America’s Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

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Arizona 2

10. Arizona
> Violent crime rate: 399.9 per 100,000 (16th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.7 per 100,000 (20th highest)
> Median household income: $50,068 (21st lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.8% (9th highest)

Arizona is the 10th least peaceful state in the nation. In addition to an above-average violent crime rate, the incidences of property crime, larceny, and motor vehicle theft in Arizona are each among the 10 highest compared with other states. So far this year, data collection and research group Gun Violence Archive has tracked four mass shootings in the state in which a total of 12 people were killed. Just seven other states have had a higher number of deaths from mass shootings.

To contain such high levels of violence, Arizona needs to retain large law enforcement operations. For every 100,000 Arizona residents there are 339 law enforcement workers employed in the state. Also, 628 prisoners are held under state jurisdiction — the ninth and sixth highest numbers of all states.

Charleston Sunset, South Carolina

9. South Carolina
> Violent crime rate: 497.7 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 6.4 per 100,000 (4th highest)
> Median household income: $45,238 (9th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.4% (15th highest)

Over the last five years, crime dropped by 100 incidents per 100,000 South Carolina residents, one of the best improvements of any state. Still, in a given year, nearly 500 violent crimes are reported per 100,000 people in the state, the seventh highest violent crime rate. The violent crime rates in all six South Carolina metro areas tracked by the FBI are well above the national violent crime rate. In the Sumter area, there are 666 violent crimes per 100,000 metro residents, one of the highest rates in the country.

The presence of firearms not only tends to increase the likelihood of violence, but also may reflect the fear of those who possess firearms for self defense. South Carolina’s gun ownership rate of 44.4% is well above the 29.1% of adults nationwide who say they live in a household with at least one firearm.

Miami, Florida dark palm trees

8. Florida
> Violent crime rate: 540.5 per 100,000 (5th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.8 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Median household income: $47,463 (12th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.7% (25th highest)

So far this year, 16 mass shootings have been documented in Florida. While this is less than in California and Illinois, the 131 people injured and 67 killed in these incidents are by far the highest of any state. The 50 people killed in Orlando in June dwarfs the death toll from mass shootings in any state in recent memory.

Florida was not an especially safe state even before the shootings. The latest violent crime rate pegs Florida in fifth place, with 541 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people. The incidences of robbery, aggravated assault, and property crime are also each fifth highest compared with other states.

St. Louis, Missouri

7. Missouri
> Violent crime rate: 442.9 per 100,000 (11th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 6.6 per 100,000 (3rd highest)
> Median household income: $48,363 (15th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.5% (23rd lowest)

Missouri has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country and the third highest murder rate. The state’s two largest metropolitan areas — Kansas City and St. Louis — appear to be driving these figures up, with rates of 482 and 430 incidents per 100,000 people, respectively. Ferguson, Missouri was also recently at the center of the debate about police violence against black Americans after an officer shot unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown. In March 2015, in light of the shooting and protests, the Federal Department of Justice sued the city, citing serious flaws in its policing practices. The lawsuit was resolved in March, with Ferguson agreeing to reform its criminal justice system. There are 335 law enforcement officials in Missouri for every 100,000 residents, the 10th highest share in the country.

Evening in Little Rock, Arkansas.

6. Arkansas
> Violent crime rate: 480.1 per 100,000 (9th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.6 per 100,000 (12th highest)
> Median household income: $41,262 (3rd lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.8% (13th lowest)

A person who is either employed or actively seeking work is less likely to commit violent crimes than someone who is completely disengaged. In Arkansas, only 58.7% of the population participates in the labor force, one of the smallest shares of any U.S. state. A highly educated population also tends to be more peaceful. However, only 21.4% of Arkansas adults have a bachelor’s degree, a smaller share than in all but two other states.

With relatively weak workforce engagement as well as low educational attainment rates, Arkansas has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. There are 480 violent crimes for every 100,000 state residents a year in Arkansas, far more than the national rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people.