The Top 11 Most Dangerous Places in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania, PA, political map, Keystone State, Quaker State.
© PeterHermesFurian/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Beth Brown

Published: December 2, 2023

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There’s no denying Pennsylvania is an attractive state. Between the years 2019 and 2020, the state’s population increased 1.5 percent. Projections anticipate that by 2050, over 200,00 new residents will have chosen Pennsylvania as their new home. If you’re considering joining them, don’t miss this list of the most dangerous places in Pennsylvania. It just might help you pick your perfect new town.

Chester- The Most Dangerous Place in Pennsylvania

Delaware River with Philadelphia Skyline

Near the shores of the Delaware River, Chester, PA, takes the top spot as one of Pennsylvania’s most dangerous places.

©Paul Brady Photography/Shutterstock.com

With a population of 33,905 people, Chester recorded 1,383 violent crimes and 3,005 property crimes per 100,000 people in 2021. In addition, Chester ranks second in the state for burglaries. Chester’s status as the oldest city in Pennsylvania is a contributing factor to the high crime rate. The city sits on the banks of the Delaware River, between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. Once a booming manufacturing town, the city experienced economic decline as manufacturers closed down their factories for other locations. Today, there’s a community and local government initiative to reclaim and gentrify the city.

McKeesport- The Most Dangerous Place in Pennsylvania for Property Crime

Youghiogheny River Lake at Somerfield Recreation Area, in the Appalachians in Pennsylvania

McKeesport is a small town located in the crook of the Youghiogheny and Youghiogheny rivers, in Allegheny County.

©Nancy Bauer/Shutterstock.com

The small town of McKeesport is located just outside of Pittsburg. Despite the rural setting, the 20,765 residents reported 1,531 violent crimes and 2,759 property crimes per 100,000 residents in 2021. Despite having fewer residents, it takes the number one spot for most burglaries reported among all the cities in the state. The crime rate in the town is 250 percent higher than the state average, therefore making it the second most dangerous place in Pennsylvania. The town was founded in the industry of mining, growing into steel manufacture in the 1900s. As manufacturers moved to different locales, the borough began to struggle economically. In 1944, a powerful tornado destroyed much of the downtown area, followed by a devastating fire in 1976. Notwithstanding efforts, the city hasn’t regained its economic footing following these losses.

Pottstown

Classic panoramic view of famous Golden Gate Bridge seen from scenic Baker Beach in beautiful golden evening light on a sunny day with blue sky and clouds in summer, San Francisco, California, USA

Once famous for forging, Pottstown craftsmen assisted in the building of the Golden Gate Bridge.

©canadastock/Shutterstock.com

Established in 1815, Pottstown was built on forging and metalwork. The borough was named after the Potts family. Now with a population of 22,705, Pottstown recorded 717 violent crimes and 3,105 property crimes per 100,000 residents. After experiencing a population spike in 1960, residents have slowly been moving away from Pottstown to surrounding cities. This declining population has placed further strain on the local economy, causing areas of blight and small business failure. The combination has made Pottstown one of the most dangerous places in Pennsylvania.

Wilkinsburg

View on Pittsburgh skyline and Allegheny River from Three Rivers Heritage Trail - Pennsylvania - USA vith placid geese leisurely grazing on a neat lawn

Wilkinsburg is part of the Pittsburg Metropolitan Area.

©Pascal Vosicki/Shutterstock.com

Despite a population of only 15,389, Wilkinsburg recorded 779 violent and 2,618 property crimes per 100,000 people. Designated as a borough in 1887, Wilkinson was initially successful. In fact, by 1950, it was the most populated borough in the country. However, when the steel industry collapsed, so did the town’s economy. The population has declined steadily from 1960 to today, depleting the tax base necessary to keep the town thriving.

New Kensington

National Wild and Scenic Allegheny River kayaking solitude, Warren, Pennsylvania, USA

New Kensington rests on the banks of the Allegheny River.

©Piper VanOrd/Shutterstock.com

This small town could be considered one of the first planned communities in the United States. Burrell Improvement Company purchased land along the Allegheny River in 1891 and began selling lots to a planned town. Early New Kensington was successful and boasted railroads, streetcars, and even a passenger boat along the river. Unfortunately, residents began to move to more busy suburbs and boroughs. Today, New Kensington has a population of 12,273 and recorded 529 violent crimes and an additional 2,648 property crimes, making it the fifth most dangerous place in Pennsylvania.

Harrisburg- A Pennsylvania Town on The Upswing

Oldest Rivers - Susquehanna River

Situated right on the banks of the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg is the capital of the Commonwealth.



Harrisburg’s higher crime rate may be related to its heavy tourist presence. With a population of 49,195, 900 violent crimes and a further 2,172 property crimes were reported. Harrisburg has a long and storied involvement in American history. The Pennsylvania town played an important part in the Civil War, serving as a training station for Union soldiers. Additionally, the underground railroad, working to transport enslaved people, traveled through Harrisburg. The National Civil War Museum, Hershey Park, historic neighborhoods, and a bustling downtown continue to attract visitors. However, the Three Mile Island Accident in 1979, a partial meltdown of a nearby nuclear power plant, released toxic chemicals. Consequently, many residents left the area following the accident, but the town appears to be growing again.

©Jayce Wyatt Photography/Shutterstock.com

Wilkes-Barre

View of the Safe Harbor Dam on the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania, as seen from the Enola Low-Grade Trail.

The damage Wilkes-Barre received in a flood in 1970 contributed to the building of the Safe Harbor Dam.



A town founded on coal mining, Wilkes-Barre has established a new life. However, the town reported 594 violent crimes and a further 2,092 property crimes per 100,000 people. Despite this, the city has undergone major efforts to advance, improve, and increase its economic standing since 2005, when then-mayor Thomas Leighton unveiled his campaign to revitalize the city.

©U.S. Environmental Protection Agency / Public domain – Original / License

Swatara Township

Photo of The Cathedral of Saint Patrick in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania USA. Photo shot from the roof of a nearby parking garage.

Swatara Township is on the outskirts of Harrisburg, PA.

©Walt Bilous/Shutterstock.com

With a population of 26,643, it’s the high property crime rate in Swatara Township that earned a spot on the list. Only 285 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 people, however, 2,950 property crimes occurred. The town is primarily rural, with localized urban developments. In contrast to other towns, the violent crime rate is markedly lower.

Darby Township

Log cabin in Pennsylvania
Darby Township honors the history of early Swedish and English immigrants.

Today, Darby Township has a population of 9,256. Overall, 734 violent crimes and 1,901 property crimes were recorded per 100,000 residents. The township, which was first settled near Darby Creek in 1683, has a strong history of Swedish immigration. Early settlers became friendly with the native tribes, which allowed for easier transport of goods to other communities in the area. Darby Township’s crime rate remains relatively low, however, in contrast to other towns.

Allentown

Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Allentown is home to the Liberty Bell Museum.

©Songquan Deng/Shutterstock.com

Population 121,855, Allentown reported 386 violent crimes and 2,283 property crimes per 100,000 people. Numerous museums, the Liberty Bell, and a bustling downtown keep it a busy city. The economic stimulus of these activities assists in keeping the crime rate lower. The third-largest city in Pennsylvania, the town was founded by William Allen, former mayor of Philadelphia, in 1762. Generally, the city is safe to walk around, despite the crime rate.

Centralia- The Most Environmentally Dangerous Place in Pennsylvania

Centralia Warning Sign 2

As of 2020, only five people lived in Centralia. Warning signs discourage curious individuals from entering the ghost town.

©Lyndi & Jason, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

If Centralia is low on crime, it’s due to the lack of population. Interestingly, the reason why Centralia is mostly uninhabited is also the reason why Centralia earns a spot on the list of most dangerous places in Pennsylvania. In 1962, a coal fire began to burn under the town. Despite efforts, the fire continued to burn and spread under the streets. By 1992, the government claimed all homes under eminent domain and condemned them. In 2002, the United States Postal Service ceased all delivery to the area. Today, the fire has spread to cover 400 acres of land.

Chester: Population 33,905Violent Crime:1,383
Property Crime: 3,005
McKeesport: Population 20,765Violent Crime: 1,531
Property Crime: 2,759
Pottstown: Population 22,705Violent Crime: 717
Property Crime: 3,105
Wilkinsburg: Population 15,389Violent Crime: 779
Property Crime: 2,618
New Kensington: Population 12,273Violent Crime: 529
Property Crime: 2,648
Harrisburg: Population 49,195Violent Crime: 900
Property Crime: 2,172
Wilkes-Barre: Population 40,722Violent Crime: 594
Property Crime: 2,092
Swatara Township: Population 26,643Violent Crime: 285
Property Crime: 2,950
Darby Township: Population 9256Violent Crime: 734
Property Crime: 1,901
Allentown: Population 121,855Violent Crime: 386
Property Crime: 2,283
Centralia : Population 5N/A
All crimes reported per 100,000 residents.


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About the Author

Beth Brown is a writer at A-Z Animals. She enjoys researching and writing interesting and obscure facts about animals and places. Beth has been writing for six years and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business. Her hobbies include animal foster and rescue, yoga and mixed media art.

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