The U.S. violent crime rate — an annual, population-adjusted measure of cases of rаpe, robbery, aggravated assault, and homicide — climbed 5% in 2020. The increase was driven by a rise in aggravated assault and, most notably, a historic 29% surge in homicides that made 2020 the deadliest year in the United States since the mid-1990s.
Despite the largest single-year increase in homicides on record, the overall violent crime rate remains relatively low by historical standards. There were 1.3 million violent crimes reported in the U.S. in 2020, or 399 for every 100,000 people. For context, the national violent crime rate ranged between 523 and 758 incidents per 100,000 throughout the 1990s.
Of course, crime is a local phenomenon influenced by a wide range of factors at the community and even household level. As a result, violent crime rates in the U.S. can vary considerably from place to place — and in some cities, rates of violence far exceed the nation-level highs recorded in decades past.
Using data from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most dangerous metro area in each state. Metro areas are ranked by the violent crime rate — specifically, the number of violent crimes reported for every 100,000 residents.
It is important to note that in eight states, there is only one eligible metro area with available data. In each of these cases, which are noted, the metro area listed ranks as the most dangerous metro area by default only. In two states — Alabama and Pennsylvania — there are no qualifying metro areas with available crime data.
Though each of the metro areas on this list ranks as the most dangerous in its state, violent crime rates in these metros vary considerably, from as low as 178 incidents per 100,000 people, to as high as 1,359 per 100,000. Still, in the vast majority of the metro areas on this list, violent crime rates exceed the comparable rate across the state as a whole.
Explanations for the high levels of violence in these places are varied and complex. Major current events that have impacted the entire country — such as the COVID-19 pandemic and unrest fueled by the murder of George Floyd — have likely played a role in some places. Other factors, such as a lack of economic opportunity, are more endemic.
Low-income communities in the United States are disproportionately burdened by crime. One study found that individuals with family incomes of less than $15,000 annually are three times more likely to be victimized by crime than those with family incomes of $75,000 or more. In most metro areas on this list, the share of residents living on poverty-level income exceeds the comparable statewide poverty rate. Here is a look at the city hit hardest by extreme poverty in every state.
Click here to see the most dangerous metro area in every state
To determine the most dangerous metro area in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime figures from the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report. Violent crime includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rаpe, robbery, and aggravated assault. Rates of violent crimes per 100,000 people were calculated using population data from the FBI.
Limited data was available in the 2020 UCR for areas in Alabama, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, though these states were not excluded from analysis. Only metro areas for which the boundaries defined by the FBI match the boundaries as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau were considered.
Additional information on the number of murders are also from the 2020 FBI UCR. Poverty rates are one-year estimates from the 2019 ACS.
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