Unveiling the Most Dangerous Cities in America 

Written by Eliana Riley
Updated: July 20, 2023
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Crime in the United States continues to fall, but some areas in the country experience more crime than others. In recent years, violent crime in the U.S. has been associated with instances of mass shootings, homicides, and other horrific occurrences. Overall, though, most people consider America to be a safe country, especially compared to other violent countries across the globe. Nevertheless, the most dangerous cities in America see an incredible amount of violent crime compared to the remainder of the country. Discover the top six most dangerous cities in the United States and learn about their crime indexes and violent crime rates.

6 Most Dangerous Cities in America
The most important value in determining danger in a city is the crime index.

Overview

The top six most dangerous cities in America might be surprising, as some of these areas have only been considered dangerous in recent years. Several factors contribute to danger in cities, such as population, infrastructure, and state and local governments. However, the most important value in determining danger in a city is the crime index. The crime index measures how much safer a certain city is than all other cities in the United States. Below outlines the top six most dangerous cities in America.

6. Baltimore, Maryland

The sixth-most dangerous city in the United States is Baltimore, Maryland. The city is safer than 3% of other U.S. neighborhoods, giving it a crime index of 3. In addition, the number of crimes that occur every year in Baltimore totals 26,546, and 9,029 of these crimes are violent crimes. Thus, the violent crime rate per 1,000 residents in this city lies at 15.66, and the total crime rate measures 46.05.

Baltimore’s violent crime rate is nearly four times greater than that of the rest of Maryland. The violent crime rate for the remainder of the state lies at 3.96. Furthermore, the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Baltimore are 1 in 64. Property crimes occur around twice as often in Baltimore as they do in the remainder of Maryland. While residents and visitors are less likely to become a victim of a violent crime in Baltimore than of a property crime, the chances of violent crime victimization remain high, making the city extremely dangerous. 

Baltimore, Maryland, USA skyline on the Inner Harbor.

Baltimore, Maryland ranks as the sixth-most dangerous city in the United States with a crime index of 3.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

5. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio ranks #5 on the list of the most dangerous cities in the United States. This popular city has a crime index of 2, making the city safer than 2% of other neighborhoods in America. While Cleveland experiences a lower number of annual violent crimes than Baltimore at 6,316, its violent crime rate and chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime are higher than those of Baltimore. For example, Cleveland’s violent crime rate per 1,000 residents sits at 17.16, and the residents’ chances of becoming a victim of violent crime lie at 1 in 58.

In addition, the total crime rate in Cleveland measures 55.68. Like Baltimore, the chances of becoming a victim of a property crime are higher than the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime. Nevertheless, violent crimes in Cleveland are still common, especially when compared to the rest of Ohio. The chances of becoming a victim of violent crime in Ohio are 1 in 297. Finally, Cleveland sees around 263 crimes per square mile of the city while Ohio sees 25 crimes per square mile of the entire state.

Aquaiums Near Cleveland - Cleveland Skyline

Cleveland’s violent crime rate sits at 17.16.

©f11photo/Shutterstock.com

4. St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri has a violent crime rate per 1,000 residents of 14.96, and the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in this city are 1 in 67. Both statistics measure lower than the violent crime rates and chances of victimization in Cleveland and Baltimore. So why is St. Louis considered more dangerous than both cities?

For one, St. Louis’s ranking as the fourth-most dangerous city in America must consider population. The city has nearly half the population as that of Baltimore. With a higher population, Baltimore has a greater chance of experiencing violent crime. However, the instances of violent crime in St. Louis are not significantly fewer than those in Baltimore. The same is true about Cleveland, which has a greater population but sees a similar amount of violent crime as St. Louis. Therefore, St. Louis experiences more violent crime than both cities according to its smaller population, making it more dangerous.

In addition, the total crime rate in St. Louis lies at 70.00 with property crimes making up most of the occurrences of crime in this area. The city has a higher total crime rate per 1,000 residents than both Baltimore and Cleveland. Furthermore, the crime index of St. Louis is greater than both cities at 1, making the city 1% safer than other neighborhoods in the United States. Thus, while Cleveland and Baltimore technically experience more crime than St. Louis, the cities are less dangerous due to their populations, similar violent crime statistics, and total crime indexes.

St. Louis downtown skyline at twilight from top view

The total crime rate of St. Louis is 70.00, which is extremely high compared to other cities.

©f11photo/Shutterstock.com

3. Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama holds the title as the third-most dangerous city in America with a crime index of 1. The number of violent crimes that occur annually in Birmingham measures 4,065 with a violent crime rate per 1,000 residents of 20.57. In addition, the total crime rate in this city lies at 77.09 with property crimes accounting for the largest portion of annual crime. The remainder of the states sees a violent crime rate of 5.96, making Birmingham’s violent crime rate significant.

The chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Birmingham are 1 in 49 while the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in the rest of Alabama are 1 in 168. The number of crimes that occur per square mile of Birmingham total 102. Although Birmingham records fewer crimes per square mile than St. Louis, Cleveland, and Baltimore, it claims a greater total area.

In fact, the square mileage of Birmingham measures 149.54 square miles while the total areas of the other three cities don’t even scrape 100 square miles. Therefore, crime in this city has a wider zone to operate in, making the number of crimes per square mile smaller than those of other cities. This statistic, though, does not mean that Birmingham is less dangerous than these cities. Rather, Birmingham is more dangerous, as it has a greater total area to account for when calculating crime.

Birmingham, Alabama, USA downtown city skyline.

The chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Birmingham, Alabama are 1 in 49.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

2. Detroit, Michigan

Taking the #2 spot on the list of the most dangerous cities in the United States is Detroit, Michigan. Detroit experiences 14,589 violent crimes every year with a violent crime rate per 1,000 residents of 23.07. In addition, the total crime rate in this city measures 59.01. Furthermore, the violent crime rate in Detroit is almost five times greater than the violent crime rate of the state of Michigan, which lies at 4.95.

The chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Detroit are 1 in 43. On the other hand, the chances of victimization by a violent crime in the state of Michigan lie much lower at 1 in 202. Property crime is more common in both Detroit and in the remainder of the state. For example, the property crime rates in Detroit and Michigan lie at 35.94 and 13.81, respectively. In addition, Michigan’s property crime rate remains under the national median for property crime rate, which measures 19. Finally, the instances of crime per square mile in Detroit are high, measuring 268 crimes.

Detroit, Michigan, USA downtown skyline from above at dusk.

Detroit holds the title of America’s second-most dangerous city.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

1. Memphis, Tennessee

The most dangerous city in the United States is Memphis, Tennessee with a crime index of zero. Memphis is not safer than any other city in America and experiences a large amount of violent crime. In fact, the amount of annual violent crime in Memphis numbers 15,798 with a violent crime rate per 1,000 residents of 25.15. Not only does Memphis have the highest violent crime rate in America but it also claims the highest total crime rate at 80.50.

Compared to the rest of Tennessee, Memphis’s violent crime rate is incredible, as Tennessee has a violent crime rate of only 6.75. In addition, the chances of victimization by violent crime in Memphis are 1 in 40 while the chances of becoming a victim of violent crime in Tennessee are 1 in 148. Both Memphis and Tennessee see high property crime rates at 55.35 and 22.84, respectively. Furthermore, the instances of crimes per square mile in Memphis total 156 crimes, but this measurement in the state of Tennessee lies much lower at 15 crimes per square mile.

Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis sees an incredible 15,798 violent crimes every year!

©iStock.com/dosecreative

Summary of the Top 6 Most Dangerous Cities in America

RankCityCrime IndexViolent Crime Rate (per 1,000 residents)Total Crime Rate (per 1,000 residents)Chances of Becoming a Victim of a Violent CrimeCrimes per Square Mile
National Median/AverageN/A441.290.93%26.8
1Memphis, Tennessee025.1580.501 in 40 (2.5%)156
2Detroit, Michigan123.0759.011 in 43 (2.3%)268
3Birmingham, Alabama120.5777.091 in 49 (2.0%)102
4St. Louis, Missouri114.9670.001 in 67 (1.5%)311
5Cleveland, Ohio217.1655.831 in 58 (1.7%)263
6Baltimore, Maryland315.6646.051 in 64 (1.6%)326

What is the Most Dangerous City in the World?

The most dangerous city in the world is Celaya, Mexico, which experiences approximately 109.39 murders per 100,000 residents. The estimated metropolitan area population of Celaya measures between 630,000 and 708,000 residents. Why is the city so dangerous? The Santa Rosa de Lima cartel terrorizes the city, killing residents and officials alike. In addition, the cartel does not seem to fear the police, making them highly dangerous and resistant to following directions from authorities.

The Top 6 Most Dangerous Cities in the World: A Comparison

RankingCityNumber of Homicides (per 100,000 residents)Estimated PopulationDangers
#1Celaya, Mexico109.39639,052Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, gang violence, and homicide
#2Tijuana, Mexico105.152.260 millionGang violence, human trafficking, drug trade, and cartels
#3Ciudad Juarez, Mexico103.611.512 millionCrimes against women, theft, cartels, and drug violence
#4Ciudad Obregon, Mexico101.13433,050Human trafficking, drug trade, and homicide
#5Irapuato, Mexico94.99592,953Mass shootings and cartels
#6Ensenada, Mexico90.58443,807Cartels, human trafficking, and drug trade
Tijuana city Skyline, Baja California Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico is the second-most dangerous city in the world.

©Fernando Cebreros/Shutterstock.com

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Kruck20


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About the Author

Eliana Riley is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on geography, travel, and landmarks. Eliana is a second-year student at Miami University majoring in English Education and Spanish. A resident of Tennessee and Ohio, Eliana enjoys traveling to national and state parks, hiking, kayaking, and camping.

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