Dangerous is kind of a subjective word. What does it really mean to say ‘X is one of the most dangerous U.S. cities’? Does that mean a place where you’re more likely to be killed? Assaulted? Mugged?
What we’ve done is rank these cities according to the FBI statistics for violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year. That covers robberies, murders, sexual assaults, and aggravated assaults on a per capita basis, to give you a sense of which cities experience the most violent crime.
Of course, we’re not saying you shouldn’t visit these cities, or that they’re bad. We’re just going by the numbers so that you can be prepared the next time you take a road trip.
Some of the cities that land high on this list are quite surprising; some others that we might assume would easily crack the top ten really aren’t that dangerous comparatively speaking. With that in mind, let’s take a look.
40. St. Petersburg, Florida
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 698.49
St. Pete (as locals call it) is part of the greater Tampa area, noted as an excellent retirement destination due to its relatively low cost of living. It also averages more than 360 days of sun every year, and set the world record for most consecutive sunny days ever (768) back in 1967-9.
However, it does crack the top 40 most dangerous U.S. cities, mostly because of its elevated rates of aggravated assault.
39. Corpus Christi, Texas
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 702.49
Corpus Christi is a city and metro area on the Gulf coast of South Texas. The scenic coastline is complemented by a warm, tropical climate with mild winters that make it an appealing place to live. Tourists are drawn here by an excellent aquarium as well as the chance to visit the USS Lexington, a WWII-era aircraft carrier.
Although it has a very low murder rate, it lands on this list because of an elevated number of assaults.
38. San Antonio, Texas
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 707.50
Home to the Alamo and other famous 18th century Spanish missions, San Antonio is also a very modern city. It’s the second-largest metro area in Texas, and one of the fastest growing major cities in the U.S. over the past two decades. Altogether, the city seamlessly blends its great history with the refinements of 21st century urban life.
Although the murder rate is low for a city of its size, the city does experience higher levels of assault, sexual assault, and robbery.
37. San Francisco, California
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 715.00
Here’s one you might have thought would rank higher, considering the negative press San Francisco receives for its vast disparities in wealth and crisis of homelessness.
In fact, San Francisco has lower rates of murder, sexual assault, and aggravated assault than any city listed so far. However, robberies here (365.30/100,000) are basically double those of any city listed so far, perhaps reflecting that bright red line between the rich and the poor.
36. Miami, Florida
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 720.94
In the 1970s and 80s, Miami was the scene of a huge crime wave, a result of drug cartels duking it out for control of the city affectionately known as ‘the capital of Central America.’
These days, Miami has a tamer reputation. It’s a major center of banking and business. It finds itself on this list because it has slightly elevated murder, robbery, and aggravated assault rates.
35. Mobile, Alabama
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 740.25
Mobile is more dangerous than Miami? So say the numbers.
Mobile is the most important port in Alabama, and a major cultural center in the gulf — aided by its museums, performing arts scene, history, and architecture.
It also has almost double the murder rate of any city so far listed, as well as a high number of aggravated assaults. Of course, it’s also a smaller city, so… take that for what it’s worth.
34. Orlando, Florida
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 744.06
Yes, the theme park capital of the world makes it into the bottom quartile of our list. Home to Disney World and Universal Resorts, Orlando is also home to a considerable number of robberies and aggravated assaults. That’s bound to happen when you welcome more than 75 million tourists a year to your city.
33. Phoenix, Arizona
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 760.93
The fifth largest city in the United States, Phoenix’s population has swelled ever since air conditioning was invented. (Seriously, they have real desert level heat here to make the feint of heart faint!)
Phoenix has a relatively low murder rate for such a big city, but higher numbers of robberies and assaults. I guess when it’s 120 Fahrenheit, people come to blows a little more easily.
32. Los Angeles, California
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 761.31
Here’s one you would expect to see in the top 10. But despite media perceptions and common wisdom, the biggest cities in America really aren’t the most dangerous if you go by the numbers.
Los Angeles actually has a lower murder rate per capita than every city on this list so far except Corpus Christi and San Francisco. However, it has a higher robbery rate than any city we’ve mentioned so far except San Francisco, and fairly high assault rates as well.
Still, LA is much safer than many would assume.
31. Dallas, Texas
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 774.64
Dallas is one of the most diverse cities in America, and the largest major metropolis with no link to the ocean. It’s a business, tech, and information hub with many suburbs.
The real reason Dallas makes the list is because of its high robbery rate — 327 per 100,000 residents. Its per capita murder rate is also quite high for such a large city.
30. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 787.34
Oklahoma City is a major stop on the I-35 between Kansas and Texas (and thus on to Mexico). Its economy combines traditional livestock trading with a booming energy sector.
Although OKC does have a higher murder rate than Dallas or Miami and a higher rate of sexual assaults than we’ve seen in any city thus far, what really stands out is the excessive aggravated assaults: 528.95 per 100,000 people.
29. Tucson, Arizona
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 801.77
Tucson was originally a Spanish fort. Today, it’s an important urban and cultural center in Arizona, particularly noted for its cuisine — especially Sonoran style Mexican food. It was the first city in the U.S. to be recognized as a ‘Gastronomy City’ by UNESCO.
As for danger, Tucson makes the list because of its moderately high rates of sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault.
28. Newark, New Jersey
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 896.45
Newark is one of America’s oldest cities, tracing its lineage back to Puritan settlers in 1666. Modern Newark is a shipping and transportation hub, and New Jersey’s most populous city.
That said, it takes its place on our list of most dangerous U.S. cities for good reason. The murder rate (27.14/100,000) blows past the other cities we’ve talked about up to this point, and Newark also deals with considerable levels of robbery and aggravated assault.
27. Atlanta, Georgia
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 935.72
Atlanta is often called “the city in a forest” because of the dense tree cover of the surrounding terrain. The city has a rich and varied history, from the railroad days to the Civil War to the civil rights protests that reshaped the nation.
Unfortunately, despite the fact the city has undergone serious revitalization efforts in recent decades, Atlanta also has fairly high rates of murder, robbery, and sexual assault. However, the real reason it ranks so high on this list is because it has the highest rates of aggravated assault we’ve yet seen.
26. Cincinnati, Ohio
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 947.12
Home of Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine, Cincinnati has been one of the fastest growing economic centers in the midwest in recent decades. But where growth goes, trouble sometimes follows. Cinci has pretty high rates of murder (23.4) , robbery (399.84), and assault (426.26). But the really big number is the sexual assault rate — 97.62/100,000.
25. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 947.58
Philadelphia isn’t just a place where it’s always sunny. It’s one of the most historic and charming cities in the U.S. — as long as you don’t say anything bad about their sports teams. It’s the home of the liberty bell, and the city where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Philadelphia ranks in the middle of our list because it has fairly high rates of all manner of violent crime — though no one category stands out as an especial risk. Big cities will have crime; what can we say?
24. Washington, DC
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 948.74
From the site of America’s founding, we turn to the site of its governance.
There’s no need to list all the things you must see and do in the capital, so we’ll just give you the bad news. Although the murder rate is fairly low, there’s plenty of robbery and aggravated assault to go around in Washington, DC. So do make sure to bring your tourist’s common sense when you come for a visit.
23. North Las Vegas, Nevada
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,014.69
We’re not talking about the Strip here, but the city that lies north of the place where what happens stays. North Las Vegas is separated from some of the seedier side of the more famous tourist trap to the south. It has modest rates of all violent crimes except aggravated assault; in that category, it blows past every city to this point (724.84/100,000).
22. Buffalo, New York
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,019.25
Buffalo is a common stop for people coming and going from Canada — particularly those on the way to or heading home from Niagara Falls. While the murder and sexual assault rates are low-moderate, there is a surprisingly high rate of robbery and aggravated assault in upstate New York’s largest city.
21. Wichita, Kansas
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,022.29
Yikes, maybe Dorothy went to Oz to get away from the crime.
Wichita has long been a hub for the aerospace industry in the U.S., and many planes are still built here — including Lear jets and Airbuses. It’s also the cultural center of Kansas.
The reason Wichita takes such a surprisingly high place on our list is a distressingly high rate of sexual assaults (97.68) and aggravated assaults (762.50). The good news is that robberies are rarer and the murder rate is impressively low for a major city.
20. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,026.81
Baton Rouge is the furthest upriver major port in the Mississippi Delta, and one of the most important shipping cities in the country. It’s also an architectural, cultural-historical, and educational center.
Baton Rouge is smack in the middle of this list of most dangerous U.S. cities partly because of its murder rate. At 38.26/100,000, it is much higher than any city we’ve discussed so far. Baton Rouge also has a fairly large number of robberies and aggravated assaults for a relatively small city.
19. Tulsa, Oklahoma
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,040.83
Historically an oil town, Tulsa has branched out a lot in recent decades and become much more than that. Increasingly in recent years, critics have proclaimed it one of the best U.S. cities to live in, a model for the future of urban America. But there is another side to that story.
Tulsa has the 19th highest per capita violent crime rate in the nation, fueled mostly by its 680.96 aggravated assaults per 100,000 residents.
18. Houston, Texas
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,095.23
Houston is not only the fourth most populous city in America. It’s also spread out: of all cities in the U.S., it is the largest by total area. It’s a business, aerospace, and cultural hub, attracting more than 7 million visitors a year to its museums.
Although Houston’s murder rate is very low for such a large city, it cracks the top 20 because of high rates of robbery and aggravated assault.
17. Chicago, Illinois
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,098.86
A majority of people would probably put Chicago in the top 5 if you asked them to guess the most dangerous U.S. cities. But the windy city is actually far from the most perilous place you can visit according to the stats, despite its much-discussed gang problems.
It does have pretty high robbery and assault rates (439.26 and 570.36 respectively), but none of the numbers especially jump out at you compared to other major metropolitan cities.
16. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,101.27
Minneapolis spreads across the mighty Mississippi along with its twin city, St. Paul. It is noted for its many lakes and wetlands, and its friendly residents with their charming Minnesota accents.
Sadly, the city has comparatively high rates of robberies and assaults. But the number that places it so high on our list is the rate of sexual assult — more than 122 per 100,000 residents every year.
15. New Orleans, Louisiana
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,121.41
The story of New Orleans’ crime wave is well known and heartbreaking. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, large parts of the city were destroyed, and squatters moved in to many abandoned properties.
Fortunately, the city is resilient and its people indomitable. The Big Easy has largely recovered and it remains a bucket list destination for basically every traveler.
However, the murder rate does remain high (39.50), as does the rate of aggravate assault (608.13).
14. Nashville Metro, Tennessee
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,138.17
Another gem of American culture, Nashville will always be a tier-1 destination for travelers — especially music fans. Nashville is the Mecca of country music, home of the Ryman Auditorium and the CMA Festival.
Despite a low murder rate, Nashville does have a moderate rate of sexual assault, and elevated rates of robbery and aggravated assault. Not that any of that will (or should) keep anyone from visiting.
13. Anchorage, Alaska
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,203.29
Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, home to 40% of the state’s total population. Many people move to Alaska to escape the hustle and bustle of life in the lower 48, but Anchorage has its share of urban troubles as well — crime being one of them.
While the murder rate is very low and the robbery rate is modest for a major city, both sexual and aggravated assault rates are high (132.01 and 799.49 per 100,000 people respectively).
12. San Bernardino, California
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,291.09
The city of San Bernardino is in the aptly named San Bernardino Valley, to the east of Los Angeles. Among other things, the city is home to the first ever McDonald’s, which is now a museum.
Although San Bernardino has a low murder rate, it has a moderate rate of sexual assault, and fairly high rates of robbery and aggravated assault.
11. Oakland, California
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,299.32
Located in the San Francisco Bay area, Oakland is one of the most important ports in the U.S. Despite gentrification and the rising cost of living in the Bay area, Oakland only barely misses out on the top 10 most dangerous U.S. cities.
The reason is that the city has high rates of sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault (94.14, 629.77, and 559.17 respectively). However, the murder rate is low for a major city.
10. Indianapolis, Indiana
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,333.96
Home of the Indy 500, Indianapolis probably isn’t the first city you think of when you contemplate urban crime.
Nevertheless Indianapolis makes it onto the podium, mainly because of a very high rate of aggravated assault (839.13 per 100,000 residents).
9. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,369.14
This most un-spellable of American cities was named after the Spanish Duke of Albuquerque — hence the nickname ‘Duke City’. Albuquerque is at one of the highest elevations of any city in the U.S. (4,900-6,700 feet above sea level).
Sadly, its rates of robbery, aggravated assault, and sexual assault are also high, which is why it ranks so highly on this list.
8. Stockton, California
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,414.56
Stockton is the capital of the San Joaquin farming region of the Central Valley of California. It is also surrounded by deltas and waterways, making it one of California’s major inland ports.
The reason Stockton features so prominently on this list is its very high rate of aggravated assaults (956.82 per 100,000), which is nearly triple the rate of robberies.
7. Cleveland, Ohio
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,556.76
Once a great manufacturing city, Cleveland was hit hard by deindustrialization. However, things have turned around appreciably, and times are not as hard here as they once seemed. The city’s most famous attraction, of course, is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Although the city does have a moderate murder rate, it owes its high ranking to appalling rates of other serious crimes: sexual assaults (128.97/100,000), robberies (699.88), and aggravated assaults (700.14).
6. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,597.36
Milwaukee has undergone a mass revitalization scheme in the past couple decades, building up and expanding its public transit and downtown attractions.
Unfortunately, the city has a huge problem with aggravated assaults, clocking in at a rate of 1014.17 per 100,000 residents. That means a random citizen of Milwaukee has a better than 1% chance of being seriously assaulted in a given year.
Seriously, America: what’s with the aggravated assaults?!
5. Kansas City, Missouri
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 1,724.31
Confusingly located in Missouri instead of Kansas, Kansas City is the home of the Chiefs. Also a ton of crime, unfortunately. The murder rate is comparable to Detroit, at 30.93/100,000. But (again!) the real difference maker is the aggravated assault rate — a ludicrous 1218.48.
4. Memphis, Tennessee
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 2,003.32
Memphis is, of course, one of America’s great cities, a hub of music and history. Unfortunately, it has also suffered from a number of serious problems. In 2011, it was named the poorest major city in America. While things aren’t quite that dire, the crime remains a concern.
Again, we’re forced to confront a tsunami of assaults, 1355.62 per 100,000 residents.
3. Baltimore, Maryland
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 2,027.01
This one may not be a surprise to devotees of The Wire, many of whom will know the city by the moniker “Bodymore, Murderland”. But what’s sad is how little seems to have changed; in fact, the violence has worsened considerably in recent years.
The murder rate is 55.77 per 100,000, good for second worst in the U.S. The robbery rate (958.71) is the highest in the nation.
2. Detroit, Michigan
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 2,056.67
Believe it or not, Detroit has actually started to grow again — though slowly. But nothing can undo the ruination that the past decades have visited on the city that was once (literally) the engine room of American industry.
Although the murder and sexual assault rates are both high, the city would be a low crime environment per capita but for the aggravated assault rate (1519.55). For context, that means you have a 1.5% chance of being assaulted this year if you live in Detroit, the highest probability in America.
1. St. Louis, Missouri
Violent Crime rate (per 100,000): 2,082.29
St. Louis is a great city facing serious problems right now. Violent crime in particular is very much on the rise, and St. Louis is, lamentably, the new ‘most dangerous city in America.’ In 2017, there were 205 murders in this city of 300,000, making it comparable to Detroit by raw numbers, even though the latter has a much larger population.
As you might expect, the city has the highest murder rate in the country at 66.07 per 100,000.