Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

Casinos on the strip at night in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Source: Thinkstock

5. Nevada
> Violent crime rate: 635.6 per 100,000 (2nd highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 6.0 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Median household income: $51,450 (24th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.4% (2nd highest)

Nevada’s violent crime rate of 636 incidents per 100,000 state residents is higher than in every other state except for Alaska. In a given year, there are 6.0 murders per 100,000 Nevadans, the sixth highest murder rate. The state also leads nation with 210 robberies reported per 100,000 people, more than double the national robbery rate.

Because high levels of unemployment are associated with suicide, higher incidence of domestic abuse, and crime, a weak economy can exacerbate violence. Like a number of other violent states, Nevada’s unemployment rate of 6.4% is one of the highest compared with other states.

Wilmington, Delaware Memorial Bridge
Source: Thinkstock

4. Delaware
> Violent crime rate: 489.1 per 100,000 (8th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.8 per 100,000 (7th highest)
> Median household income: $59,716 (14th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.2% (20th lowest)

Among the nation’s least peaceful states, Delaware has an exceptionally low gun ownership rate. At just 5.2% of adults, it is the lowest of all states. The lack of firearms, however, has not lowered the levels of violence in the state. The violent crime rate, at 489 incidents per 100,000 state residents is among the highest in the country. The state also imprisons a relatively large number of its citizens, a further indication of unrest and one of the major costs state governments incur in containing high levels of violence. For every 100,000 Delaware residents, there are 743 prisoners in state correctional facilities, the highest such figure after only Louisiana.

While it is among the most violent states in the country, Delaware has become much more peaceful in recent years. The state’s violent crime rate dropped by 132 incidents per 100,000 people since 2010, the largest drop of any state.

Gaitlinburg, Tennessee night driving
Source: Thinkstock

3. Tennessee
> Violent crime rate: 608.4 per 100,000 (3rd highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.7 per 100,000 (9th highest)
> Median household income: $44,361 (6th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.1% (16th lowest)

More than half of the 20 least peaceful states are located in the South, and Tennessee stands out as one of the least peaceful states in the region. The state reports 608 violent crimes committed per 100,000 people in a year, the third highest rate compared with other states. The high level of violence in Tennessee is driven by a nation-leading aggravated assault rate of 453 reported incidents per 100,000 state residents. By contrast, there are 233 assaults per 100,000 people nationwide.

Unlike a number of other violent states, the incarceration rate in Tennessee, at 439 per 100,000 people, is lower than the national rate. Still, there is a considerable cost to containing violence in the state. For every 100,000 Tennesseans, there are 408 law enforcement workers, the second highest employment level of any state.

Sitka - Alaska
Source: Thinkstock

2. Alaska
> Violent crime rate: 635.8 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.6 per 100,000 (12th highest)
> Median household income: $71,583 (3rd highest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.7% (the highest)

It may be hard to believe that Alaska, home to some of the most remote and expansive stretches of wilderness in the world, is the second least peaceful state in the nation. While crime levels have dropped across the nation, Alaska’s violent crime rate has remained roughly unchanged in recent years. Today, at 636 reported incidents per 100,000 state residents, Alaska has the highest violent crime rate in the nation. In a perfectly peaceful state, no one would own a gun for self defense. The presence of firearms not only increases the risk of violent incidents, but also reflects fear among gun owners and can cause fear in others. In Alaska, 61.7% of adults live in households with at least one firearm, the highest gun ownership rate of all states.

Unlike most of the nation’s least peaceful states, Alaska residents are relatively well-off financially. The typical household earns $71,583, the third highest median household income of all states.

Louisiana bayou and cypress trees
Source: Thinkstock

1. Louisiana
> Violent crime rate: 514.7 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 10.3 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Median household income: $44,555 (7th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 6.2% (3rd highest)

In stark contrast with northeastern states, the southern region of the United States is home to the nation’s least peaceful communities. Chief among them is Louisiana, where crime levels remain among the highest in the country. It is the only state in the country with a murder rate of more than 10 homicides per 100,000 residents. Mass shootings — single incidents with at least four shooting victims — are also relatively common in Louisiana. So far this year alone, there have been eight documented mass shootings, which left 31 injured and nine dead. Only six other states have reported greater numbers of injuries from mass shootings in 2016.

Violence in a community often helps to perpetuate poverty, which in turn can exacerbate conditions that trigger violent acts. Nearly 20% of the population lives in poverty in Louisiana, the third highest rate of all states.

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