Crime Rankings for Cities and States—Most Dangerous Cities
There are two kinds of readers that come to this site. Some are interested in complexity and options regarding crime in cities, states and countries. They want to see all sources and come to their own conclusions
Others want the most direct sources ranking cities as to dangerousness/safety. They come to the site expecting one list that solves all their questions about dangerousness. That’s not going to happen; there is “no” official-definitive list.
A wide variety of government agencies, universities and commercial sites create comparisons and all are going to differ depending on what’s measured. We get e-mails and Google voice calls asking why Cleveland (or the city of your choice) is on one list of top ten cities and not on others.
Again, we point out that it all depends on what’s measured as to the results you get. Some cities are in the top ten in one list and then are ranked much lower in another.
Please note that it’s nearly impossible to compare crime in cities or states or metro areas with any real sense of accuracy (explained at the bottom of this article) so explore all sources with caution.
Note that some studies from commercial sources are harshly criticized by criminologists for what they choose to measure. We recommend that you look at everything available, acknowledge what was measured and come to your own conclusions.
For those who want the most direct answer as to cities and crime, see the following links:
The following are commercial publications. Note that some criminologists have issues with the interpretation of data:
http://www.cjgsu.net/initiatives/HomRates-PR-2010-01-21.htm. There are four tables from the Georgia State University providing homicide rates by city. Generally speaking (but not always) homicides and violent crimes rise and fall together. Go to the yellow boxes for the tables.
Wikipedia offers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate.
http://www.city-data.com/City Carries pages of general interest data for all cities and metropolitan areas–it’s searchable by zip code–for crime related data; see ” Top 101 City Lists” on the front page.
Buying or renting a house:
Many come to this site for assistance in choosing a safe place to live. For an article addressing buying or renting, see http://crimeinamerica.net/2010/04/29/crime-and-buying-a-house-most-dangerous-cities-crime-in-america-net/. We caution readers to personally investigate the immediate and surrounding neighborhoods as an important first step.
Comparisons of individual communities, states , and countries:
The material below provides some of the best sources in the country:
There are resources comparing metropolitan areas:
There are resources comparing states:
http://crimeinamerica.net/2010/11/30/state-and-national-crime-statistics-for-the-last-50-years/ A service from the FBI allowing comparisons of states and national data for the last 50 years. It does not include data on cities.
There are resources comparing countries:
There are resources comparing individual communities within cities (most dangerous communities)
There are resources with state-to-state comparisons of the most stolen cars:
There are resources comparing states and teenager criminal or dangerous behavior:
Additional sources for crime data:
Start with the FBI http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm .
Michigan State University offers a wide array of data sources. See http://staff.lib.msu.edu/harris23/crimjust/stats.htm#reports2.
Background–the difficulity of comparing jurisdictions–reported and unreported crime and crime rates:
Crime statistics are confusing and frequently misunderstood. There are criminologists who spend their professional lives investigating the complexity of crime data.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collects crimes reported to law enforcement agencies through state collection agencies and releases statistics for the nation, states, metropolitan areas and cities twice a year.
The National Crime Survey from the National Institute of Justice releases crime survey data for the country based on reported and unreported crime and does not offer crime statistics for states, metro areas or cities. See http://crimeinamerica.net/crime-rates-united-states/ for differences as to FBI and National Crime Survey data.
The FBI frowns on using data reported to law enforcement agencies to make comparisons of one city to another, and for good reasons.
Most crime is not reported to the police (thus the need for the National Crime Survey to get a picture of total crime) so there is a lot of room for error. Law enforcement agencies can affect the amount of crime reported through aggressive interactions with citizens.
The FBI and state crime data collection agencies try to enforce common definitions on what constitutes a crime, but individual officers can (and do) downgrade crimes where definitions are vague. For example, an overaggressive person (or people) asking for money could be guilty of panhandling or robbery; it depends on how you interpret the aggressiveness of the person “asking” for money.
Some cities have been known to downgrade crimes. The past is filled with documented examples. Some cities do poor jobs of collecting and analyzing crime data.
Most crime rankings are based on crimes per 1,000 residents which immediately creates an unfair playing field if you get thousands of tourists or workers per day. Those thousands of “outsiders” will inevitably commit crimes or inadvertently create opportunities for crime that would not exist in cities or states not getting a lot of tourists or daily workers.
So the bottom line is that crimes and crimes reported can and will differ for reasons having little or nothing to do with the quality of policing or crime control strategies.
Having said this, the warning from the FBI is routinely ignored by every newspaper in the country; all report on how their city or county or state ranks regarding crime.
So if you choose to look at rankings, please do so with an open mind. A city or state may have crime problems, but hundreds of thousands or millions of its citizens and tourists and workers move throughout their city in relative safety on a daily basis.