Special Report

The Most Dangerous Cities in the World

Source: Roman_Rahm / iStock

10. Belém, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 71.4
> 2017 homicides: 1,743
> Population: 2,441,761

In 2014, 10 people were gunned down in Belém in what Amnesty International called an act of revenge for the murder of a military police force officer. The killings, which received global public attention at the time, underscored the tensions between criminal gangs and street-level officers in this Amazon River port city, a conduit of agricultural goods and mining commodities extracted from the Amazon rainforest. Belém made it into the top 10 most dangerous cities list in 2017 after ranking 26th, with 45.8 homicides per 100,000 residents, two years earlier. It is now Brazil’s third most dangerous city.

Source: Getty Images

9. Guayana, Venezuela
> Homicides per 100,000: 80.3
> 2017 homicides: 728
> Population: 906,879

Ciudad Guayana, a Venezuelan ports city on the banks of the Orinoco River has been on the list of the top 10 most dangerous cities in the world in the past two years, climbing from 17th in 2013. Like elsewhere in the country, the city is struggling with food scarcities and high crime amid Venezuela’s years-long and worsening economic conditions. The country’s spiraling crime rate has made it the top source of asylum seekers to the United States.

Source: Fernando Sandoval Martínez, Flickr

8. Victoria, Mexico
> Homicides per 100,000: 83.3
> 2017 homicides: 301
> Population: 361,078

Like Reynosa, 200 miles to the north, Ciudad Victoria has reported a sharp increase in murders since 2015 as simmering disputes between rival drug trafficking gangs have boiled over in the past couple of years. The murder rate in the capital of Tamaulipas state, one of the most lawless in the country, has nearly tripled in two years with little respite in sight; there were more murders in the first four months of this year than in the same period of 2017.

Source: 4FR / Getty Images

7. Fortaleza, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 83.5
> 2017 homicides: 3,270
> Population: 3,917,279

As one of Brazil’s wealthiest cities, this eastern port city holds a significant cultural and business cache. But unlike Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, also cultural and economic centers, gang-related killings in Fortaleza make it the country’s second most dangerous city. In 2016, the city ranked 35th with 45.0 homicides per 100,000 people. And the city got off to a bad start in 2018 when 14 people were massacred in a nightclub in February. As with elsewhere in Brazil, effective police strategies to deal with criminal gangs have been elusive, partly because Brazil’s crime problem is linked to racism, deep economic inequalities, and inadequate municipal services in the poorest neighborhoods.

Source: MarkHatfield / Getty Images

6. La Paz, Mexico
> Homicides per 100,000: 84.8
> 2017 homicides: 259
> Population: 305,455

La Paz means “peace” in English, but the situation in this southern Baja California city on the coast of the Gulf of California has been anything but peaceful. This is the first time La Paz has appeared on the world’s top 50 most dangerous cities list since Seguridad, Justicia y Paz began tracking homicide rates in 2013. This sharp increase in killings is perhaps one of the most troubling developments in Mexico’s crime problems because the southern half of the Baja California state has been spared much of the violence taking place nearby. The area’s low population has insulated the southern part of the peninsula from the centers of cartel power. But now it appears that Baja California is no longer insulated from the criminal enterprises taking place across the narrow gulf.