Certain economic conditions are common in cities with the highest violent crime rates. The poverty rate in all but one of the 25 cities on this list exceeds the national rate of 15.5%; the median household incomes of all but three are lower than the national median of $53,889; and the unemployment rate in only six of the 25 most dangerous cities does not exceed the national jobless rate of 4.9% in 2016.
Prevalent crime and widespread poverty can often result in population loss, which in turn can further exacerbate the cycle of falling incomes and lead to increased violence. In 11 of the 25 cities on this list, the population declined from 2015 to 2016. In the other 14 cities, the population stayed flat or had modest growth, with only a handful outpacing the national average growth rate of 0.7%.
As Roman noted, there is a question as to which of these economic factors comes first. Did violence cause residents to flee, or did a declining population reduce the city’s tax base — which can reduce funding for municipal services such as police and drug treatment centers — and ultimately create an environment more vulnerable to crime?
Both perspectives can be supported. In cities such as New York and Pittsburgh, investment in the city increased after violent crime had been reduced. “If you can make a place safe, investment will follow,” Roman said.
To reverse crime spikes and support safe communities, resources are needed to support modern policing methods. Child and family welfare, mental health considerations, substance abuse, education, employment, housing, and more affect the problems that lead to violence in a community. “If you don’t have the resources to coordinate all of [these issues],” Roman explained, “all you’re left with is the cop on the beat.”
And while officers on patrol are often very effective at enforcing law and order, modern policing requires different problems be addressed in different ways. Today’s police departments must address crime at the grassroots level, building relationships with the local community and supporting educational and extracurricular organizations. Many of the cities with high and rising violent crime levels were hit by the recession, and have struggled to find the resources necessary to provide this service.
To identify the 25 most dangerous U.S. cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates in cities with at least 100,000 people from the FBI’s 2016 Uniform Crime Report released September 25, 2017. The total number and the rates of murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, which are included in the violent crime rate, as well as burglaries, larceny, and motor vehicle theft — all classified as property crime — also came from the FBI’s report. We also considered these data for each year from 2012 through 2016. Population, and the number of police officers in each city in 2016, 2015, and in 2008 came from the FBI.
Annual unemployment rates for 2016 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Median household income, poverty rates, and the percentage of households earning less than $10,000 a year came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and are five-year averages for the period 2011 to 2015.
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