The crime rate in these 10 metropolitan areas rose primarily due to an increase in aggravated assaults, which accounted for more than 60% of all violent crime in 2011. In all but two of the 10 metropolitan areas on the list , the growth in the aggravated assault rate was among the 10 highest of all metro areas. In four of the metropolitan areas on this list — Redding, Calif., Manchester-Nashua, N.H., Mobile, Ala. and Pascagoula, Miss. — the rate of aggravated assaults more than doubled.
While aggravated assault contributed most to the increase in violent crime rate, murder played little, if any, role. In seven of the 10 metropolitan areas on this list, the murder rate actually declined between 2006 and 2011, similar to the nationwide trend. While in the remaining three cities the murder rate did go up, the number of murders compared to the number of overall violent crimes remained small enough and did not contribute much to the increase in the violent crime rate. In the Manchester-Nashua metro area, where the violent crime rate increased the second-most of all metro areas, the murder rate increased nearly 67% between 2006 and 2011. But out of the area’s 1,021 violent crimes in 2011, only eight were murders.
While violent crime rate has been increasing, the property crime rate actually went down in six of the 10 metropolitan areas on our list. The violent crime rate in the Pascagoula, Miss., one of the metros where violent crime is rising, rose nearly 36% between 2006 and 2011, but the property crime rate declined more than 22% over the same period. There were exceptions to this. In the Rapid City, S.D. metro area, the property crime rate increased 19%, the sixth-highest out of more than 300 metro areas.
There are many reasons why a particular area could experience a change in violent or property crime. Bill Bales, a professor of criminology at Florida State University, noted in an interview with 24/7 Wall St. that just because there’s a report of an uptick in crime in certain areas doesn’t mean crime has increased, at least in the strictest definition. Bales explained that more people could be reporting crimes because of factors such as the formation of neighborhood watches, a more responsive police force, and even new local leadership encouraging people to report crimes.
But contrary to popular belief, the number of police officers on the streets usually isn’t a reason for the changes. “The level of police presence doesn’t really have an effect on the crime rate,” Bales said, adding that the areas where the officers are deployed usually makes more of an impact.
Based on data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the metropolitan areas with the highest increase in violent crime between 2006 and 2011. The UCR measures the number of violent crimes, as well as the rate per 100,000 people for all U.S. metropolitan areas in both 2006 and 2011, along with the number and rates of different crimes categorized as violent crimes, such as murder, robbery and aggravated assault. We also reviewed property crime – which includes motor vehicle theft, burglary, and larceny, for these metropolitan areas from the UCR. Finally, we reviewed unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for these communities.
These are the 10 metropolitan areas where violent crime is soaring.
10. Palm Coast, Fla.
> 5-year Increase in Violent Crime Rate: 30.4%
> Violent Crime per 100,000 (2006): 245.8
> Violent Crime per 100,000 (2011): 320.6
> Murders per 100,000: 1.0
In 2006, there were 191 violent crimes reported in the Palm Coast metropolitan area. By 2011, that figure had risen to 311. While the rate of robberies declined by more than 24% across the country, it increased 2.1% in the Palm Coast region. But while violent crime experienced a significant uptick, the property crime rate decreased by 15%, better than the 13.1% decline nationwide. The rate of motor vehicle thefts — which falls into the property crime category — declined 61%, significantly better than the 42.6% decline across the U.S.
9. Albany, Ga.
> 5-year Increase in Violent Crime Rate: 31.2%
> Violent Crime per 100,000 (2006): 402.2
> Violent Crime per 100,000 (2011): 527.7
> Murders per 100,000: 10.0
Higher rates of aggravated assaults in Albany primarily drove a substantial increase in the region’s violent crime rate. The rate of these offenses increased by more than 66%, the 10th-highest increase among all metro areas. Meanwhile, the murder rate increased by 53.8% with 16 murders were recorded in the metropolitan area of just under 160,000 people in 2011, up from 11 murders in 2006. Of particular concern is East Albany, a poor district with high rates of drug use and street gangs.
8. Pascagoula, Miss.
> 5-year Increase in violent crime rate: 35.8%
> Violent Crime per 100,000 (2006): 247.7
> Violent Crime per 100,000 (2011): 336.5
> Murders per 100,000: 3.1
Despite the decrease in both murders and robberies, the violent crime rate rose by more than a third in the five-year timespan. The aggravated assault rate in Pascagoula more than doubled, one of just four metro areas with such an alarming trend. On the other hand, the property crime rate actually declined by 22.1%, the best relative improvement of any metro area on this list. Additionally, the number of burglaries decreased from 2,040 in 2006 to 1,628 in 2011, while motor vehicle theft declined by more than two-thirds. The decline in the motor vehicle theft rate in the Pascagoula area is among the 10 largest decreases of more than 300 metro areas.
7. Billings, Mont.
> 5-year Increase in violent crime rate: 42.6%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2006): 183.8
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2011): 262.1
> Murders per 100,000: 1.9
Like nearly all metropolitan areas on this list, Billings’ violent crime rate went up despite fewer murders and robberies because of an increase in aggravated assaults. The rate soared by over 68% between 2006 and 2011, the ninth-highest increase of all metro areas. Despite this, there were only 262.1 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in 2011, well below the national average rate of 386.3 violent crimes per 100,000.
6. Muncie, Ind.
> 5-year increase in violent crime rate: 47.9%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2006): 344.1
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2011): 509.0
> Murders per 100,000: 1.7
Muncie’s violent crime rate rose by nearly 48% between 2006 and 2011, with the aggravated assault rate increasing by nearly 80% and the robbery rate increasing by nearly 16%. Ball State University, located in Muncie, was recently ranked the 11th most dangerous college by Business Insider, which looked at both violent and property crime data from the FBI between 2008 and 2011. Despite all this, both Muncie’s police force and fire department were downsized in 2009 due to a nearly $4 million budget shortfall.
5. Rapid City, S.D.
> 5-year increase in violent crime rate: 50.5%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2006): 269.5
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2011): 405.7
> Murders per 100,000: 3.1
Rapid City is just one of five metropolitan areas where the violent crime rate increased by more than 50%. The aggravated assault rate increased by more than 64%, while the robbery rate increased by 42%. The property crime rate increased 19% in the Rapid City area, despite a decline of more than 13% across the U.S. Rapid City’s increase in the property crime rate includes the second-largest increase in the motor vehicle theft rate and the sixth-largest increase in the larceny rate. Across the country, larceny rates decreased by 10.7%, while the motor vehicle theft rate decreased by 42.6%.
4. Bend, Ore.
> 5-year increase in violent crime rate: 52.1%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2006): 217.8
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2011): 331.2
> Murders per 100,000: 1.3
There were 528 violent crimes in the Bend area in 2011, up from 313 in 2006. Experts often cite economic distress as a reason for increased crime, and Bend’s population was certainly hit hard by the recession. The unemployment rate in Bend was 14.1% in 2010 and 12.4% in 2011, both significantly above national figures of 9.6% and 8.9%, for the respective years. But the metro’s property crime rate between 2006 and 2011 actually decreased by more than 13%, including a 26% decrease in the burglary rate and a more than 58% decrease in the motor vehicle theft rate. Officials in 2010 told The Oregonian newspaper that much of the property crime decline could be attributed to a crackdown on methamphetamine.
3. Mobile, Ala.
> 5-year Increase in violent crime rate: 54.6%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2006): 393.5
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2011): 608.2
> Murders per 100,000: 11.3
Skyrocketing cases of aggravated assault caused Mobile’s violent crime rate to increase faster than all but two metro areas. The rate of aggravated assault soared 145.9% since 2006, the largest increase of all areas measured by the FBI. Despite the crime rate increase, Mobile’s Police Chief said earlier this year police officers are leaving the force because job security concerns after an initiative to raise sales taxes failed, causing strain on the police budget. The police chief, along with members of city council, expressed concern that the situation would get worse due to low levels of morale.
2. Manchester-Nashua, NH
> 5-year Increase in violent crime rate: 61.7%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2006): 157.4
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2011): 254.5
> Murders per 100,000: 2.0
In the Manchester-Nashua area, the violent crime rate increased by more than 60%. The reason for the increase was mostly due to a spike in the aggravated assaults rate, which rose from 75.5 incidents per 100,000 incidents to 155.5 incidents in 2011. In the metro area’s two largest cities, Manchester and Nashua, the violent crime rate has been increasing for a long period of time. Between 1985 and 2010, the violent crime rate in Nashua jumped 151%, while the violent crime rate in Manchester soared 145%. However, most of the surrounding smaller cities and towns actually saw a decrease in the violent crime rate during that period.
1. Redding, Calif.
> 5-year Increase in violent crime rate: 103.4%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2006): 357.0
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2011): 726.1
> Murders per 100,000: 3.3
Redding is the only metropolitan area in America where the violent crime rate has doubled since 2006. In the five-year span, the aggravated assault rate rose 134.1%, the second-largest increase of all metro areas, while the rate of robberies rose 57.3%, the fifth-largest increase. The only good news in terms of violent crime is that the number of murders decreased slightly from eight to six. The city’s newspaper, The Record Searchlight, noted in 2011 that Redding’s police department employed the same number of officers as it did in 1995, when 12,000 fewer people lived there.
-By Samuel Weigley