Special Report

The Most Dangerous Cities in the World

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15. Cape Town, South Africa
> Homicides per 100,000: 62.3
> 2017 homicides: 2,493
> Population: 4,004,793

Cape Town is by far the murder capital of a country plagued with violence. Last year, overall reported crime in South Africa’s capital and largest city increased by 8%, but its homicide rate barely changed. Cape Town has been in the top 20 most dangerous cities since Seguridad, Justicia y Paz began tracking homicide rates in 2013, peaking at No. 9 in 2015.

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14. Maceió, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 63.9
> 2017 homicides: 658
> Population: 1,029,129

Unlike in Aracaju, 170 miles to the south, the homicide rate in the coastal city of Maceió increased last year from 51.8 homicides for every 100,000 residents in 2016 to 63.9 per 100,000, pushing its ranking from the 25th spot to 14th. It is an improvement from 2014, however, when this touristic city was the country’s second most dangerous with 72.9 homicides per 100,000 residents. The trend shows that despite improved economic conditions in Brazil — the country’s crippling recession that began in 2014 ended last year — many cities struggle with gang-related violent criminal activity, and police enforcement varies from brutal to non-existent depending on how crime is tackled.

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13. St. Louis, United States
> Homicides per 100,000: 65.8
> 2017 homicides: 205
> Population: 311,404

Since 2014, this Mississippi port city has been among the world’s 20 most dangerous cities on the annual list, and its homicide rate has gradually increased. The city’s homicide rate is the same as some of the most murderous cities in Mexico and Brazil. Like other U.S. cities on this list, St. Louis authorities are struggling to bring killers to justice in the most marginalized neighborhoods in the city. In some areas, only one in three homicides result in an arrest of suspects. Like in other homicide-heavy U.S. cities, police are trying to build trust in communities to encourage people to report crime and to reach out to troubled youths.

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12. Culiacán, Mexico
> Homicides per 100,000: 70.1
> 2017 homicides: 671
> Population: 957,613

Culiacán, in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, has long been a center of drug cartel activity. Last year, the city’s consistently high murder rate jumped from 51.8 homicides per 100,000 residents to 70.1 per 100,000, owing largely to the street-level fallout following the extradition of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, to the United States. Although he is in custody in Brooklyn, a cartel war broke out after Guzman’s former political operator reportedly attempted to kill Guzman’s sons. Confirming the links between cartel inner-struggles and the rise in murders is difficult, but one thing is certain: Guzman’s removal has stemmed neither the local narcotics trade nor the blood it spills.

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11. Vitória da Conquista, Brazil
> Homicides per 100,000: 70.3
> 2017 homicides: 245
> Population: 348,718

Brazil’s eastern Bahia state business center reported a jump in the number of homicides in the past couple of years, making it the country’s fourth bloodiest city. Cities in country’s northeast, which includes Bahia, have reported an alarming increase in murders. The World Bank estimated that murders in Bahia more than tripled between 2000 and 2010. After a notable drop in the murder rate in 2015 to 38.5 homicides per 100,000 residents, the rate has nearly doubled in the past couple of years.