Special Report

The Most Dangerous City in Every State

Source: Thinkstock

41. Rapid City, South Dakota
> City violent crime rate: 475.5 per 100,000
> State violent crime rate: 383.1 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> City poverty rate: 10.5%
> City unemployment rate: 2.9%

There were 476 crimes reported per 100,000 Rapid City residents in 2015, roughly 30% more per capita than in Sioux Falls, the other metro area in South Dakota. Crime in the city has been increasing rapidly in recent years. There were roughly 140 more violent crimes in 2015 than the year prior. The number of murders rose from five to nine, robberies from 60 to 73, and aggravated assaults from 390 to 456.

While crime is often most prevalent in areas with high poverty and unemployment, the Rapid City economy is relatively healthy. The area’s poverty rate of 10.5% and unemployment rate of 2.9% are some of the lowest nationwide. Rapid City has the lowest unemployment rate of any metro area with a violent crime rate higher than 450 incidents per 100,000 people.

Source: Thinkstock

42. Memphis, Tennessee
> City violent crime rate: 1,038.0 per 100,000
> State violent crime rate: 612.1 per 100,000 (4th highest)
> City poverty rate: 18.4%
> City unemployment rate: 5.0%

The most dangerous metro area in a relatively dangerous state, Memphis is also one of the most dangerous places in the country. Memphis is one of only four metro areas nationwide with a violent crime rate exceeding 1,000 incidents per 100,000 residents. While the metro area comprises only 20% of the Tennessee population, Memphis accounts for 38% of all homicides in the state. The metro area’s 155 homicide victims in 2015 include an active duty police officer who was shot and killed after approaching an illegally parked car.

Before taking office in January, 2016, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced plans to reduce crime in the city. The initiative will include an increased police presence on the street and the enforcement of a curfew for juveniles.

43. Odessa, Texas
> City violent crime rate: 1,070.1 per 100,000
> State violent crime rate: 412.2 per 100,000 (16th highest)
> City poverty rate: 11.7%
> City unemployment rate: 5.7%

There were 1,070 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in Odessa in 2015, the most of any metro area in Texas and the second most of any city nationwide. Crime has skyrocketed in Odessa in recent years — it has more than doubled since 2007. The number of homicides rose from eight to in 2007 to 12 in 2015; the number of robberies rose from 104 to 201, and the number of aggravated assaults rose from 1,142 to 1,398.

People with high school and college education are more likely to find high-paying, full-time jobs and are ultimately less likely to commit a crime. More than two in three inmates in state and local prisons do not have a high school diploma. In Odessa, just 76.9% of adults have a high school diploma and 16.2% have a bachelor’s degree, each the second smallest share in Texas.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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44. Salt Lake City, Utah
> City violent crime rate: 392.2 per 100,000
> State violent crime rate: 236.0 per 100,000 (9th lowest)
> City poverty rate: 10.2%
> City unemployment rate: 3.0%

Utah is one of the safest states in the country. In four of the state’s five metro areas with FBI crime data, the violent crime rate is less than half of the national figure. In Salt Lake City, however, there were 392 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents, more than the national violent crime rate of 373 incidence per 100,000 Americans. The Salt Lake City metro area accounts for 65% of all crime in Utah.

In a recent vote, Salt Lake City leaders decided to implement a new approach to crime prevention. The City Council approved the hiring of eight social workers to assist police interacting with homeless people and the hiring of eight new bicycle-patrol police officers.

Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
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45. Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
> City violent crime rate: 128.5 per 100,000
> State violent crime rate: 118.0 per 100,000 (the lowest)
> City poverty rate: 10.4%
> City unemployment rate: 2.5%

The only metro area in Vermont with reported FBI data, Burlington-South Burlington is the most dangerous city in the state by default. In any other state, however, Burlington would be one of the safer cities. There were 125 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Burlington residents in 2015, nearly one-third of the national crime rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans and the 13th lowest of any metro area nationwide.

While Burlington has one of the lower crime rates of any U.S. city today, the metro area did experience a strong spike in robbery several years ago. In 2012, the number of robberies doubled and included three robberies that occurred over a 72-hour period. In 2015, however, there were just 22 robberies per 100,000 residents, one-fourth of the national figure.