Special Report

America's Most Dangerous Cities

St. Louis, Missouri
Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

5. St. Louis, Missouri
> 2018 violent crime rate: 1,800.4 per 100,000 people
> 2018 homicides: 187
> Poverty rate: 25.0%
> 2018 unemployment rate: 3.8%

There were 187 murders committed in St. Louis in 2018. While several other much larger cities had more murders that year, adjusted for population, St. Louis’s homicide rate of 61 incidents per 100,000 people is the highest of any U.S. city. For reference, the murder rate in Baltimore of 51 per 100,000 is the second highest among U.S. cities. Nationwide, there were 5 murders for every 100,000 people.

In an effort to reduce violence in St. Louis and bring perpetrators to justice, city officials may implement an aerial surveillance system initially developed by Ohio-based company Persistent Surveillance Systems for the U.S. military to use in Fallujah, Iraq.

Baltimore, Maryland
Source: baltimoreheritage / Flickr

4. Baltimore, Maryland
> 2018 violent crime rate: 1,833.4 per 100,000 people
> 2018 homicides: 309
> Poverty rate: 22.4%
> 2018 unemployment rate: 5.7%

Baltimore’s violent crime rate of 1,833 incidents per 100,000 people is nearly five times higher than the national violent crime rate. The city’s robbery rate of 837 incidents per 100,000 people is the highest in the country, and the murder rate of 51 per 100,000 is second highest, trailing only St. Louis.

In one Baltimore neighborhood, local residents have taken it upon themselves to install a network of about 500 surveillance cameras — the footage from which has been instrumental in solving dozens of criminal cases. The neighborhood has seen a decrease in crime in recent years, and other Baltimore neighborhoods are beginning to adopt similar initiatives.

Birmingham, Alabama
Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

3. Birmingham, Alabama
> 2018 violent crime rate: 1,911.5 per 100,000 people
> 2018 homicides: 88
> Poverty rate: 28.1%
> 2018 unemployment rate: 4.6%

Birmingham is one of only three U.S. cities with a violent crime rate more than five times higher than the national rate of 369 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Nearly 70% of the violent crimes reported in Birmingham in 2018 were aggravated assaults, and the vast majority of the rest were robberies. Still, the city’s murder rate of 42 homicides per 100,000 people is the third highest in the nation, trailing only St. Louis and Baltimore.

As is often the case among cities on this list, economic opportunities appear limited in Birmingham. More than one in every four city residents live below the poverty line, nearly double the 14.9% national poverty rate.

Memphis, Tennessee
Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

2. Memphis, Tennessee
> 2018 violent crime rate: 1,943.2 per 100,000 people
> 2018 homicides: 186
> Poverty rate: 26.9%
> 2018 unemployment rate: 4.6%

The violent crime rate in Memphis of 1,943 incidents per 100,000 people is the highest in the South and the second highest among major cities nationwide. The city also has a far higher than typical property crime rate. There were 6,406 property crimes like motor vehicle theft and larceny for every 100,000 people in Memphis in 2018, fourth highest among U.S. cities and nearly triple the comparable national rate.

The Memphis Police Department recently held its annual Youth Crime Watch Conference, and this year, mother’s who have lost children to violence told their stories in the hopes of giving attendees a broader perspective on the impact of gun violence.

Detroit, Michigan
Source: Steven_Kriemadis / Getty Images

1. Detroit, Michigan
> 2018 violent crime rate: 2,007.8 per 100,000 people
> 2018 homicides: 261
> Poverty rate: 37.9%
> 2018 unemployment rate: 9.0%

Detroit is the only midsize or large city in the United States with a violent crime rate of more than 2,000 incidents per 100,000 people. There were about 13,500 total violent crimes — most of them cases of aggravated assault — reported in the city in 2018, several hundred more than there were in Phoenix, a city with a population more than double that of Detroit.

Long suffering from the decline of American manufacturing, Detroit’s population fell from a peak of over 1.8 million in 1950 to fewer than 700,000 today. Since the city’s industrial core has been gutted over the decades, economic opportunities remain scarce in the city. The annual unemployment rate in Detroit is a staggering 9.0%, more than double the 3.9% national rate. Also, 37.9% of Detroit residents live below the poverty line, also more than double the comparable 14.9% poverty rate.

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