Detailed Findings and Methodology
Violent crime, as defined by the FBI, consists of four distinct categories: aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. While murders tend to receive the most press coverage, they are far less common than the other types of violent crime. Nationwide, and in every metro area on this list, aggravated assault is the most common form of violent crime. There were 238 aggravated assaults in 2015 for every 100,000 Americans in 2015. In comparison, there were only five homicides for every 100,000 people the same year.
However, murder rates were up over 10% in the U.S. in 2015, and many cities on this list reported a record number of homicides that year. For example, Louisville, the most dangerous metro area in Kentucky, reported 96 total murders in 2015 — its deadliest year in decades. Similarly, the 344 murders reported in Baltimore, Maryland’s most dangerous city, marked a 63% increase over the previous year — and the highest body count in the city since 1993.
What drives violent crime is not entirely clear, nor is it the same from one city to another. The opioid epidemic, which lawmakers and even the White House have targeted lately as a serious crisis, is likely contributing to increased violence. On a local level, explanations are more nuanced. For example, in Pueblo, the most dangerous metro area in Colorado, gang-related violence is largely to blame for a high violent crime rate. Meanwhile, Baltimore city officials theorize the increase in violent crime was fueled by civil unrest following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.
Many cities on this list are taking active measures to combat relatively high violent crime rates. A number of cities on this list, including Memphis, Tennessee and Tallahassee, Florida have street-level visibility of police officers.
Other cities on this list, including Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Louisville, Kentucky partially attribute their high violent crime rate to limited police resources.
Just because a given metro area has the highest violent crime rate in its respective state does not necessarily mean it is especially dangerous. Of the 50 metro areas on this list, 15 have a lower violent crime rate than the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 people. The majority of those cities are in states with similarly low violent crime rates.
To identify the most dangerous city in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rate data for the 347 metropolitan statistical areas reviewed in 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 also considered these data for each year from 2011 through 2015. Unemployment rates for March 2017 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Poverty rates, the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, and the percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and are for 2015.