The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in America

Includes interactive charts

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Photo by Adam Katz/flickr

After spiking in the 1980s, crime rates in the United States – for both violent and property crimes – fell significantly in the last two decades. In particular, the rate of violent crime (murder, rape, aggravated assault and burglary) by 2012 had dropped to less than half what it was in 1991, according to FBI data (from 758 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans to 387).

And although a disproportionately high level of violent crime still occurs in densely populated urban areas, many of America’s big cities experienced similar downward trends. That includes the nations’s two largest metropolises — New York and Los Angeles — both of which had precipitous drops in their violent crime rates.

Ask a room full of criminologists to explain the cause of this decrease and you’ll likely get a room full of conflicting answers. From policing strategies and demographic trends to poverty levels and investment in community services, theories abound as to what factors lead to spikes and drops in a city’s crime rate.

It’s a conundrum of particular concern for cities with crime rates that have remained stubbornly high, despite the national downward trend. The chart below shows the 10 cities with the highest violent crime rates in the country, based on 2012 data, as measured by the number of violent crimes per 100,000 population. Figures are taken from the FBI’s most recent Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics – and ranked by the site Law Street.

The second chart compares the dramatic violent crime reductions in Los Angeles and New York, with the stagnantly high rates in Oakland and Detroit.

Note that some but not all of the cities with the highest violent crime rates also shared the dubious distinction of having among the highest murder rates in the country. These included Flint, Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, Oakland and Birmingham (the bottom chart lists the top 20 cities). But a number of other cities with some of the nation’s highest murder rates, including New Orleans and Jackson, had much lower rates of total violent crime.

One caveat: although the FBI’s crime reporting system offers the most definitive set of U.S. crime data, it does present some statistical issues. For one, some police precincts categorize some types of simple assault as a violent crime, while others do not. Additionally, some large cities have broad boundaries that may include safer, suburban areas, thus skewing the overall crime profile of that city, particularly if most of the crime is concentrated in its center.

All data in these charts are taken from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, with rates calculated per 100,000 population. 

Related

  • David Dacus

    Since Stockton is an hour and fifteen minutes from Oakland, to call it a bay area city is QUITE a stretch!

    • diana

      David is correct. Stockton is in a county which is NOT part of the 9 Bay Area counties. It is not a part of the bay area.

      • OwenRay

        Yup, Stockton is Central Valley, not Bay Area.

    • Eamon Banta

      Did someone say it was part of the Bay Area? If so, maybe i missed it or it got edited. In any case, there is at least one definition of the Bay Area that includes Stockton:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jose-San_Francisco-Oakland,_CA_Combined_Statistical_Area

  • Oaklander4Life

    Its unfair to label Oakland as one of the most unsafe places in America. 99% of homicides in Oakland are either gang related or drug related … there is that 1% of being in the wrong place at the wrong time that’s just unfortunate.
    I don’t really consider most of the muggings and thefts and rubberies violent. just don’t be dumb and give away whatever that criminal is after and it won’t escalate into a violent crime. remember , nothing is worth your life. things are replaceable.
    there is a huge income inequality in Oakland, so , there will be property crimes no matter what. we have 2 million dollars homes and half millions dollar condos and lofts

    5-10 minutes away from the hood. its a price that we have to pay for living in such a diverse, vibrate city with 112 different languages and access to 30-40 different ethnic cuisines and arguably the best weather in America. i lived here for most of my life and i am willing to pay it.

    • Sarah

      Get a dictionary. The city vibrates?

  • Hill rider

    I have lived in Oakland for the past 28 years. Before that I lived in Washington D.C. for about 7 years. I have also lived in Paris and other parts of Europe. And I lived in San Francisco in the sixties. And I have spent a fair amount of time in New York. My point being that having lived in a lot of places, and I know that every city has its problems with violence and crime. If you choose to live in an urban environment, you must be smart and aware that it can be dangerous, and you have to be selective about what, where, and who you allow to be close. It’s called using common sense. Most of the violence in Oakland is gang on gang related stuff. It’s true that unfortunate things do happen on occasion, and innocents suffer, but that is not the norm. Moving to Oakland was like a ‘move to the country’ compared to living in D.C.. I love this city and I feel lucky to have a home here.

    • g

      are you in law enforcement. how the fuck do you know its not “the norm”. Oakland is a dangerous place.

  • mackey

    All y’all that’s saying “gang on gang” violence let me ask a question? What gangs are out there in Oakland? Lol

    • disqus_jBKicsaHjn

      What are you talking about?

  • Tom

    I love how some commenters are willing to dismiss violent crime assuming its gang-related. Are those victims not people? I’ve lived in Oakland for 8 years, and I would very much like see my city’s name never appear on one of these lists again someday.

  • JVC

    Unfortunately, the stats do not include our outlying territories. If they did, we would discover the pure mayhem that we have in places like the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • Rebecca

    Happy to see my birthplace, Camden, finally off the list.

  • Detroit

    Every body from Flint suck dick nigga. Detroit 100yrs

  • Detroit WWarren

    Detroit boy we mopping niggas Big Money Bandgang 4620

  • Detroit WWarren

    We run this boy TSN,BBK,YBS,PPS,ABC,DBC,TM,RTM,BandCrew,GreenGuys,YNF,TMC,MTP,MONEYMUSIC,BANDGANGSHRED GANG,CLOWNSQAUD,GHB,YCP,TRN,HIB,YHB,YNS,YPB,TMZ,SHN,

    Detroit Stand UP.

  • Detroit

    We killing 30 niggas with 30 clps