Special Report

25 Most Dangerous Cities in America

Detailed Findings

Certain economic conditions are common in cities with the highest violent crime rates. Poverty rates in all of the 25 cities on this list except for Anchorage, Alaska, exceed the national rate of 15.1%; median annual household incomes in all but two of the cities are lower than the national median of $55,322; and unemployment rates in only seven of the 25 most dangerous cities do not exceed the national jobless rate of 4.4% in 2017.

While these foundational issues certainly help explain high crime levels in U.S. cities, Roman said, “what really leads to the violence is that poverty is really concentrated.” Many of the most dangerous cities are socially, racially, and economically segregated cities, he observed.

In other words, the concentration of crime in an area is largely tied to the concentration of affluence, job opportunities, and community resources. “Places that have been historically very dangerous become much much safer as economic development spreads.” Roman added.

To reverse crime spikes and support safe communities, resources are needed to support modern policing methods. Child and family welfare, mental health considerations, substance abuse, education, employment, housing, and more affect the problems that lead to violence in a community. “If you don’t have the resources to coordinate all of [these issues],” Roman explained, “all you’re left with is the cop on the beat.”

And while officers on patrol are often very effective at enforcing law and order, modern policing requires different approaches to different problems. Today’s police departments must address crime at the grassroots level, building relationships with the local community and supporting educational and extracurricular organizations. Many of the cities with high and rising violent crime levels were hit by the recession and have struggled to find the resources necessary to provide this service.

To identify the 25 most dangerous U.S. cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates in cities with at least 100,000 people from the FBI’s 2017 Uniform Crime Report released September 25, 2017. The total number and the rates of murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, which are included in the violent crime rate, as well as burglaries, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, which are classified as property crime, also came from the FBI’s report.

We considered these data for each year from 2012 through 2016. Population, and the number of police officers in each city in 2016, 2015, and in 2008 came from the FBI.

Annual unemployment rates for 2016 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Median household income, poverty rates, and the percentage of households earning less than $10,000 a year came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and are five-year averages for the period 2011 to 2015.


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