10. Houma-Thibodaux, LA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +42.8%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 314.6 per 100,000 (total: 661)
> 2016 violent crime rate: 449.1 per 100,000 (total: 954)
> December unemployment rate: 4.6%
> Poverty rate: 20.9%
Houma-Thibodaux is one of three Louisiana metro areas to make this list. As recently as five years ago, it was the safest city in the state. There were 315 violent crimes per 100,000 people in the area in 2011 — the least of any Louisiana metro area tracked by the FBI and far below the 387 per 100,000 U.S. violent crime rate at the time. By 2016, the metro area was no longer the safest in the state, recording a violent crime rate of 449 incidents per 100,000 residents — well above the U.S. rate of 386 per 100,000.
The surge in crime is a relatively recent phenomenon in Houma-Thibodaux. The area’s violent crime rate fell or remained relatively steady from 2011 through 2014 — only to spike sharply in 2015 and remain high in 2016. Crime rates often increase in periods of economic decline, and Houma-Thibodaux is one of only two metro areas considered to report a higher poverty rate in 2016 than in 2011. Half a decade ago, 16.0% of the population lived in poverty compared to a 20.9% poverty rate in 2016.
9. El Centro, CA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +43.8%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 270.7 per 100,000 (total: 478)
> 2016 violent crime rate: 389.3 per 100,000 (total: 701)
> December unemployment rate: 20.0%
> Poverty rate: 24.6%
The violent crime rate in El Centro, California, increased by 43.8% in the last five years, a larger increase than in all but eight other U.S. metro areas. Meanwhile, the U.S. crime rate remained relatively flat over the same period. Despite the increasing violence, El Centro is about as safe as the U.S. as a whole. There were 389 violent crimes in the metro area in 2016 for every 100,000 residents, in line with 386 per 100,000 U.S. violent crime rate.
Poor areas with lagging economies are often more dangerous than prosperous parts of the country, and improved economic conditions in El Centro may go a long way in reducing crime. Currently, about 1 in every 4 metro area residents live below the poverty line, and about 1 in every 5 metro area workers are unemployed — each among the largest such shares nationwide. In comparison, 14% of Americans live in poverty and 4.1% of the labor force is unemployed.
8. Farmington, NM
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +51.6%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 625.1 per 100,000 (total: 822)
> 2016 violent crime rate: 947.4 per 100,000 (total: 1,100)
> December unemployment rate: 6.7%
> Poverty rate: 16.9%
Farmington, New Mexico, is one of only eight U.S. metro areas to report a more than 50% surge in violent crime over the last five years. Due to the steep increase, Farmington is now the most dangerous metro area in the state. Half a decade ago, the metro area’s violent crime rate of 625 incidents per 100,000 residents was lower than the comparable rate in the Albuquerque metro area. Though Albuquerque is also considerably more dangerous than it was in 2011, its 2016 violent crime rate is lower than the Farmington’s rate of 947 incidents per 100,000 people.
Crime became more common in Farmington as its job market worsened. While unemployment fell nationwide from 8.9% to 4.9% in the last five years, Farmington’s unemployment rate broke from the trend and climbed from 7.9% to 8.9% over the same period.
7. St. Joseph, MO-KS
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +52.6%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 275.4 per 100,000 (total: 352)
> 2016 violent crime rate: 420.2 per 100,000 (total: 532)
> December unemployment rate: 3.3%
> Poverty rate: 16.2%
As recently as five years ago, the St. Joseph metro area was safer than the U.S. as a whole. There were just 275 violent crimes in the metro area for every 100,000 residents in 2011, compared to 387 per 100,000 nationwide. However, the incidence of violent crime has since soared by 52.6% in the St. Joseph metro area, while it remained relatively flat nationwide. As of 2016, there were 420 violent crimes in the metro area for every 100,000 people, above the comparable nationwide rate.
Officials in the St. Joseph metro area point to drugs as a leading cause of crime. In recent years, shifts in drug use from marijuana and crack cocaine to meth, prescription pills, and black tar heroin have coincided with climbing crime rates.
6. Dubuque, IA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: +56.5%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 155.1 per 100,000 (total: 146)
> 2016 violent crime rate: 242.8 per 100,000 (total: 237)
> December unemployment rate: 2.9%
> Poverty rate: 10.6%
Over the last five years, Dubuque experienced one of the largest increases in violent crime of any city. The incidence of violent crime in the metro area rose by 56.5%, from 155 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2011 to 243 per 100,000 in 2016 — the sixth largest increase in the country. Dubuque also had a slight increase in property crime. While nationwide the number of burglaries, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 U.S. residents fell by 15.7% over the past five years, property crime rose by 3.7% in the metro area, from 2,030 instances per 100,000 residents in 2011 to 2,104 per 100,000 in 2016.
Despite the increases in crime, Dubuque remains one of the safest places in the country. The metro area’s violent and property crime rates are far lower than the national rates of 386 violent crimes and 2,451 property crimes per 100,000 Americans, and among the lower such figures in the country.