Special Report

The Most Dangerous States in America

7. South Carolina
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> Population: 4,832,482
> Total 2014 murders: 311 (19th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.0% (11th highest)

Each year, approximately 498 violent crimes per 100,000 residents are reported in South Carolina. Low incomes are closely associated with high violent crime rates, and South Carolina is one of the poorer states in the nation. As many as 18% of state residents live below the poverty line, one of the higher poverty rates in the country. Crime is also more common in dense urban areas, and violence in South Carolina’s cities drives up the state’s overall violent crime rate. In Columbia and North Charleston, the respective violent crime rates of 749 and 731 incidents per 100,000 people are both more than twice the national rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 Americans.

6. Louisiana
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> Population: 4,649,676
> Total 2014 murders: 477 (10th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.8% (3rd highest)

Murder in Louisiana is common even compared to the most dangerous in the country. With 10.3 murders for every 100,000 residents, the murder rate in the Gulf state is the highest in the country and more than double the national rate of 4.5 murders per 100,000 people. Louisiana’s two largest cities, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, each rank among the 10 large U.S. cities with the highest murder rates. As is the case in many of the most dangerous states, poverty is relatively common in Louisiana, which has the third highest poverty rate of any state in the country at 19.8%. Also, slightly more than one in every 10 households in the state earns less than $10,000 annually, the third largest share of low income households in the country.

5. Florida
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> Population: 19,893,297
> Total 2014 murders: 1,149 (3rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.5% (16th highest)

Florida’s violent crime rate overall is fifth highest in the country, with 541 reported incidents per 100,000 people in a single year. As is the case in most states with crime issues, violence is particularly concentrated in the state’s urban areas. Of the state’s 21 cities with populations of at least 100,000, seven have violent crime rates that are at least double the U.S. rate. Homestead, Daytona Beach, and Fort Myers are the most dangerous cities in Florida. Each have violent crime rates in excess of 1,100 incidents per 100,000 people.

4. New Mexico
> Violent crimes per 100,000:
> Population: 2,085,572
> Total 2014 murders: 101 (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 21.3% (2nd highest)

Compared to other border states such as Arizona, immigrants in New Mexico face less obstacles. Still, American immigration policy has contributed to the creation of a younger, less educated, and poorer immigrant population. Many of the immigrants live in poverty — itself closely associated with crime. It is likely immigrants comprise a disproportionately high share of the state’s high poverty rate of 21.3% — the second highest rate in the nation. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, Hispanic state residents are also disproportionately represented in New Mexico’s prisons. Most of the violent crimes in New Mexico are aggravated assaults — the rate of 422 incidents per 100,000 people is third highest nationwide. Non-violent crimes too are common in New Mexico. Approximately 3,542 property crimes are reported per 100,000 people annually in the state, second highest after only Washington.

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