Special Report

The Most Dangerous States in America

4. Tennessee
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 579.7
> Population: 6,495,978
> Total 2013 murders: 328 (18th highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.8% (12th highest)
> Pct. of adults with high school diploma: 85.6% (tied-12th lowest)

The aggravated assault rate in Tennessee fell 7.9% in 2013 from 2012 — to nearly 437 incidents per 100,000 residents. Despite the drop, this was the second highest such rate in the country. Aggravated assault incidents accounted for more than 75% of all violent crimes in the state. Low education attainment rates and high poverty rates may partly explain the frequency of such crimes. As of 2013, less than 25% of residents 25 and over had at least a bachelor’s degree, and nearly 18% of all people lived in poverty. Both rates were considerably worse than the national figures. Crime is particularly concentrated in Memphis, where 1,656 violent crimes per 100,000 city residents were reported in 2013, the third highest among all U.S. cities. The poverty rate and other economic factors were also much worse in the city than in the state as a whole.

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3. Nevada
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 591.2
> Population: 2,790,136
> Total 2013 murders: 163 (25th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.8% (24th highest)
> Pct. of adults with high school diploma: 85.2% (10th lowest)

Nevada’s violent crime rate fell 2.9% between 2012 and 2013 to 591.2 incidents per 100,000 Nevada residents, the third highest rate in nation. While there were significant improvements in the state in some types of crime, incidents of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter and rape rose 29.8% and 15.6%, respectively. While a politically charged issue, experts agree that background checks severely undercut the availability of firearms on the black market, where many perpetrators of violent crime and the severely mentally ill acquire weapons. Violent crime rates may be expected to increase in the future, as Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have required background checks on all firearm purchases.

2. New Mexico
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 596.7
> Population: 2,085,287
> Total 2013 murders: 125 (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 21.9% (2nd highest)
> Pct. of adults with high school diploma: 84.3% (6th lowest)

New Mexico’s violent crime rate rose 6.6% between 2012 and 2013 — the most in the nation — to nearly 597 per 100,000 residents. The increase in violent crime came despite Governor Susana Martinez’s avowal in 2011 to be tough on crime. As in other dangerous states, the concentration of crime in New Mexico’s larger cities may have contributed to the state’s crime problem. Albuquerque, for example, the state’s largest city, had an estimated crime rate of 775 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, more than twice the national rate. New Mexico residents were also among the nation’s poorest in 2013, with a median household income of $43,872 and a poverty rate of nearly 22%.

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1. Alaska
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 602.6
> Population: 735,132
> Total 2013 murders: 34 (11th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 9.3% (2nd lowest)
> Pct. of adults with high school diploma: 91.6% (tied-6th highest)

Alaska was the nation’s most dangerous state in 2013 and the only state with more than 600 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Incidents of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter and rape both rose nearly 10% in 2013 from 2012, despite falling across the country in 2013. Alaska residents have struggled with sexual assault for years. According to a 2010 survey of Alaskan women, 37% of respondents reported being the victims of rape or sexual assault. As of 2013, rapes were reported nearly four times as frequently as they were nationwide. High violent crime rates in Alaska may seem incongruous with the state’s socioeconomic environment. As of 2013, fewer than one in 10 residents lived in poverty, and thanks to a permanent fund that pays residents a share of oil profits, the state had the second highest median household income in the country, at $72,237.

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