Public safety was not a major concern for Renee and Aaron Spradling when they moved to Gilbert 11 years ago.
Back then, they did not have children old enough to play outside in the neighborhood. But the family has grown, and the Spradlings now have children ages 2, 6 and 13.
Fortunately, they live in one of the safest places in the nation.
A list released Monday of the nation’s safest towns and cities puts Gilbert at No. 22 among 371 municipalities.
“It makes me feel like we live in a little pocket where we can have our kids play outside and it’s safe for them,” said Renee Spradling, who took the family to Freestone Park on Monday.
Scottsdale, Chandler and Peoria also finished in the top half of the list, which was compiled by Morgan Quitno Press, a private research and publishing company specializing in state and city reference books.
The list was based on FBI figures released in June and on other factors.
All other Arizona cities included in the study finished in the bottom half.
Mesa was No. 191, Yuma was No. 215, Tempe was No. 241, Glendale was No. 253 and Tucson was No. 308.
Phoenix finished near the bottom at No. 313.
Gilbert police Sgt. Andrew Duncan said his town fared well despite its struggle to keep up with the booming population.
He said Gilbert, which has grown to nearly 200,000 residents, has one of the lowest ratios in the nation of police officers to civilians for municipalities of that size.
But he said Gilbert takes an aggressive approach to routine crimes such as curfew and alcohol violations.
“We believe that it is due in part to how we concentrate on the small issues that ultimately deal with the larger problems,” Duncan said.
He also said the town has mandatory counseling for people convicted of domestic violence or abuse.
Aaron Spradling gave police “two thumbs up” for the work they do.
“It gives you reassurance as a parent,” he said.
The rankings include only cities that reported crime rates. For example, New Orleans was not included this year because its police department did not report figures.
The safest city in 2005 was Brick, N.J., population about 78,000, followed by Amherst, N.Y., and Mission Viejo, Calif. The most dangerous city was St. Louis, followed by Detroit, Flint, Mich., and Compton, Calif.
Cities are ranked based on more than just their crime rate, said Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno Press.
Individual crimes such as rape or burglary are measured separately, compared to national averages and then compiled to give a city its ranking. Crimes are weighted based on their danger to people.
Police statistics show Phoenix, which has about 1.5 million residents, is one of the nation’s most violent cities for its size. At 244 murders, one murder occurred in Phoenix every 38 hours on average in 2005. The same year, there were 533 rapes, 4,237 robberies, and 5,701 aggravated assaults. Last year in Tucson, which has more than 536,000 residents, police statistics show there were 56 homicides, 378 sexual assaults, 1,685 robberies and 2,930 aggravated assaults.
Statistics from both cities starkly contrast with Gilbert’s numbers. The town, which has a population of about 178,000 residents, had one homicide, 27 rapes, 35 robberies and 153 aggravated assaults in 2005.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.