Special Report

The Most Dangerous Cities in America

3. Memphis, Tenn.
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,656
> Population: 657,691
> 2013 murders: 124 (11th highest)
> Poverty rate: 27.7% (35th highest)
> Pct. of adults with high school degree: 82.5% (82nd lowest)

There were 7,200 aggravated assaults reported in Memphis last year. This was one of the largest figures among U.S. cities and a major contributor to Memphis’ high violent crime rate of 1,656 per 100,000 residents. In addition to a high violent crime rate, Memphis also suffers from high levels of property crimes, which totalled nearly 40,000. There were 366 arsons in 2013, for example, more than in all but five other large U.S. cities. Like residents in a majority of the country’s most dangerous cities, Memphis residents are far more likely to live in poverty than most Americans. The area’s poverty rate of nearly 28% in 2013 was among the highest rates nationwide.

2. Oakland, Calif.
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,977
> Population: 403,887
> 2013 murders: 90 (20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.5% (135th highest)
> Pct. of adults with high school degree: 80.9% (62nd lowest)

Oakland has historically suffered from high crime and last year was no exception. Oakland reported nearly 2,000 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2013. Moreover, the city reported 1,219 robberies per 100,000 residents, the most of any large American city. In addition to violent crime, property crime was also quite high in the city, at over 6,200 such incidents per 100,000 residents last year. By comparison, the national rate was 2,731 per 100,000 residents. However, despite its high levels of crime, Oakland is rapidly gentrifying. Gentrification may contribute to lower violent crime rates in the long run, according to the Urban Institute’s John Roman.

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1. Detroit, Mich.
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 2,072
> Population: 699,889
> 2013 murders: 316 (3rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 40.7% (the highest)
> Pct. of adults with high school degree: 78.6% (46th lowest)

Detroit’s violent crime rate of 2,072 per 100,000 residents was the highest in the nation last year. This is despite the fact that the violent crime rate fell from 2,123 incidents per 100,000 people in 2012. Further, there were a total of more than 300 murders in Detroit last year, also among the worst figures nationwide. Like many other dangerous cities, Detroit residents are quite poor. A typical household earned less than $25,000 in 2013, and nearly 41% of people lived in poverty, both the worst figures among large U.S. cities. The region’s history of high crime rates may have encouraged residents over the years to take their protection into their own hands. Like in several other Michigan counties, residents of Wayne County, where Detroit is located, are more likely to have concealed gun permits than residents in the vast majority of populous areas. The number of applications for permits has risen dramatically in recent years.

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