5. Rockford, Illinois
> Violent crime rate: 1,659 per 100,000
> 2016 murders: 26
> Poverty rate: 24.8%
> Unemployment rate: 7.7%
There were 1,659 violent crimes per 100,000 Rockford residents in 2016, the fifth most of any U.S. city and the most of any city with between 100,000 to 200,000 residents. 2016 was also the deadliest year in Rockford in two decades. A total of 26 homicides were reported, the most in the city since 1996. According to Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea, restructuring in the police department helped law enforcement solve more crimes in 2016. The number of sworn officers in Rockford rose 2.9% from 2015 to 2016, roughly the same as the nation as a whole. Rockford’s policing efforts may continue to expand in the near future, as city aldermen recently approved a budget that will allocate funds for a gunfire detection system, increased surveillance, and other police technology.
4. Baltimore, Maryland
> Violent crime rate: 1,780 per 100,000
> 2016 murders: 318
> Poverty rate: 23.7%
> Unemployment rate: 6.3%
Baltimore is one of several large cities that accounted for a substantial portion of the nationwide increase in violent crime in 2016. While the number of violent crimes nationwide rose 4.1% from 2015 to 2016, violent crime in Baltimore increased 15.4% — nearly the most of any U.S. city. In total, there were 1,780 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Baltimore residents in 2016, far more than the national rate of 386 incidents per 100,000 Americans. Like many large metro areas, most of the gun violence in Baltimore is concentrated in the city’s poorest areas. According to one Baltimore Sun investigation, approximately 80% of gun-related homicides in Baltimore since 2011 have occurred in just 25% of the city’s neighborhoods.
3. Memphis, Tennessee
> Violent crime rate: 1,820 per 100,000
> 2016 murders: 196
> Poverty rate: 27.6%
> Unemployment rate: 6.0%
Memphis is one of many major metropolitan areas with a large poor population and a high crime rate. Some 27.6% of residents live in poverty, a far higher rate than the 15.5% national figure. There were 1,820 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in Memphis in 2016, a slight uptick from the year prior and the third highest rate of any large U.S. city.
According to some city officials, Memphis would benefit from a larger police force. A number of officers resigned due to pension reforms during the Great Recession, and the size of the police force shrank by 5.7% from 2008 to 2016. According to Memphis Police Department Deputy Director Mike Ryall, a police force of approximately 2,500 officers would be adequate for curbing crime in the city. As of 2016, Memphis had 1,978 sworn officers.
2. St. Louis, Missouri
> Violent crime rate: 1,913 per 100,000
> 2016 murders: 188
> Poverty rate: 27.1%
> Unemployment rate: 5.4%
There were 1,913 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in St. Louis in 2016, the second most of any city. One factor contributing to the high incidence of crime in St. Louis is gun-related homicide. St. Louis has the highest murder rate nationwide, and it has risen in recent years even as gun violence in other large, high-crime cities leveled off. There were 60 homicides per 100,000 St. Louis residents in 2016, more than 10 times the national homicide rate. One difference between St. Louis and other major metro areas is the city’s relatively permissive gun control legislation. Individuals, for example, are allowed to carry a gun in a car without a permit, an illegal act in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, and New York City, according to state laws.
1. Detroit, Michigan
> Violent crime rate: 2,047 per 100,000
> 2016 murders: 303
> Poverty rate: 40.3%
> Unemployment rate: 10.9%
Detroit, one of the several major metropolitan areas that are largely responsible for the increase in violent crime nationwide last year, surpassed St. Louis as the most dangerous city in 2016. The number of violent crimes rose 16.3% from 2015 to 2016, far more than the 4.1% national increase and one of the sharpest spikes of any U.S. city. The increase was largely due to a rise in the number of aggravated assaults, which increased by 30.6% year-over-year. In total, there were 2,047 violent crimes per 100,000 Detroit residents in 2016, by far the most of any city in the country and more than five times the national rate of 386 incidents per 100,000 residents.