Cities Where Crime Is Soaring

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Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, Alabama
Source: Wikimedia Commons

15. Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, AL
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +37.3%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 509.5 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 699.3 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 10

The violent crime rate in the Anniston, Alabama metropolitan area rose by 37.3% over the last five years. Violent crime was already a problem in the area five years ago. There were about 510 violent crimes for every 100,000 metro residents in 2011, 43rd highest among metropolitan areas at the time. Anniston’s current rate of nearly 700 violent crimes per 100,000 people is 15th worst among U.S. metro areas. A weak economy can potentially lead to greater crime in an area, and crime can in turn suppress economic growth. Anniston’s current unemployment rate of 6.9% is one of the worst of any U.S. metropolitan area.

Alexandria, Louisiana
Source: Wikimedia Commons

14. Alexandria, LA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +38.1%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 677.9 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 936.4 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 7

The violent crime rate in Alexandria was already alarmingly high five years ago, and it has only gotten worse since. There were 678 robberies, murders, rapes, and aggravated assaults in the Louisiana metropolitan area per 100,000 residents in 2011, 11th worst in the nation. The current rate of 936 violent crimes per 100,000 people is fourth worst in the country, and well more than double the national rate. Driving this increase was a significant rise in aggravated assaults in the area, from 813 reported incidents in 2011 to 1,202 in 2015. Controlling for population size, the metro area currently has the third worst aggravated assault rate in the country.

Abilene, Texas
Source: Thinkstock

13. Abilene, TX
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +38.7%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 297.5 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 412.5 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 9

Just five years ago, Abilene, Texas was considered relatively safe. The violent crime rate in 2011 of 298 incidents per 100,000 metro area residents was lower than the nationwide rate that year of 387 per 100,000 Americans. In just five years, the violent crime rate in the metro area rose to 413 incidents per 100,000 residents, now higher than the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 people.

A high violent crime rate does not necessarily mean the nonviolent crime rate is also high, but metropolitan areas with high rates of one often experience elevated rates of the other. In Abilene, the property crime rate also increased from 3,030 incidents per 100,000 people in 2011 to 3,609 incidents per 100,000 people in 2015.

St. Joseph, Missouri
Source: Tim Kiser / Wikimedia Commons

12. St. Joseph, MO-KS
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +39.5%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 275.4 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 384.3 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 12

St. Joseph, Missouri is one of the smaller metropolitan areas by population, with 127,400 residents. While most metropolitan areas with populations of less than 150,000 had fewer than four homicides in 2015, St. Joseph had 12, up from only four in 2011. Adjusting for population, St. Joseph’s murder rate is among highest in the country.

However, as was the case in every city on this list, aggravated assault was the primary driver of increased violence in the area. There were 314 total incidents of aggravated assault in the St. Joseph metro area in 2015, up from 236 half a decade prior. Overall, the violent crime rate in St. Joseph rose by nearly 40% over the last five years.

11. Houma-Thibodaux, LA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +41.8%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 314.6 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 446.1 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 17

While Houma-Thibodaux had one of the largest five-year spikes in violent crime of any metro area, most of the increase occurred over one year. Between 2014 and 2015, the area’s violent crime rate nearly doubled from 242 incidents per 100,000 residents to 446 per 100,000 today, one of the higher violent crime rates of any city. The number of murders in the metro area nearly tripled over the past five years, rising from six reported murders in 2011 to 17 in 2015.

Police list several possible reasons for the spike, suggesting a rise in heroin use may be behind the increase in violent crime, but also noting that many of these crimes appeared to be more random, and not necessarily connected to a broader trend.