Detailed Findings & Methodology
Among the metro areas on this list, reported increases in the violent crime rate between 2011 and 2016 range from 32.7% to 85.5%. Despite the steep increases in violence, not all metro areas on this list are dangerous places.
The violent crime rate is lower than the U.S. rate of 386 incidents per 100,000 people in 11 of the 25 metro areas with the largest surges in violent crime. In Logan, Utah, for example, despite a 38.8% five-year increase in violence, there were just 66 reported violent crimes for every 100,000 people in 2016 — the lowest violent crime rate of any U.S. metro area for which data was available.
On the other hand, while every city on this list is a more dangerous place than it was half a decade ago, some rank among the most dangerous places in the country. Six of the metro areas reporting the greatest spikes in violence have a violent crime rate more than double the U.S. rate as a whole. In Monroe, Louisiana, the 85.5% increase in violent crime over the last five years was the greatest increase of any metro area. Partially as a result, with a violent crime rate of 1,187 incidents for every 100,000 people, Monroe now ranks as the most dangerous metro area in the country.
While explanations for the rising incidence of violent crime vary by city, there are some common factors that many cities on this list share. The United States is in the midst of a drug crisis on an unprecedented scale. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some 11.5 million American teens and adults misused prescription painkillers in 2016. An estimated 2 million of them are addicted to pain medication, and for many addicts, heroin is a less expensive and easier to obtain alternative to prescription opioids. In many cities on this list, local authorities point to surging illicit drug activity as a primary cause of increasing violence.
Low-income areas with lagging economies are also often more likely to report higher rates of violent crime. While nationwide, unemployment has fallen considerably since 2011, four metro areas tracked by the FBI reported an increase in unemployment between 2011 and 2016. In three of those — including Farmington, New Mexico and Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, which are on this list — the violent crime rate rose over the same period.
Similarly, Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa and Houma-Thibodaux were the only two metro areas to report a higher poverty rate in 2016 than in 2011. Both metro areas reported near nation-leading increases in violent crime over the same period, at 33.5% and 42.8%, respectively.
To identify the cities where crime is soaring, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percent change in the violent crime rate for metropolitan statistical areas between 2011 and 2016 from the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report. To be considered, areas had to have retained the same geographic boundaries during the period covered. Total violent crimes, property crimes, and each of their constituent crime types also came from the FBI.
We also considered for each MSA various social and economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey, including the median household income and poverty rate.