The Most Dangerous States in America

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Charleston, South Carolina
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7. South Carolina
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 504.5
> Total population: 4,896,146
> Total 2015 murders: 399.0 (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.6% (11th highest)

The prevalence of violence in South Carolina increased last year, but by about half as much as the national increase of 3%. Still, with a violent crime rate of over 500 incidents per 100,000 people, the state is one of the nation’s most dangerous.

Financial distress is associated with domestic abuse, and because of this and other factors poor, economically distressed communities often report higher violent crime rates. Like most of the nation’s most dangerous states, South Carolina’s median household income of $47,238 a year is well below the national median income. Also, 16.6% of South Carolinians live in poverty, one of the highest poverty rates of all states.

Evening in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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6. Arkansas
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 521.3
> Total population: 2,978,204
> Total 2015 murders: 181.0 (25th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 19.1% (4th highest)

One of Arkansas’ only major cities — Little Rock — is one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Nearly 1,500 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 people in 2015, trailing just seven other cities. The region’s high level of violence accounts for much of the state’s high crime rate.

Property crime declined by 3.0% in Arkansas last year, in line with the national decrease. The state’s violent crime rate, however, increased by 8.6%, 12th largest increase of all states and more than double the national violent crime increase of 3.0%. The incidence of aggravated assault across Arkansas rose by 10.3%, much higher than the corresponding national increase of 3.7%.

French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
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5. Louisiana
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 539.7
> Total population: 4,670,724
> Total 2015 murders: 481.0 (13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.6% (3rd highest)

Like in 2014, Louisiana led the nation last year with the highest murder rate at 10.3 homicides per 100,000 people. But while the murder rate rose by 10% across the nation, the increase in Louisiana was smaller than 1 percentage point. The deadly altercations in Louisiana do not have a simple explanation, but like many other states and areas with high levels of violence, Louisiana has some of the nation’s more relaxed gun laws. A 2013 report from the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress ranked Louisiana dead last for gun violence and in the worst five in the strength of its firearm legislation.

Extreme poverty has also been associated with higher levels of crime, and poverty is a major problem in Louisiana. Nearly one in every five people in the state live below the poverty line, the third highest poverty rate of all states.

Chattanooga, Tennessee
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4. Tennessee
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 612.1
> Total population: 6,600,299
> Total 2015 murders: 406.0 (14th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.7% (10th highest)

Crime in Tennessee’s major urban centers accounts for much of the state’s high violent crime rate, which at 612 incidents per 100,000 people is the fourth highest of all states. The Chattanooga and Knoxville cities each reported nearly 1,000 violent crimes per 100,000 area residents, several times greater than the national violent crime rate of 383 incidents per 100,000 Americans. Even these rates are dwarfed by Memphis, where 1,740 violent crimes were documented for every 100,000 area residents, the fourth highest violent crime rate of all U.S. cities tracked by the FBI.