Top 20 Most Dangerous American Cities To Live In



Top 20 Most Dangerous American Cities To Live In

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Crime waves? More like crime tsunamis. For this list, we're basing our ranking on a report conducted by financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St. using data from the FBI's 2018 Uniform Crime Report. Our countdown includes Nashville, Tennessee, Oakland, California, Springfield, Missouri, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Birmingham, Alabama, and more!

Top 20 Most Dangerous Cities in the US to Live

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 most dangerous cities in the US to live.

For this list, we’re basing our ranking on a report conducted by financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St. using data from the FBI’s 2018 Uniform Crime Report.

Do you live in any of these cities? Is it as bad as they say? Let us know in the comments.

#20: Nashville, Tennessee

Maybe The Music City isn’t so friendly after all. In 2018, Nashville reported 7,641 violent crimes - or, about twenty acts of violence per day. Two-thirds of those acts were aggravated assaults, cases of which went up 23% the following year. The city’s violent crime rate of 1,113 per 100,000 people is triple the national average. Also triple the national average is the city’s homicide and manslaughter rate; in 2017, Nashville’s rate was 16.29 per 100,000, whereas the national average was just 5.3. In 2018, Nashville reported 91 homicides. The high crime rate may be linked to the city’s poverty rate, which sits around 17%.

#19: New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy is generally seen as a thriving city. It’s home to Mardi Gras, boasts some of the country’s best jazz, and its architecture and food are nationally distinct. But make no mistake, there is a seedy underbelly lying below the welcoming surface. The impoverished neighborhoods of the city can be very violent, and New Orleans has battled high homicide rates since the ‘70s. In fact, for many years New Orleans was considered the Murder Capital of the United States. The city suffered 147 homicides in 2018, and its rate of 37 homicides per 100,000 people is fifth among mid to large American cities.

#18: Wichita, Kansas

Legendary frontiersman Wyatt Earp once enforced the law in Wichita. It seems like the city could use his eye for justice today. Wichita’s violent crime rate is well above both the national and state average. As of 2018, its rate sits at 1,179 per 100,000 people, which is the 18th highest in the country. Its homicide rate has also been going up in recent years, and it reached a ten year high in 2018 when it hit 9.7 per 100,000. Perhaps most shocking is the city’s assault rate, which has climbed steadily since 2000. Then, its rate was 376 per 100,000. By 2019 it was triple that, at 919 per 100,000.

#17: Indianapolis, Indiana

Most of the crime in Indianapolis stems from gun use, prompting local officials to launch various buyback programs throughout the city. Indianapolis is quite a poor city, with a poverty rate of over 20%. Perhaps this has led to its high rate of violent crime, which is about triple the national average at 1,273 per 100,000 people. Leading the pack is the city’s soaring homicide rate. Homicides have been rising steadily since 2011, which was the city’s most peaceful year of the 21st century. 2018 was Indianapolis’s most violent year yet, complete with 162 homicides and a rate of 18.5 per 100,000 people.

#16: Oakland, California

Oakland harbors a violent crime rate of 1,273 per 100,000 people, making it the 16th most violent city in the country. However, this is actually down from its historic 21st century high of 1,993, which it achieved in 2012. Perhaps this is due to the implementation of Operation Ceasefire, an initiative meant to curb the rising swell of youth gun violence and gang activity. One of the main problems in Oakland is its robbery rate - possibly a by-product of the area’s sky-high housing prices and cost of living. In 2018, Oakland had a robbery rate of 610 per 100,000 people, which is the second highest in the entire country and seven times the national average of 86.

#15: Anchorage, Alaska

Nestled far away from the rest of the country is the chilly city of Anchorage. The city may seem desirable owing to its remoteness and gorgeous vistas, but it’s more than the dreary winters that residents have to fear. Anchorage has the 15th highest violent crime rate in the country, sitting at 1,309 per 100,000 as of 2018. Unfortunately, Anchorage has long been a hotspot of violent sexual assault. 2018 reported a staggeringly high rate of sexual assaults in the city, with 210 per 100,000. This is about five times the national average and the highest rate in the entire country for major cities.

#14: Springfield, Missouri

For such a nondescript city, Springfield harbors a major crime problem. Known by many nicknames, including the Birthplace of Route 66, Springfield has a population of just 169,000. However, this small population is rife with sexual assaults and property crime. Its violent crime rate has been soaring throughout the 21st century; the 2018 rate of 1,316 per 100,000 is about double what it was in 2000. Unfortunately, 2019 was even worse. Driving the high rates are the city’s property crimes. Burglary is rampant throughout Springfield, and its staggering rate of 7,019 per 100,000 is the second highest in the entire United States.

#13: San Bernardino, California

Despite a population of just 222,000, San Bernardino is one of the state’s most violent cities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, San Bernardino has the second highest poverty rate in the entire country. Indeed, it hovers around 30%, and its unemployment rate is around 5%. For decades, the violent crime rate of San Bernardino has been well above the national average. In 2018, it hit 1,333 per 100,000 people - or, about three and a half times the national average. 2017 was the city’s worst year of the century for sexual assaults, with a rate of 72 per 100,000.

#12: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Maybe there was something to “Breaking Bad’s” depiction of Albuquerque ... While a gorgeous city, Albuquerque has another side. The area’s aggravated assault rate is three times the national average, and Albuquerque places sixth in the entire country when it comes to property crimes. In 2018, it had a rate of 6,179 property crimes for every 100,000 people. Furthermore, the city has a serious problem with robbery. In 2018, it quadrupled the national rate with 353 incidents per 100,000. And that was an improvement over the prior year! 2017 saw a staggering robbery rate of 521 per 100,000, which was over five times the national average.

#11: Rockford, Illinois

The largest city in Illinois outside of the greater Chicago area, Rockford is also the most dangerous. In 2018, its violent crime rate sat at 1,386 per 100,000 people, with three-quarters of those incidents being aggravated assaults. And that was down from the city’s worst year on record, which was 2016. Then, the city saw a violent crime rate of 1,658 per 100,000. Rockford’s burglary and property crime rates have been falling for years, but the aggravated assault cases only started following this trend in 2018.

#10: Stockton, California

Built to service the California Gold Rush of the 1800s, Stockton was another city to implement Operation Ceasefire - the same incentive that helped quell Oakland’s high rate of crime. In 2012, Stockton reported 23.7 homicides per 100,000 people, which was almost five times the national average of 4.7. Its homicide rate has fallen in recent years, but Stockton is still reporting high crime numbers - especially in the fields of robbery and aggravated assault. In fact, Stockton is currently the most dangerous city in California, with a violent crime rate of nearly 1,400 per 100,000 people. The city’s 2019 assault rate of 959 per 100,000 was over three and a half times the national average.

#9: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee is one of the poorest cities in the United States. It’s estimated that thousands of homeless live on the cold streets of the city, and its poverty rate of nearly 30% is one of the highest in the country. This is accompanied by a gritty and violent criminal world. Its violent crime rate of 1,413 per 100,000 places it ninth in the country, and in 2020 the city broke its own homicide record with 189 deaths. Milwaukee’s aggravated assault and sexual assault rates have been rising throughout the 21st century, with 2018 being one of the worst years on record for both.

#8: Little Rock, Arkansas

Serving as the main commercial hub of Arkansas, Little Rock has battled high homicide rates for decades. Ever since the late ‘80s, Little Rock has faced a reputation for being one of the most dangerous cities in the country. In 2018, Little Rock had a violent crime rate of 1,446 per 100,000 people, which is about quadruple the national average. Crime has actually been falling in Little Rock throughout the 21st century, with robberies and burglaries regressing steeply. However, the city suffers from a high property crime rate, and its 2018 rate was the third highest in the entire country.

#7: Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland has always battled its reputation as a grimy industrial city. Unfortunately, its high rate of crime doesn’t help. Cleveland has a huge poverty problem, with a 35% poverty rate and a median household income of just shy of $31,000. It also has a high violent crime rate, the seven highest in the country in 2018. At 1,449 per 100,000, its rate was nearly four times that of the national average. The city’s aggravated assault rates have risen steadily since 2014, when it sat at a decades-low 425 per 100,000. Cleveland managed to double that in just five years. 2019 was the city’s most violent year in two decades, with an assault rate of 870 per 100,000.

#6: Kansas City, Missouri

Much of the violent crime reported in Kansas City comes from the East Side, as the downtown area has undergone quite a successful revitalization in recent years. Unfortunately, the city in general still harbors a staggeringly high crime rate of 1,590 per 100,000. In a city of just half a million people, Kansas City reported over 7,800 violent crimes in 2018. Kansas City’s assault and homicide rates have been rising steadily since 2015. In 2018, the city experienced 137 homicides and a rate of 27.8 per 100,000 people, which is nearly six times the national average of five.

#5: St. Louis, Missouri

For years, St. Louis has been the homicide capital of the United States. In fact, when based solely on homicide rates, St. Louis is the 13th most dangerous city in the entire world. The homicide rate has been rising steadily since its 21st century low in 2003. As of 2018, St. Louis is statistically the most deadly city in the United States when adjusted for population. In 2020, St. Louis reported 263 homicides, which is astonishing considering its population of just 300,000. That’s a homicide rate of 87 per 100,000 people, about 17 times the national average!

#4: Baltimore, Maryland

This city in Maryland has long endured a bad reputation. For many, its name is synonymous with grungy neighborhoods, poverty, and violence. Baltimore suffered its worst year of the 21st century and its second worst year on record in 2019. The city finished the year with 348 homicides, with a rate of 58 per 100,000 - about twelve times the national average. This was only narrowly beaten by 1993, which saw 353 killings. However, the city’s population was 736,000 in 1990 and just 585,000 now, meaning the rate is worse when adjusted for population. Also of note are the city’s rampant robberies. Baltimore’s robbery rate in 2018 was the worst in the country at 837 per 100,000.

#3: Birmingham, Alabama

Like many cities, most of Birmingham’s problems stem from economics, as the city has a poverty rate of 28%. In 2018, Birmingham’s violent crime rate hit 1,911 per 100,000, which is more than five times the national average. It is just one of three major cities in America to have that distinction. Most of the crimes stem from aggravated assault, although the homicide rate is also high. In 2018, Birmingham reported 88 homicides for a rate of about 42 per 100,000, making it the third deadliest city in the country behind St. Louis and Baltimore.

#2: Memphis, Tennessee

In 2018, Memphis had a violent crime rate of 1,943 per 100,000 people. This makes it the second most dangerous city in the entire country and the most dangerous in the south. Following a dip in criminal activity throughout the early 2010s, Memphis is now at records not seen since 2006. Serious crimes are on the rise, with sexual assault rates nearly doubling between 2008 and 2017. The city’s homicide rate has been especially troubling in recent years, having risen from 13 per 100,000 in 2010 to 30 per 100,000 in 2016. Memphis beat its own record in 2021 with a disconcerting 342 homicides. This is on par with Baltimore, as both cities have similar homicide and population numbers.

#1: Detroit, Michigan

Detroit has never been the same since manufacturing left the city in the mid 20th century. Suffice to say, Detroit deserves its reputation. The city has a shocking 38% poverty rate, and nearly 10% of its entire population is unemployed. Detroit was also the only city in 2018 to report a violent crime rate of over 2,000 per 100,000 people. That same year saw 13,500 violent crimes, in a population of 640,000. Detroit’s homicide rate is also quite high, hitting 54 per 100,000 in 2012, putting it on course with Baltimore. Luckily, the homicide rate has fallen since then, but only to 41.4.