Special Report

America's Most Violent (and Peaceful) States

Samuel Stebbins, Evan Comen, Michael B. Sauter

Source: Thinkstock

50. Vermont
> Violent crime rate: 118.0 per 100,000 (the lowest)
> Murder rate: 1.6 per 100,000 (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $56,990 (20th highest)
> May unemployment rate: 3.1% (9th lowest)

By a number of metrics, Vermont is the least violent state in the nation. There were 118 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Vermont residents in 2015, the lowest violent crime rate of any state. There were 10 reported murders in the state, the third fewest when adjusted for population. The lack of criminal activity in Vermont is likely one reason for the state’s small prison population. Just 288 in every 100,000 Vermont residents is incarcerated in a state prison, less than half the national rate of 607 inmates per 100,000 Americans.

Another possible explanation for the state’s relative peacefulness is its mostly rural makeup. The state has few large metropolitan areas, which often drive up crime rates in other states.

Source: Thinkstock

49. Maine
> Violent crime rate: 130.1 per 100,000 (2nd lowest)
> Murder rate: 1.7 per 100,000 (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $51,494 (21st lowest)
> May unemployment rate: 3.2% (13th lowest)

Maine is one of many small New England states that are among the least violent in the country. While nationwide there were 373 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Americans in 2015, in Maine there were 130 incidents reported per 100,000 residents, the second least of any state and one-third the national rate. The state’s incarceration rate is also very low — half of the national rate. Just 301 people in every 100,000 Maine residents are incarcerated in a state prison, compared to 607 inmates per 100,000 Americans nationwide.

Joblessness and crime often go hand in hand, with lower crime in areas with low unemployment and vice versa. In Maine, just 3.2% of the workforce is currently unemployed, among the least of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

48. New Hampshire
> Violent crime rate: 199.3 per 100,000 (4th lowest)
> Murder rate: 1.1 per 100,000 (the lowest)
> Median household income: $70,303 (7th highest)
> May unemployment rate: 2.9% (6th lowest)

Just 199 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 New Hampshire residents in 2015, the fourth least of any state. There were 14 homicides in New Hampshire that year, the least of any state when adjusted for population. New Hampshire has one of the lowest gun ownership rates in the country, and just 57% of murders in the state involved a firearm — one of the smallest shares nationwide.

An estimated 90% of all crimes involve financial motivations, and many of the states with the highest violent crime rates struggle with widespread poverty and unemployment. In New Hampshire, just 8.2% of residents live below the poverty line, and only 2.9% of the labor force is unemployed, far less than the corresponding national figures of 14.7% and 4.3%.

Source: Thinkstock

47. Rhode Island
> Violent crime rate: 242.5 per 100,000 (11th lowest)
> Murder rate: 2.7 per 100,000 (12th lowest)
> Median household income: $58,073 (19th highest)
> May unemployment rate: 4.1% (25th lowest)

The availability of firearms is correlated with the incidence of gun-related homicides and violent crime overall. In Rhode Island, fewer than 1 in 10 residents live in a household with a firearm, compared to 1 in 3 Americans nationwide. Guns factor into just 37% of all homicides and 24% of suicides in Rhode Island, the second and third smallest shares of any state.

Rhode Island has approximately 35% less violent crime per capita than the U.S. as a whole and about half the incarceration rate. There were 243 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Rhode Island residents in 2015, far less than the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans. Just 303 in every 100,000 Rhode Island residents are incarcerated in state prisons, the fifth lowest incarceration rate of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

46. Hawaii
> Violent crime rate: 293.4 per 100,000 (20th lowest)
> Murder rate: 1.3 per 100,000 (2nd lowest)
> Median household income: $73,486 (2nd highest)
> May unemployment rate: 2.7% (3rd lowest)

Hawaii requires residents to obtain a permit with a waiting period of 14 days minimum before they can get a gun. And in June 2016, it became the first state to register its gun owners in an FBI database. The strict gun laws may potentially reduce the availability of firearms in the state. Guns are involved in only 21% of homicides and 20% of suicides in Hawaii — each the smallest share of any state.

There were 293 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Hawaii residents in 2015, far less than the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,00 Americans. There were 19 homicides, the second lowest murder rate when adjusted for population. While Hawaii has one of the lower violent crime rates in the country, the state has the most property crimes — burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft — per capita nationwide. One reason for the high property crime rate may be the state’s active tourism industry. Tourists often carry large amounts of money and other valuables, and may be less likely to be available to testify against criminals in court, which makes them frequent targets for criminals.