Special Report

Cities Where Crime Is Soaring in Every State

Source: Rivers Langley; SaveRivers / Wikimedia Commons

1. Alabama: Auburn-Opelika
> 5-yr. Change in crime rate: +113.7% (metro area) +16.5% (state)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 552 (metro area) 524 (state)
> 2017 murders: 12 (metro area) 404 (state)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.9% (metro area) 4.4% (state)

The violent crime rate in the Auburn-Opelika metro area increased by 113.7% between 2012 and 2017 — the largest increase of any metro area in Alabama and the second largest of any U.S. metro area. Just five years ago, Auburn-Opelika was safer than the U.S. as a whole, with a violent crime rate of 258 incidents per 100,000 residents. That same year, there were 388 violent crimes per 100,000 people nationwide. Now, the metro area’s violent crime rate of 552 incidents per 100,000 is well above the 383 per 100,000 national rate.

While the incidence of every type of violent crime increased in the metro area, including murder and robbery, the incidence of rape and aggravated assault each more than doubled.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

2. Alaska: Fairbanks
> 5-yr. Change in crime rate: +15.0% (metro area) +37.4% (state)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 608 (metro area) 829 (state)
> 2017 murders: 10 (metro area) 62 (state)
> 2017 unemployment: 6.3% (metro area) 7.2% (state)

Fairbanks is the only metro area in Alaska for which 2017 violent crime data is comparable to data from 2012. The violent crime rate in Fairbanks climbed from 529 incidents per 100,000 people to 608 incidents per 100,000 people over that period, a 15% increase. Despite the increase, Fairbanks remains safer than the state as a whole. Over the same period, the violent crime rate in Alaska increased by 37.4%, from 603 incidents to 829 incidents per 100,000 people.

During an August 2018 press conference, former Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth tied the increase in violence to the state’s opioid crisis. There were 20 drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 people in Alaska in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These are the counties with the worst drug problem in every state.

Source: rodrigoparedes / Flickr

3. Arizona: Flagstaff
> 5-yr. Change in crime rate: +14.6% (metro area) +18.4% (state)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 384 (metro area) 508 (state)
> 2017 murders: 11 (metro area) 416 (state)
> 2017 unemployment: 5.6% (metro area) 4.9% (state)

Of the five metro areas in Arizona for which comparable crime data is available, Flagstaff reported the largest increase in violent crime over the last half decade. The total number of rapes, robberies, murders, and aggravated assault cases for every 100,000 people living in Flagstaff increased by 14.6% from 2012 to 2017. Still, the increase in the metro area was smaller than the 18.4% increase in violent crime across the state as a whole. Partially as a result, Flagstaff remains safer than much of the rest of the state.

The incidence rate of every type of violent crime has gone up in Flagstaff since 2012 — but none has climbed as rapidly as the murder rate. There were 7.8 murders for every 100,000 people in Flagstaff in 2017, a 169% increase from the murder rate of 2.9 per 100,000 in 2012.

Source: Thomas R Machnitzki (thomas@machnitzki.com) / Wikimedia Commons

4. Arkansas: Jonesboro
> 5-yr. Change in crime rate: +38.8% (metro area) +18.3% (state)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 454 (metro area) 555 (state)
> 2017 murders: 16 (metro area) 258 (state)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.2% (metro area) 3.7% (state)

The violent crime rate rose in every metro area in Arkansas for which data was available between 2012 and 2017. Jonesboro reported the largest increase as the incidence of violence jumped by 38.8%. Despite the state-leading increase, Jonesboro is safer than much of the rest of Arkansas. The metro area’s violent crime rate of 454 incidents per 100,000 people is below Fort Smith’s rate of 506 per 100,000 and Little Rock’s rate of 799 per 100,000.

Since 2012, the robbery rate in Jonesboro fell by 26.5%. However, the improvement was not enough to offset increases in other categories of violent crime. The rate of aggravated assault soared by 51%, rapes climbed by 78%, and the murder rate more than doubled.

Source: kenlund / Flickr

5. California: Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura
> 5-yr. Change in crime rate: +32.4% (metro area) +6.2% (state)
> 2017 violent crimes per 100,000 people: 263 (metro area) 449 (state)
> 2017 murders: 26 (metro area) 1,830 (state)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.5% (metro area) 4.8% (state)

The incidence of violent crime increased by 32.4% in the Oxnard metro area in the last five years, more than in any of the 22 other California metro areas for which data was available. The violent crime rate increased by just 6.2% across California as a whole over the same period.

Despite reporting the highest-in-the-state rise in violence, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura is the safest metro area in the state. There were 263 violent crimes for every 100,000 metro area residents in 2017, below both the statewide violent crime rate of 449 per 100,000 and the nationwide rate of 383 per 100,000.