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The safest metro in Fla. isn’t too surprising. The Villages – Central Fla.’s mega 55-plus community of 60,000 residents – ranks as No. 1.

SARASOTA – When you’re deciding where to live, there are a lot of things to consider. But one of the most important things to look at is: Is it safe?

While no place will ever be completely safe from crime or natural disasters, some places may be a safer bet than others. Real estate site UpHomes decided to find out which ones those were. They analyzed the 60 largest cities in Florida by population and compared them based on county and city violent crime rates, county property crime rates, county natural disaster risk ratings from FEMA, incomes, poverty levels and population density. All numbers listed are as of the end of 2022.

Number one might not be a shocker.

1. The Villages

Population: 79,077

County Violent Crime Rate: 881 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 18.56

It’s the largest adult community in the United States and the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Villages, a 55+ living community roughly halfway between Orlando and Gainesville that bills itself as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown,” sprawls across three counties (Sumter, Marion and Lake), three ZIP codes, and includes about 60,000 households.

A low rate of violent and property crime, a low poverty rate (houses here aren’t cheap) and a location far enough inland to avoid most tropical storm damage makes The Villages the safest place to live in Florida, according to UpHomes.

2. Palm Coast

Population: 89,258

County Violent Crime Rate: 997 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 19.56

The only northeast location on the list, Palm Coast is in Flagler County on the coast between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. Palm Coast began in 1970 as a rural spot full of pine forests, cattle ranches, and potato farms, but after it was incorporated in 1999, Palm Coast gradually became the most populous city in the Volusia-Flagler County area, according to University of Florida researchers, and the 26th largest city in Florida.

Golf courses, walking trails, parks and the Atlantic Ocean make Palm Coast a beautiful place, but it’s the second-lowest violent and property crime rates and “a relatively low FEMA score” that made it 2nd on the list.

3. Riverview

Population: 107,396

County Violent Crime Rate: 1,400 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 26.18

This suburb just outside of Tampa regularly makes top places-to-live lists. Beautiful beaches, an astounding number of parks, strong restaurant game and proximity to both Tampa and MacDill Air Force Base brings lots of people to this Hillsborough County city to enjoy the Florida life. Riverview even hit 33rd on Money.com’s “Best Places to Live” list for 2019.

Where safety is concerned, Riverview has low violent and property crime rates and the seventh-lowest poverty rate on the list.

4. North Port

Population: 74,793

County Violent Crime Rate: 1,755 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 24.19

Florida ranked number one as the state most people moved to in 2022, and according to U-Haul’s 2021 list of top destinations, the 4th most popular place to go was North Port. This Sarasota County spot is located just north of the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. Quicken Loans called it the second-fastest growing city in the U.S., and it’s the spring training home for the Atlanta Braves.

The cost of living is 3.6% lower than the national average (although the cost of raising a child in the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton area ranked 47th out of 381 U.S. metro areas) and it had the second-lowest poverty rate on UpHomes’ list. It’s not immune from natural disasters, however. North Port saw some damage from Hurricane Ian last year.

5. Brandon

Population: 114,626

County Violent Crime Rate: 1,400 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 26.18

Another of Tampa’s bedroom communities, the small unincorporated town of Brandon hosts the Hillsborough County Fair and is the birthplace of Beef O’Brady’s. Plenty of parks, lakefront trails, and a vibrant downtown area await, and its low poverty rate and higher median income compared to Tampa got it on UpHomes’ Safest City list.

6. Spring Hill

Population: 113,568

County Violent Crime Rate: 1,449 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 19.52

Spring Hill in Hernando County, about an hour north of Tampa, and is probably best known now for its mermaids. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, a Florida attraction featuring live performing mermaids since 1947, has officially been in Spring Hill since Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation dissolving the city of Weeki Wachee.

But the mermaids will be safe.

7. Wesley Chapel

Population: 64,866

County Violent Crime Rate: 1,589 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 22.57

About 25 miles north of Tampa – are you seeing a trend here? – Wesley Chapel is a small, unincorporated place in Pasco County boasting a rich history of logging, farming and ranching since the mid-1800s. It ranked 13th in UpHomes’ list for violent and property crimes.

8. Tampa

Population: 384,959

County Violent Crime Rate: 1,400 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 26.18

The west-coastal city of Tampa in Hillsborough County was Forbes’ pick for best place to live in Florida in 2022. With white sandy beaches, an impressive arts community, Busch Gardens, three professional sports teams and much more, Tampa is the third most populous city in the Sunshine State but somehow the 8th safest place to live.

9. Town ‘n’ Country

Population: 85,951

County Violent Crime Rate: 1,400 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 26.18

Yes, it’s a real place and yes, that’s the name. One of Tampa’s first suburban communities, Town ‘n’ Country is known for its large Latino population, plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and parks, a growing population of young professionals and, according to UpHomes, a low crime rate.

10. Cape Coral

Population: 194,016

County Violent Crime Rate: 1,362 per 100,000

FEMA Rating: 48.81

Cape Coral, a west-coast city on the Gulf of Mexico in Lee County and one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., is on a lot of lists. Forbes called the 4th best place to live in Florida in 2022. LawnStarter called it the 7th most unglamorous U.S. city this year.

It’s 7th on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s list of most challenging cities for managing allergies. It made the top spot of most overpriced rental markets in the entire country. And the Cape Coral-Fort Myers drive made the top 20 list for worst commutes in the U.S.

But it’s a beautiful place, known for its canals, manatees, waterfront living, great restaurants and easy access to Fort Myers and Naples. It’s one of the lowest Florida cities on the list for violent crime but it does have a high risk of natural disasters.

The other Florida cities on UpHomes’ 15 Safest Cities in Florida list were Port St. Lucie, Sanford, St. Cloud, Lakeland and Poinciana.

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Author: marlam