Special Report

The Most Dangerous States in America

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Source: Thinkstock

3. New Mexico
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 656.1
> Total population: 2,085,109
> Total 2015 murders: 117.0 (19th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 20.4% (2nd highest)

New Mexico’s violent crime rate of 656 incidents per 100,000 people is the third highest of all states, well above the national rate of 383 incidents per 100,000 Americans, and five to six times higher than low crime states such as Vermont and Maine. The violent crime rate, including murder and aggravated assault, rose by nearly 10% in New Mexico last year versus the national increase of 3%. As is generally the case in states with high violent crime rates, nonviolent crimes are also relatively common in New Mexico. The incidence of burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft — which together comprise property crime — are each second highest of all states. And while the prevalence of these property crimes decreased by 3.4% across the nation, it rose by 4.4% in New Mexico last year, more than all but three other states.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Source: Thinkstock

2. Nevada
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 695.9
> Total population: 2,890,845
> Total 2015 murders: 178.0 (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.7% (23rd highest)

Criminal activity in Nevada’s more densely clustered areas largely accounts for the state’s overall near nation-leading violent crime rate of close to 700 incidents per 100,000 residents. Crime levels in the Reno area, at 592 violent incidents per 100,000 people, while higher than the national average rate is not especially high compared with other cities. In the Henderson area, the violent crime rate last year was just 169 incidents per 100,000, one of the lowest. North Las Vegas, on the other hand, reported over 900 violent crimes per 100,000 people.

Economic distress is closely tied to the prevalence of violence in a community. Based on the official unemployment rate, job markets have improved considerably across the nation. While Nevada’s jobless rate of 6.7% is certainly much better than it was following the financial crisis, it is still the highest of any state.

Aerial view of Juneau , Alaska
Source: Thinkstock

1. Alaska
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 730.2
> Total population: 738,432
> Total 2015 murders: 59.0 (12th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.3% (5th lowest)

No state is more dangerous than Alaska — by far the nation’s largest and one of the least populated states. Slightly more than 730 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 people last year in the state, up nearly 15% from the year before. Nationwide, the violent crime rate rose by 3%. Alaska is exceptional as one of only two states on this list with a median household income that exceeds the national median income. At $73,355 a year, it is nearly the highest of any state.

High violent crime levels across Alaska are driven by the prevalence of criminal activity in Anchorage, one of the state’s major cities. More than 1,000 crimes were reported per 100,000 people in the city last year, dwarfing the national violent crime rate of 383 incidents per 100,000 Americans and higher than the vast majority of U.S. cities.