Special Report

America's Most Peaceful and Violent States

The United States appears to be getting safer overall, according to the FBI’s latest violent crime data. The rate of violent crime  — comprising homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery — fell by 3.6% in 2018 compared to the prior year. Yet the improvement was not uniform across all states, and some even reported more violent crimes per capita than they did the year before.

To identify the most and least violent states, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on four measures: the murder rate, the violent crime rate excluding murder, firearm deaths, and the incarceration rate. Data came from the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

There is a strong, if complicated, relationship between crime and poverty, and people from low-income areas are much more likely to be incarcerated than those from more affluent areas. This is due in part to the fact that previously incarcerated people often struggle to find legitimate work after leaving prison and are often convicted of another offense. Many of the states with the lowest median incomes have relatively high rates of violent crime and incarceration. These issues are often concentrated in larger cities with densely packed areas that have long struggled with systemic poverty. These are the cities hit hardest by extreme poverty in every state.

Violent crimes make up a relatively small percentage of all reported crimes in America, with property crimes making up the majority. There were 381 violent crimes for every 100,000 Americans in 2018, but 2,200 property crimes per 100,000. While property crimes are not fatal or physically harmful, they can nevertheless take an emotional and psychological toll on the victims. One such crime is motor vehicle theft — a crime that is much more likely to occur in larger cities. This is where your car is most likely to be stolen in every state.

Click here to see America’s most peaceful and violent states
Click here to read our methodology