Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

South Dakota, Road Sign
Source: Thinkstock

25. South Dakota
> Violent crime rate: 326.5 per 100,000 (25th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 2.3 per 100,000 (11th lowest)
> Median household income: $50,979 (22nd lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 2.7% (the lowest)

There are roughly 341 people employed in law enforcement in South Dakota for every 100,000 state residents, one of the highest law enforcement employment ratios of any state in the country. While a higher than average ratio of police, corrections officers, and dispatchers is often indicative of a more dangerous state, South Dakota’s violent crime rate is slightly lower than the corresponding national rate.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2
Source: Thinkstock

24. Pennsylvania
> Violent crime rate: 314.1 per 100,000 (24th lowest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.8 per 100,000 (18th highest)
> Median household income: $53,234 (22nd highest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.6% (13th highest)

By some measures, Pennsylvania does not rank as particularly peaceful or particularly violent compared to all states. However, if the number of mass shootings is any indication of a state’s overall tendency, then Pennsylvania is somewhat peaceful — at least relative to its size. The state recorded only three mass shootings — shootings with four or more victims — so far in 2016. Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous in the country, yet 21 states have had at least four mass shootings so far this year.

Kansas
Source: Thinkstock

23. Kansas
> Violent crime rate: 348.6 per 100,000 (23rd highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 3.1 per 100,000 (21st lowest)
> Median household income: $52,504 (25th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 3.8% (13th lowest)

The share of a given population employed in law enforcement can serve as a barometer for how violent a society is, as many of those jobs are only there to fight violent crime and are themselves inherently violent. In Kansas, there are 353 people working in law enforcement for every 100,000 state residents, far more than the national ratio of 282 such employees per 100,000 people. A higher than average rate of rape, aggravated assault, and burglary Kansas is slightly more violent than the country as a whole.

Indianapolis, Indiana capital building
Source: Thinkstock

22. Indiana
> Violent crime rate: 365.3 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 5.0 per 100,000 (17th highest)
> Median household income: $49,446 (18th lowest)
> June unemployment rate: 4.8% (22nd highest)

While the incidence of violent crime has declined across the country since 2010, it has actually increased in Indiana over the same time period. A relatively high crime rate in the state is driven largely by the frequency of violent crimes in Indianapolis, the largest metro area in the state. Indianapolis’s violent crime rate of 646 incidents per 100,000 people is far higher than the national violent crime rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people.

Los Angeles, California 2
Source: Thinkstock

21. California
> Violent crime rate: 396.1 per 100,000 (17th highest)
> Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate: 4.4 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> Median household income: $61,933 (9th highest)
> June unemployment rate: 5.4% (15th highest)

Violent crime in California is slightly more common than it is across the country as a whole. Violence is particularly problematic in California cities. Well over half of the state’s 26 major metropolitan areas have a higher violent crime rate than the national rate, with Stockton, a city with 750 reported violent crimes each year for every 100,000 residents, in the lead. Violence put San Bernardino, California in the national spotlight in December 2015 when a self radicalized state employee opened fire at an office party, perpetrating the nation’s deadliest mass shooting of that year.

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