Big cities and safety have more in common than you might think. Metro counties and cities with populations between 250,000 and 500,000 showed the biggest drop in violent crime between 2016 and 2017—and cities with one million or more residents had the next-biggest decline.
What Makes the Most Dangerous Cities So Crime-Ridden?
Experts continue to debate the precise causes of violent crime, but there are a few factors that pop up consistently. We compared wealth distribution, high school graduation rates, the median age, and ethnic diversity to see if there were any trends that could explain why the most dangerous cities are so crime-ridden. The biggest differences we found between the safest and most dangerous cities are median household income and poverty rates.
Only three of the safest cities have a median income below the national average of $57,652, but 90% of the most dangerous cities do—and Detroit and Cleveland have median household incomes of just $27,000 per year. But when you look at the poverty rate, only two cities among the safest cities are below the national average of 14.6%, and every one of the most dangerous cities is higher.
Albuquerque moved up from 12th place last year to take the eighth spot on the most dangerous list.
Just one western city showed up in the most dangerous list—Oakland, California.
80% of the most dangerous cities have violent crime rates that are three times higher than the national rate of 4.49. The median violent crime rate of the most dangerous metros is 17.05.
40% of the most dangerous cities have property crime rates that are two times higher than the national rate of 27.11. The median property crime rate of the most dangerous metros is 52.82.
90% of the most dangerous cities are below the national median income and 70% have poverty rates above 20% (the national average is 14.6%). Oakland is the outlier when it comes to median household income—its median income is $63,251 compared to the national median of $57,652.
America’s 10 Most Dangerous Big Cities
City Violent Crime Rate (per 1,000)
City Property Crime Rate (per 1,000)
Looking for Your City?
How We Picked the Most Dangerous Metro Cities in America
To identify the most dangerous cities in the country, we analyzed FBI crime report statistics and population data for 2017 (the most recent year for which data was available).³ We set a population threshold at 300,000 and higher. Cities that fell below that threshold were excluded, along with cities that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI.
Cities were ranked based on the number of reported violent crimes (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) in each city. If there was a tie, we also factored in the number of property crimes (burglary, arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft). To level the playing field, we calculated the rate of crimes per 1,000 people in each city.
Check out our full methodology to learn more about how we rank the Safest Cities
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more