5. South Carolina
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 558.8
> Poverty rate: 18.3%
> Pct. of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 25.1%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,822.2 (the highest)
South Carolina’s 18.3% poverty rate is the ninth worst in the country, and well above the U.S. average of 15.9%. Though it has been transforming itself into a hotbed of manufacturing, with companies such as Boeing and BMW opening manufacturing facilities, South Carolina has the nation’s fifth highest violent crime rate. Its murder rate of 6.9 per 100,000 is the fifth worst in the country. Its aggravated assault rate is the third worst. Roughly 25% have bachelor’s degrees, among the nation’s lowest figures.
4. New Mexico
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 559.1
> Poverty rate: 20.8%
> Pct. of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 26.1%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,600.7 (4th highest)
For many Americans, New Mexico is Taos, Santa Fe and the big nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos. It is also a poor state. Its violent crime rate is the fourth worst in the country; its forcible rape rate is also fourth worst. It has among the highest rates of drug use in the country, which is known to encourage criminal activity. Its burglary rate is second worst. “We dare not pretend this does not have an effect on our economy or our overall quality of life,” former New Mexico legislator Dennis Kintigh wrote in the Albuquerque Journal earlier this year about the levels of violence in the state.
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 603.2
> Poverty rate: 10.1%
> Pct. of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 28.0%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 2,739.4 (24th lowest)
It may seem incongruous that Alaska, which has a low poverty rate and high levels of high school and college graduates, would be among the states with the worst crime rates. It has among the worst violent crime rates in part because of its forcible rape rate: 79.7 per 100,000 residents, the nation’s highest rate. (Next is South Dakota, with a rate of 70.2 per 100,000.) Also disturbing, a 2010 study suggests that 37% of women who live in Alaska say they’ve “suffered some form of sexual assault in their lives,” the Anchorage Daily News reported. Alaska is also second in aggravated assaults. While rape and assault rates are high, other crime levels are average.
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 607.6
> Poverty rate: 16.4%
> Pct. of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 22.4%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 2,809.4 (23rd highest)
Nevada ranks among the worst in the country for its robbery rate, motor-vehicle theft rate and aggravated assault rate. It also ranks high in categories like burglaries and forcible rape. Much of the crime, state officials maintain, comes from the swarms of tourists who visit Las Vegas, Reno and other cities with casinos and related entertainment. Factor out the casino traffic in Reno, and local crime rates are similar to the rest of the nation, Emmanuel Barthe, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nevada Reno, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. Nevada also has among the lowest high school and college graduation rates.
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 643.6
> Poverty rate: 17.9%
> Pct. of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 24.3%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,371.4 (10th highest)
Tennessee has the dubious distinction of having the worst violent crime rate in the country. The state was among the top 10 in the country for murders and robberies and was first for aggravated assaults, with an estimated 479.6 for every 100,000 residents. Tennessee’s 41,550 violent crimes in 2012 were up 6.8% from 2011 but down 10% from 2007, when there were 46,380 violent crimes. There were 388 murders in the state in 2012, up for a second straight year. To be fair, Tennessee’s violent streak is concentrated in some of the major metropolitan areas. Memphis’s violent crime rate was the nation’s fifth worst, while Nashville’s was the 18th worst. Like many states with high violent crime, poverty in Tennessee is acute, and high school and college graduation rates are lower than most of the country.