Detailed findings and methodology:
While murder tends to receive the greatest news coverage, these offenses represent only a small portion of violent crime in the United States. This category also includes rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults. While across the nation aggravated assaults represent the largest share of violent crimes, followed by robbery, the less common — or at least less commonly-reported — murder and rape rates tend to be high in cities challenged with high overall violent crime counts.
Several social and economic factors have been shown to bear a relationship to crime rates, both violent and nonviolent. For example, cities with high unemployment also tend to have high crime rates. Of the 100 cities with the highest violent crime rates and available unemployment figures, just 21 had an annual unemployment rate equal to or below that of the nation.
Many of the cities on this list, and high crime cities in general, also have high poverty rates. of their populations are living in extreme poverty. Of the 100 U.S. Cities with the highest violent crime rates, just a single city — Anchorage, Alaska — has a below-average poverty rate. Of those 100 cities, the average poverty rate is 26.9%, compared to a national poverty rate of 15.1%.
While there has been shown to be a correlation between high poverty rates and unemployment in a city and high violent crime, experts caution that the relationship between crime and socioeconomic factors like these tend to be extremely complex. Blaming the poor, for example, for violent crime, is a far too simplistic way of looking at the issue. John Roman, a senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, emphasized the complexity of the issue.
Roman noted that the presence of poverty can be indicative of many other structural and economic problems in a city that can lead to higher crime rates. The presence of violence can have serious negative effects on the the mental health and economy of the region. Roman noted that the prevalence of poverty and unemployment can reflect an area’s “a long-term lack of opportunity,” which leads to higher rate of crime.
Roman also said that while social and economic factors can contribute to the high violent crime rate of certain cities, other variables play a role. Location is one factor he cited. New York state’s most violent city is Newburgh, almost 70 miles north of New York City and near the junction of Interstates 84 and 90.
“Newburgh is at the intersection of two major interstates, [one going] north [to] south and an [another] east [to] west, so it’s easy to see why that would be an appealing place to put [a] criminal enterprise,” he said. Starting a criminal organization in a city like Newburgh allows for ease in moving illicit substances quickly in both directions, and the presence of such an organization can lead to a rise in crime of all types, he added.
To identify the most dangerous city in each state, 24/7 Wall St. examined the FBI’s 2016 Uniform Crime Report, culling violent crime data for all U.S. cities with populations of 20,000 or more. We examined each state’s figures for murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, which make up violent crime. We also reviewed the FBI’s figures for burglaries, larceny, motor vehicle thefts, and arson, all classified a property crimes. The unemployment rates for each city came from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for 2017. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey served as our source for poverty rates, median household income figures, and prevalence of adults with high school diplomas or bachelor’s degrees; estimates for the period of 2012 to 2016, were used