Special Report

Cities Where Crime Is Soaring

Odessa, Texas
Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

5. Odessa, TX
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +57.6%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 679.2 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 1070.1 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 12

The violent crime rate in Odessa, Texas has spiked by 57.6% in the past half decade. Today, the metro area is one of only three nationwide where the violent crime rate exceeds 1,000 incidents per 100,000 residents annually. As is the case in nearly every U.S. city, aggravated assault is the most common violent crime reported in Odessa. However, unlike almost every other U.S. metro area, Odessa’s aggravated assault rate of 880.5 incidents per 100,000 is nearly four times the corresponding national rate.

Unlike the majority of cities with a sharp five-year spike in violent crime, Odessa’s population is booming. The West Texas metro area’s population has grown by 13.8% since 2011, the largest increase of any metro area examined.

San Luis Obispo County, California
Source: Thinkstock

4. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA (mike) done
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +61.8%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 249.3 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 403.3 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 3

San Luis Obispo’s violent crime rate rose by more than 60% over the last five years, but not all forms of violence in the area increased. The number of murders in the region fell from five to three, or a murder rate of just 1.1 per 100,000 residents — one of the lowest in the country. Similarly, the rate of robberies in the area fell to just 27 per 100,000 people, about one-quarter of the national rate.

However, the rate of aggravated assault roughly doubled to 346 incidents per 100,000 residents, compared to a national rate of 238 aggravated assaults per 100,000 people.

Sioux Falls at dawn, South Dakota
Source: Thinkstock

3. Sioux Falls, SD
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +69.1%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 215.1 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 363.7 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 3

Between 2011 and 2015, the violent crime rate in Sioux Falls rose from 215 incidents per 100,000 residents to 364 per 100,000. The number of aggravated assaults in the metro area more than doubled from 288 to 679 incidents. While violent crime levels are often greater in areas with high unemployment and poverty, the typical Sioux Falls household earns roughly $4,000 more than the typical American household, and the metro area’s unemployment rate has fallen over the last five years to 3.3% — far less than the national figure of 4.7%.

According to the Sioux Falls Police Department, the rise in crime is largely due to the city’s growing drug problem. The number of total police calls and drug seizures by Sioux Falls police has increased rapidly in recent years, with the amount of seized meth quadrupling from 9.8 pounds to 38.0 pounds from 2015 to 2016.

Missoula, Montana
Source: Thinkstock

2. Missoula, MT
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +69.9%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 250.3 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 425.2 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 4

Missoula, Montana is no longer the safe city it once was. Just five years ago, the metro area’s violent crime rate of 250 incidents per 100,000 residents trailed the national rate of 387 incidents per 100,000 people. Since then, the violent crime rate has climbed to 425 incidents per 100,000 residents, a 69.9% spike, and it is now considerably higher than the comparable national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 people.

Some crime in the metro area has likely been drug related. Recently, federal law enforcement officials busted a methamphetamine trafficking ring in the metro area following a two year investigation. In addition to 11 pounds of methamphetamine, federal agents confiscated nearly 70 weapons, including grenade launchers and assault rifles, as well as illegal silencers and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Monroe, Louisiana
Source: Thinkstock

1. Monroe, LA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +81.3%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 639.7 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 1,160.0 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 27

The incidence of violent crime in Monroe spiked 81.3%, faster than in any other U.S. metropolitan area over the last five years, rising to the highest violent crime rate nationwide. A nation-leading 1,160 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 area residents in 2015, up from 640 per 100,000 in 2011.

The presence of crime can create an environment of instability and uncertainty that is unlikely to attract businesses or enable them to thrive. On the other side of the equation, the lack of job opportunities or high-paying positions in a city with a lagging economy may increase the likelihood of criminal activity. In Monroe, an estimated 23.9% of residents live in poverty, one of the largest poverty rates of any city. While five years ago Monroe’s unemployment rate was below the nationwide jobless rate, today the metro area’s 6.2% unemployment rate is higher than the 4.7% national rate.

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