This Is the Most Dangerous City in Virginia 

Written by Erin Whitten
Updated: October 17, 2023
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When one thinks of Virginia, the mind conjures picturesque landscapes, rolling hills, and relics of American history. Virginia is a state celebrated for its pivotal moments in the nation’s development. As with many places rich in history, there’s always another side and another story waiting to be told.

Community Beach VA

Picturesque landscapes, rolling hills, and relics of American history are quintessential elements of Virginia.

©Kyle J Little/

The Most Dangerous City in Virginia: Portsmouth

Nestled in Virginia, a state echoing historical tales, Portsmouth presents a complex narrative. With roots dating back to 1836, it’s a city rich in heritage. Currently, Portsmouth is the most dangerous city in Virginia. Portsmouth’s crime rate, particularly property crime at 19.29%, is deeply concerning. This city of nearly 98,000 saw a startling 4,429 crimes in 2022, including 36 murders.

A Detailed Crime Index of Portsmouth

Portsmouth, with its origins tracing back to 1836, holds a significant place in Virginia’s history. Once known for its vibrant heritage, this city is now capturing attention for a different, more disconcerting reason.

Current Crime Landscape

The Portsmouth Police Department’s full-year 2022 data provides a detailed view of the crime landscape in Portsmouth:

Type of CrimeNumber of Incidents in 2022
Aggravated Assault338
Total Violent Crimes620
Motor Vehicle Theft190
Total Property Crimes2067
Total Crimes2687

Underlying Factors of Portsmouth’s High Crime Rate

Poverty Rate

Portsmouth has a significant poverty rate of 17.2%. This figure suggests that nearly 1 in 6 individuals in the city are grappling with financial hardship, a rate that’s concerning for a city of its stature.

Buckroe Beach

Nearly 1 in 6 individuals grapple with financial hardship in Portsmouth.

©Sherry V Smith/

Income Disparities

The median household income in Portsmouth, as of 2021, stands at $54,020. While this might seem adequate on the surface, many households struggle to make ends meet when juxtaposed against the costs of living, housing, and health care. Further emphasizing this point, the per capita income for the city over 12 months in 2021 is a mere $28,520. While this figure averages out individual incomes, it does give an idea of the earning power of the average resident of Portsmouth.

Education and Opportunities

Portsmouth reports that 90.2% of its residents aged 25 and older have at least a high school diploma, while only 21.0% possess a bachelor’s degree or higher. A lower rate of tertiary education can correlate with fewer high-paying job opportunities, contributing to an increase in crime.

Housing and Living Environment

In Portsmouth, 55.7% of homes are owner-occupied, leaving a considerable segment of the population in rental housing. High crime rates often correlate with these transient populations and reduced stability in living arrangements.

Health & Wellbeing

A noticeable 10.8% of individuals under the age of 65 do not have health insurance, potentially leading to stress, untreated mental health issues, or substance abuse – all contributors to crime.

This concrete arch railroad bridge spanning the James River was built by the Atlantic Coast Line, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad in 1919 to route transportation of freight around Richmond, VA.

Because so many people under the age of 65 lack health insurance, stress, untreated mental health issues, and substance abuse can occur, potentially causing an increase in crime.

©Xavier Ascanio/

Other Dangerous Cities in Virginia

These Virginia cities, while not leading the list, grapple directly with significant criminal challenges. Here are other Virginia cities with significant violent crime figures and their violent crime rates per 1,000 persons.

CityViolent CrimesViolent Crime Rate per 1,000 persons
Norfolk, VA5,38722.22
Virginia Beach, VA4,86210.76
Chesapeake, VA4,76619.13
Newport News, VA4,11522.90
Hampton, VA3,68327.53

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Gorodenkoff/

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About the Author

Erin Whitten is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily covering dogs, food, and travel. She earned her BA in Communications and Digital Media from Arizona State University in 2019. A resident of Massachusetts, Erin enjoys hanging out with her shelter cat Azula and taking photos of other animals.

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