Special Report

The Most Dangerous States in America

Violence in the United States has steadily declined for several decades. While the violent crime rate has fallen considerably — from 685 incidents reported per 100,000 Americans in 1995 to the current rate of 383 incidents per 100,000 — the national violent crime rate rose 3.0% last year.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates in each state from data collected through the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report Program. Violent crime includes all offenses involving force or threat of force and are broken into four categories: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. These crimes are more common in some states than in others.

Alaska is the most dangerous state in the country with a violent crime rate of 730 incidents per 100,000 state residents.

Click here to see the 10 most dangerous states.

Click here to see the 10 safest states.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Nancy G. La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at public policy research organization Urban Institute, said, “crime clusters not just within major metropolitan areas but even within cities.” For this reason, La Vigne noted, it is very difficult to draw conclusions from statewide trends alone.

Violent crime is considerably more common in urban centers than in rural regions. While it is not always the case, violent crime rates across the 10 states on this list can be largely attributed to high crime levels in the states’ cities. Of the dozens of cities tracked by the FBI in the nation’s most dangerous states, only a handful report crime rates lower than the national rate. Notably, three cities in Missouri — St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield — as well as Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Anchorage, Alaska all reported violent crime rates greater than 1,000 incidents per 100,000 people.

Poverty and lack of job opportunity in communities can lead to crime at the local level, and the states with the highest violent crime rates tend to also have worse social and economic conditions than safer states. The poverty rate meets or exceeds the national rate of 14.7% in eight of the 10 states with the highest violent crime rates. Similarly, the annual unemployment rate is greater than the national 2015 rate of 5.3% in seven of the 10 states.

While the relationship is somewhat tenuous and complicated, there appears to be a connection between socioeconomic factors and crime levels. As La Vigne said, “People who engage in criminal behavior often may do so because of an absence of opportunity.”

Local factors are perhaps better drivers and predictors of violence. By seeking to address some of the roots of crime, state policies can help reduce a state’s crime levels. La Vigne noted sets of reforms that focus on reducing recidivism as one example of policies that can improve public safety. According to a federally funded 2014 study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, “Reducing Recidivism: States Deliver Results,” some states have had success lowering recidivism with state-level policies.

The violent crime rate increased in all of the nation’s most dangerous states. In seven of the 10 states, the violent crime rate increased faster than the nationwide uptick of 3.0% between 2014 and 2015. In Alaska, Missouri, and Alabama, the increase exceeded 10%.

To identify the 10 most dangerous states, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of violent crimes reported per 100,000 people (the violent crime rate) in each state from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report. The total number and rates of murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, which are included in the violent crime rate, as well as burglaries, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson — all classified as property crime — also came from the FBI’s report. We considered these data for each year from 2011 through 2015. Annual unemployment rates for 2015 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Median household income, poverty rates, the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, population, and the percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey.

These are the most dangerous states in America.

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