friend's house, it’s a good idea to avoid any of the areas listed above. Laurel Hill, Capitol East, Jordan Park, River Bend, and East Village are all known for being extremely dangerous.

Home in a safe neighborhood in Des Moines, Iowa.

Safest Neighborhoods in Des Moines

Although there are several extremely dangerous neighborhoods in Des Moines, Iowa, there are also several safe neighborhoods. If you’re looking for a new home in the capital city of Iowa, here are the five best neighborhoods:


Located minutes from the Des Moines Airport, Millman is one of the safest places to live in Des Moines. Millman has a violent crime rate that is 31 percent lower than the national average. The area is also 95 percent safer than other neighborhoods in Iowa. The housing units in Millman are known for being spacious, with wide yards and roomy homes. Most residents are upper-middle-class and are faithful members of the HOA. To feel safe and comfortable with your neighbors, Millman is a great place to live in Des Moines, Iowa.


Saylorville is known as one of the safest neighborhoods in Iowa due to its incredibly low crime rate. The neighborhood is located on a beautiful lakefront and is the perfect home for water-lovers. Also known as Rock Island District, Saylorville has a crime rate that is 80 percent lower than the national average.

Southwestern Hills

If you want to live near downtown Des Moines, but far enough away to walk through grass plains, then Southwestern Hills is the perfect location. The violent crime rate in Southwestern Hills is 12 percent lower than the national average. For potential residents, Southwestern Hills offers gated communities, safe Des Moines schools, and tree-lined parks.


Boonville is located on the Raccoon River and is one of the best and safest places to live in Des Moines. This area is outside of the Des Moines metro and offers a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. The crime rate in Boonville is 13 percent lower than the national average, making it one of the safest places to live in Des Moines, Iowa.


Waterbury is the perfect place to live because it has the lowest crime rate in all of Des Moines. With a crime rate of only 670 per 100,000 inhabitants, this area is one of the safest areas in the city. It also has incredible schools that offer a 97 percent graduation rate. Waterbury is perfect for the family-oriented homeowner, looking for the best area to settle a growing family.

A screenshot of a Des Moines Crime Map (showing arrests as well as recent crimes) from SpotCrime.com.

Best Des Moines Crime Map

Crime maps can help to predict which areas are the most dangerous in the city. Crime maps are public tools that record when and where crimes were committed. Most crime maps will have a labeled key, dictating recent crimes in the area. The crimes that will be listed on the maps are arson, arrest, assault, burglary, robbery, shooting, theft, vandalism.

Here are two great websites that show an accurate Des Moines crime map:

Both SpotCrime and CityProtect will give accurate crime readings in your area. To use the crime map, simply search your zip code in the search bar. The site will generate a map of your area and list where recent crimes have been committed. When the map is generated, you will see the street location of where the crimes happened. Most crimes will also list a time and date.

For example, by using SpotCrime and typing in the zipcode for Des Moines, several crimes immediately become apparent. From looking at the crime map, arrest appears to be the most common crime-related occurrence in the Boone area. In Ames, it appears, according to the map, that assault is the most common crime. On the other hand, when typing in Waterbury (one of the safest neighborhoods in Des Moines), no crimes appear on the map, meaning that there have been no recent crimes in the area.

Using a crime map ensures that you are more aware of crime in your area. Crime maps of Des Moines may help you stay away from dangerous locations, helping your family to stay safe while living in the city.

Answering the Question: How Safe Are You?

Are you safe in Des Moines? The answer is: yes and no. Since the city of Des Moines spans a large area, it also encompasses a wide range of living accommodations. Some areas, such as Waterbury, are incredibly safe. Other areas, such as Laurel Hill, are incredibly dangerous. If you stay close to areas that are safe, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about while in Des Moines. To stay safe, you will need to research the area you will be in and determine whether or not the risk is worth being there.

If you are exploring downtown Des Moines, you should be safe as long as you stay in public areas. Public areas will be monitored by law enforcement officers to ensure that tourists are safe while they visit the city. Because Des Moines isn’t the most popular tourist destination (compared to Los Angeles or New York), most visitors won’t have to worry about pickpockets or muggers attacking them in the open on the streets. For the most part, downtown Des Moines is safe to be during the day. However, we recommend that visitors always travel with a group for added protection.

If you own a home in Des Moines and you’re worried about your safety, the best thing you can do is to install a home security system. Home security systems have been proven to deter crime and prevent burglars from entering the home. One of the best home security systems for Des Moines residents is Cove Security, a reliable DIY home security system. Cove Security offers inexpensive self-installed security systems for homeowners in Des Moines. Starting at only 15 dollars a month, Cove is the most affordable security system on the market.

Cove Security is prepared to protect Des Moines residents. Families and individuals living in the city deserve to feel safe and comfortable in their homes. Having a home security system can grant much-needed peace of mind for those looking for comfort.

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