26 Most Dangerous Cities in the World

July 15, 2017 by Joseph Gedeon

Source: Thinkstock
In a year of global protests, economic upheaval, leadership changes, and coups, some of the most dangerous cities of the world somehow got more dangerous.

In the United States, there are approximately 5.3 homicides per 100,000 people, a near 25-year low. But according to data provided by international research group Seguridad, Justicia y Paz, there are dozens of cities around the world where the murder rate is more than 50 per 100,000, some of them in the United States. The vast majority of the cities on this list are Latin American, and it’s important to figure out why that is.

Whether it’s due to politics, gang violence, or failed enforcement strategies, there are many different reason for the sky-high violence levels in these cities. Consider that Brazil, the most commonly occurring country on the list, made a push for increased crime prevention laws in its southern hub cities. While violent and drug-related crimes have declined locally in these areas, it looks like gangs just relocated to the north.

So some new and some shocking entrants in the rankings. Can you guess which two American cities have the dubious distinction of making the list of the most violent cities in the world?

Click here to see the most violent cities in the world. 
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Thinkstock

26. Baltimore, United States
> Homicides per 100,000: 51.1
> 2016 homicides: 318
> Population: 621,849
> Previous year rank: 19

Although the homicide rate in Baltimore declined between 2015 and 2016, causing the city’s rank on this list to improve by seven positions, it is still far from being free from violence. The city’s murder problem has led Mayor Catherine Pugh to signal her plan to use a high-tech system that helps police pinpoint where guns are fired.

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2017 is shaping up to be an even more violent year for the city. As of early July of this year, 184 people had been murdered. This is the highest recorded number of homicides at the midyear point for the Baltimore area in the last 25 years, putting the city roughly on pace for a murder per day in 2017.

Source: Thinkstock

25. Maceió, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 51.8
> 2016 homicides: 529
> Population: 1,021,709
> Previous yr. rank 18

Brazil’s first entry on the list is Maceió, the capital city of Brazil’s northeastern state of Alagoas. While northeast Brazil has been notorious in recent years for its violent crime, Maceió looks to be moving in the right direction. The city’s 2016 murder rate of 51.8 incidents per 100,000 people is down from 55.63 the previous year.

Source: Thinkstock

24. Culiacán, Mexico
> Homicides per 100,000: 51.8
> 2016 homicides: 469
> Population: 905,265
> Previous year rank: 17

With Mexico embroiled in an ongoing drug war, data has shown that the capital of the state of Sinaloa has been able to curb some of the violence. Home of the Sinaloa Cartel and its former leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, Culiacán has seen improvement on last year’s murder rate, but still has a long, hard road ahead.

Source: Thinkstock

23. Guatemala, Guatemala
> Homicides per 100,000: 52.7
> 2016 homicides: 1,596
> Population: 3,026,729
> Previous year rank: 25

One of the largest cities on the list, the homicide rate in Guatemala rose by a large margin. Yet with an increase of five homicides since last year, it is still a far-cry from its former level of violence in the 1990s, when it averaged 101 homicides per 100,000 people a year for the decade.

Source: Cbojorquez75 / Wikimedia Commons

22. Tijuana, Mexico
> Homicides per 100,000: 53.1
> 2016 homicides: 871
> Population: 1,641,570
> Previous yr. rank 35

After a period of relatively low homicide levels in Tijuana, murder has now reached a five-year high in the Mexican border metropolis. The increase of homicides in one of Mexico’s fastest growing cities can most likely be attributed to a well-known cause: violence among drug cartels that has only become more prominent since the start of Mexico’s drug war in 2006.

Source: Thinkstock

21. Cali, Colombia
> Homicides per 100,000: 54.0
> 2016 homicides: 1,358
> Population: 2,514,759
> Previous yr. rank 10

The homicide rate in Cali dropped by nearly 16% since last year. While still one of the most dangerous cities in the world, it’s an optimistic trend considering that the city reached its lowest homicide rate in recent years.

Source: Thinkstock

20. Salvador, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 54.7
> 2016 homicides: 2,180
> Population: 3,984,583
> Previous yr. rank 14

With about 55 homicides for every 100,000 people in 2016, Salvador’s murder rate has fallen in the past year but still has a long way to go. One explanation for the amount of violence in this northeastern city is that security gains in places like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have pushed Brazil’s criminal groups to expand their influence northwards.

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Source: Vladimir H. Ribeiro, 6 January 2008. Wiki Image

19. Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 56.5
> 2016 homicides: 275
> Population: 487,186
> Previous yr. rank 39

A drastic jump on the list is Brazil’s Campos dos Goytacazes, where the homicide rate jumped by 36% last year. With the city’s economy based largely on oil extraction, job losses following Brazil’s Petrobras corruption scandal may be partly behind the uptick in violence.

Source: Luis X Montaño, WikiMedia

18. Cumaná, Venezuela
> Homicides per 100,000: 59.3
> 2016 homicides: 266
> Population: 448,507
> Previous yr. rank 24

Purportedly the oldest settlement in Venezuela, Cumana rose six spots on this list — meaning its murder rate worsened compared to other cities. According to a report by the Observatory of Venezuelan Violence, hunger-related crimes may be the reason violence in this seaside city is on the rise.

Source: HectorSilvas, WikiMedia

17. Barquisimeto, Venezuela
> Homicides per 100,000: 59.4
> 2016 homicides: 785
> Population: 1,322,068
> Previous yr. rank 20

This important hub of trade and culture gained three ranks from last year as it creeps up on the list of the world’s most dangerous cities. Boasting 17 post-secondary institutions and a historic focus on academics and music, one can only wonder why the homicide rate continues to rise.

Source: Geovanni1987 - user upload, WikiMedia

16. Vitória da Conquista, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 60.1
> 2016 homicides: 208
> Population: 346,069
> Previous yr. rank 36

As the smallest South American city on the list, this coffee-producing region faced a large descent into violence as its homicide rate rose by double digits since last year.

Source: Andrevruas, WikiMedia

15. Feira de Santana, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 60.2
> 2016 homicides: 375
> Population: 622,639
> Previous yr. rank 27

A city for travelers seeking festivals and parties, Feira de Santana climbed the list to become one of the top 15 most dangerous cities in the world.

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Source: Thinkstock

14. St. Louis, United States
> Homicides per 100,000: 60.4
> 2016 homicides: 188
> Population: 311,404
> Previous yr. rank 15

The most dangerous U.S. city, murder is on the rise in St. Louis. Things have gotten so bad that the state government is intervening. Missouri Governor Eric Greitens recently unveiled a plan to slow violent crime in the city by calling for a special operations unit of the State Highway Patrol to target violent felons on interstate highways, collect better intelligence, and make a push to help local police stop drug trafficking.

Source: Thinkstock

13. Cape Town, South Africa
> Homicides per 100,000: 60.8
> 2016 homicides: 2,434
> Population: 4,005,000
> Previous yr. rank 9

Escaping last year’s ranking among the 10 most dangerous cities, the murder rate in the South African coastal city of Cape Town decreased by more than 7%. To keep things moving in the right direction, Cape Town decided on a new strategy to combat gang and drug-related crime: neighborhood safety teams. By conducting physical and written assessments for recruits, neighborhood safety teams will begin training this month to eventually roll out into crime hotspots in the city.

Source: LeRoc, Flickr

12. Aracaju, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 62.8
> 2016 homicides: 589
> Population: 938,550
> Previous yr. rank 38

One of the training cities for athletes during the 2016 Summer Olympics, Aracaju has faced a steep increase in the homicide rate. It’s gotten to the point where the federal Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Brazil authorized the activation of the National Force to direct policing and provide forensic expertise — with Aracaju selected as one of three cities to be a part of the implementation phase.

Source: Cayambe, WikiMedia

11. Belém, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 67.4
> 2016 homicides: 1,633
> Population: 2,422,481
> Previous yr. rank 26

Another Brazilian city with a drastic increase in homicide is the state of Para’s capital, Belem, where murder rose by nearly 50% between 2015 and 2016. After the jump in homicides, Para’s Governor Simao Jatene announced that to curtail ongoing violence, further crimes would be strictly investigated with the direct involvement of the Civil and Military police.

Source: Mario Monte, Flickr

10. Natal, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 69.56
> 2016 homicides: 1,097
> Population: 1,577,072
> Previous year rank: 13

Moving into the top 10, Natal is the worst-ranked Brazilian city on the list. The city’s violent crime rate ticked up from roughly 60 homicides per 100,000 people to nearly 70 per 100,000 people. The uptick in the homicide rate may be due to violence between prisoners in the past year. Many deadly incidents erupting behind bars and spilling into the streets.

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Source: Thinkstock

9. Valencia, Venezuela
> Homicides per 100,000: 72.02
> 2016 homicides: 1,124
> Population: 1,560,586
> Previous year rank: 7

With nearly the same homicide rate in 2016 as 2015, Valencia remains one of the most dangerous cities in the world. In response to an unchanging cycle of homicides, President Nicolas Maduro shook up his cabinet and deepened the militarization of Venezuela’s government.

Source: Editor*41782, WikiMedia

8. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela
> Homicides per 100,000: 82.84
> 2016 homicides: 727
> Population: 877,547
> Previous year rank: 11

With political unrest and failing industries on the rise, one Venezuela’s main generators of electricity has struggled with rising violence. And with the government recently adopting a hard-line military stance by the government, there seems to be no end in sight.

Source: Rodet7, WikiMedia

7. San Salvador, El Salvador
> Homicides per 100,000: 83.39
> 2016 homicides: 1,483
> Population: 1,778,467
> Previous year rank: 3

If you’re looking for a bright spot (if there really is one) look no further than San Salvador. El Salvador’s lone city on the list has had a 23% decline in homicide in a single year. Howard Coto, The head of national police, claims this is due to the government’s “iron fist” policy against street gangs while gang members disagree, stating an informal truce may be the reason for the decreased rate.

6. Maturín, Venezuela
> Homicides per 100,000: 84.21
> 2016 homicides: 499
> Population: 592,574
> Previous year rank: 5

An important strategic city in Venezuela because of its location and oil industry, Maturin’s high homicide rate could be associated to how hard it’s been hit by the country’s economic and hunger crisis.

Source: Fernando Sandoval Martínez, Flickr

5. Victoria, Mexico
> Homicides per 100,000:84.67
> 2016 homicides: 293
> Population: 346,029
> Previous year rank: 46

Worsening from the 46th worst to fifth worst, Victoria is the most shocking entry on this list of violent cities. Facing the steepest increase in murder of all other cities, Victoria is a city ravaged by the drug war with a murder rate that almost tripled in a single year.

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Source: Nan Palmero, Flickr

4. Distrito Central, Honduras
> Homicides per 100,000: 85.09
> 2016 homicides: 1,027
> Population: 1,206,897
> Previous year rank: 6

While homicides have increased since last year, expect the capital of Honduras to be shaken up again. Wilter Ruiz, one of Honduras’ most notorious drug kingpins, has agreed to cooperate with U.S authorities to potentially implicate high-ranking members of the security forces — or possibly a member of President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s family.

Source: Gervaldez / Wikimedia Commons

3. San Pedro Sula, Honduras
> Homicides per 100,000: 112.09
> 2016 homicides: 845
> Population: 753,864
> Previous year rank: 2

Honduras’s highest ranked city on the list with a homicide rate of over 100 per 100,000 people, San Pedro Sula has yet to see a change in the right direction. This may be in part due to the country’s role as a transit nation for the transnational drug trade. The city has also struggled with large unemployment and skyrocketing poverty since the 2009 Honduran military coup.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Acapulco, Mexico
> Homicides per 100,000:113.24
> 2016 homicides: 918
> Population: 810,669
> Previous year rank: 4

Mexico’s most violent city and the second most dangerous place in the world is the coastal tourist destination of Acapulco. President Enrique Nieto said that 42% of all homicides were concentrated in just 2% of all municipalities and were rooted in organized crime. This prompted the government to launch a security strategy in its 50 most violent cities, but as the data shows, the violence has only got worse.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Caracas, Venezuela
> Homicides per 100,000: 130.35
> 2016 homicides: 4,308
> Population: 3,305,204
> Previous year rank: 1

The perennial homicide capital of the world, Caracas tops the list because of its mobile street gangs and organized crime groups. Caracas is notorious for its high-profile violent crimes committed in neighborhoods across the city, at all hours. And with widespread political and economic unrest, the possibility for any change seems like a major uphill battle.

Detailed Findings and Methodology

In a year of global protests, economic upheaval, leadership changes, and coups, some of the most dangerous cities of the world somehow got more dangerous.

In the United States, there are approximately 5.3 homicides per 100,000 people is at a near 25-year low. But according to data provided by international research group Seguridad, Justicia y Paz, there are dozens of cities around the world where the murder rate is more than 50 per 100,000, some of them in the United States. The vast majority of the cities on this list are Latin American, and it’s important to figure out why that is.

Whether it’s due to politics, gang violence, or failed enforcement strategies, there are many different reason for the sky-high violence levels in these cities. Consider that Brazil, the most commonly occurring country on the list, made a push for increased crime prevention laws in its southern hub cities. While violent and drug-related crimes have declined locally in these areas, it looks like gangs just relocated to the north.

So some new and some shocking entrants in the rankings. Can you guess which two American cities have the dubious distinction of making the list of the most violent cities in the world?

To identify which cities ranked as the most violent in the world, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed 2016 homicides per 100,000 residents data from Seguridad, Justicia y Paz’s annual rankings of the most violent cities in the world. Only the cities with a murder rate of 50 per 100,000 people and greater were considered.