Since the 1970s, people have always regarded big cities as haven for crime and violence. It’s where murders, rapes, assaults, and armed robberies happen. It’s for that reason Hollywood feature heroes like Dirty Harry and Robocop, and why TV programs are full of police procedurals.
Yet despite all the negative publicity, people are still flocking to the big cities. It’s all about urban growth, because rural areas are no longer as popular for families as they once were. According to UN projections, the rural population has stopped growing. In the next 15 years, there will be more than 1.5 billion people in urban areas.
But it can be dangerous living in cities, despite the promise of better employment opportunities and livelier entertainment. If there’s a civil war, cities are fought over. And not everyone is enjoying life in the city even without a war to worry about. There’s crime and violence too, when there’s poverty and drugs all around. Add political instability and corruption, and you get a perfect recipe for danger.
The Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in the World
If you’re an American, you’re probably better off visiting a beach than a city overseas. This is especially true of you’re going to Latin America, where murder in the cities is more common than anywhere else in the world. Latin America accounts for just 8% of the world’s population, yet they have 33% of the world’s homicides.
So even if you avoid the war-torn cities in places like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, you may also want to just pass over the following top 10 most dangerous cities as well.
- 1. San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The country of Honduras has the dubious honor of having the highest murder rates in the world, and that’s largely because of San Pedro Sula. If you compile a list of the top 100 dangerous cities in the world, this one is at the top. The country has about 90.4 murders per 100,000 and that figure is propped up by the murder rate in San Pedro Sula, where there are 171.2 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2014. And that was an improvement from 2012, which saw 187.14 homicides per 100,000 residents. In other words, you get 171.2 homicides per 100,000 residents and things are looking up. To put that in perspective, the US saw 4 homicides per 100,000 people according to the latest stats. In the most dangerous country in the world outside war zones, San Pedro Sula tops the list of most violent cities in the world.
- 2. Caracas, Venezuela. Every year in international beauty pageants, the Venezuelan representative is always one of the favorites to win. But there’s nothing beautiful in their homicide rate, with 115.98 murders per 100,000 people. It’s normal in the city to see National Guard soldiers manning checkpoints, especially in the most dangerous neighborhoods. Things are improving here too, because not so long ago there were 134.36 homicides per 100,000 residents.
- 3. Acapulco, Mexico. You hear Acapulco and you think it’s all about the beach. But the drug cartels in Mexico are getting bolder and more dangerous, and that means more people are going to get killed. In this city, the murder rate was 112.8 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2012. In 2014, it was down to 104.16 per 100,000.
- 4. Joao Pessoa, Brazil. It’s not Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, so you may not have heard of it. But Brazil’s murder rate is climbing, and the city of Joao Pessoa is the worst of the worst. It saw 79.41 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2014, which shows a continuing deterioration in law and order in the city.
- 5. Distrito Central, Honduras. When a country like Honduras has the worst murder rates in the world, chances are that you have more than one city where things are going really bad. And so Honduras has 2 cities in the top 5 most violent cities in the world. In 2014 there were 77.65 murders per 100,000 which is a very slight improvement from 2012 when the rate was 79.42 homicides per 100,000 residents.
- 6. Maceio, Brazil. Here’s another Brazilian city in this list, which is probably fast erasing your vision of Brazil as just beaches and colorful street festivals and parades. Maceio is the capital of Alagoas, which is a tiny state with just over 3 million people. But then Alagoas is the most dangerous state in the country, with more than 2,000 people getting murdered each year.
- In 2014 the city had 72.91 murders per 100,000. It is just a slight improvement from 2012’s 79.76 homicides per 100,000 residents.
- 7. Valencia, Venezuela. On the way to Valencia, even a former Miss Venezuela title holder and her ex-husband were gunned down in front of their 5-year-old daughter. They were shot and killed when they locked themselves in their car during an aborted car theft. It’s just one of the murders in Valencia, which had 71.08 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2014. The political and financial crisis in the country has made Venezuela a hotbed for violent crime and murder, as in 2012 there were just 30.04 homicides per 100,000 residents in Valencia.
- 8. Fortaleza, Brazil. There’s a crack cocaine epidemic in the city, and marijuana is cheap and common. Add the widespread poverty, and the result is Fortaleza, where from 2003 to 2012 the murder rates doubled to 72.81 homicides per 100,000 residents. Now it’s at 66.55 homicides per 100,000 residents.
- 9. Cali, Colombia. You’ve probably heard about the Cali Cartel, which was once upon a time the biggest drug trafficking group in the whole world. They were the ones who took on Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel. But the legacy of violence in the city lives on, with 2014 having 65.25 murders per 100,000. This is actually an improvement from 2012’s 83.2 homicides per 100,000 residents.
- 10. Sao Luis, Brazil. This is the 4th Brazilian city on the list, which indicates that there’s a problem in the entire country. Had there been 20 cities on this list, you would have seen an additional 6 cities in Brazil with high murder rates (Natal, Vitoria, Cuiaba, Salvador y RMS, Belem, and Teresina).
São Luís, Brazil, had 57.04 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2012. Now it’s at 64.71 murders per 100,000 in 2014.
The other cities for that list of top 20 most violent cities with the highest murder rates would also include Ciudad Guayana (Venezuela), San Salvador (El Salvador), Cape Town (South Africa), and our very own St. Louis (Missouri, US).
Creating a List of the 100 Most Dangerous Cities
If you want to take a look at the 100 most dangerous cities in the world, you may want to look up statista.com or the list created by Business Insider. They only list the top 50 most violent cities, but from that info you can probably come up with your own list of the top 100 most dangerous cities in the world.
If a city is in a politically and financially unstable country, with lots of people living in slums, then that city is trouble. If there’s a war going on, then that city is definitely one of the 100 most dangerous cities for you.
There are also some countries which are considered dangerous, but don’t have any cities on lists of the 100 most dangerous cities. Israel is a good example. It’s supposed to be dangerous here with all its neighbors who want the country destroyed, but in reality it’s not really violent. In fact, Israel has one of the lowest murder rates in the world, with just 1.8 murders per 100,000 people.
Wherever you are, though, it’s always a good idea to find out which neighborhoods must be avoided. Even tourist spots like London and Paris have their problem areas. That’s the same for American cities too. Regardless of how you pick the top 100 most dangerous cities, if it’s not in a war zone there are probably some good areas to see in these cities.
The Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in the US
The inclusion of St. Louis in the cities with the highest murder rates shouldn’t be a surprise. The US has its share of poverty and drug use, along with criminal gangs who don’t hesitate to commit violence and murder. Among Western countries including Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the US is actually with the worst record at 4.7 murders per 100,000 in 2012.
But for US tabulations, the FBI and the police have comprehensive crime records, so we can also check out statistics for not just murders but rapes and other violent crimes as well. In the US, the latest crime figures show that per 100,000 there are 4 murders, 34 rapes, 109 robberies, and 229 assaults.
Here’s a list of the 10 most dangerous cities in the country and you can compare them to the national average:
- 1. Camden, New Jersey. In the state of New Jersey, there were 288 violent crimes per 100,000. In Camden, there were 2,565 per 100,000. The rates for particular violent crimes per 100,000 are 74 murders, 101 rapes, 952 robberies, and 1,438 assaults.
- 2. Chester, Pennsylvania. Per 100,000 the city saw 2,153 violent crimes, while the state average was 335. The rates are 65 murders, 85 rapes, 693 robberies, and 1,310 assaults.
- 3. Detroit, Michigan. The inclusion of Detroit is probably not a surprise, as its reputation for violence is nothing new. Per 100,000 there were 46 murders, 91 rapes, 694 robberies, and 1,208 assaults for a total of 2,039.
- 4. Saginaw, Michigan. Per 100,000 there were 62 murders, 139 rapes, 260 robberies, and 1,541 assaults. That’s a total of 2002 violent crimes.
- 5. Oakland, California. Hopefully the recent NBA championship of the Golden State Warriors may help settle the city down. Per 100,000 there were 22 murders, 63 rapes, 1,220 robberies, and 689 assaults for a total of 1,994 violent crimes.
- 6. Bessemer, Alabama. This small city of just 27,053 is surprisingly violent. Per 100,000 there were 11 murders, 55 rapes, 595 robberies, and 1,286 assaults. That’s a total of 1947 violent crimes.
- 7. Flint, Michigan. This is the 3rd city in Michigan to make the list, which is really a sign of how things are going bad in that state. Per 100,000 there were 48 murders, 152 rapes, 451 robberies, and 1,284 assaults for a total of 1,935 violent crimes.
- 8. Atlantic City. It may be a tourist destination, but you really want to stay in the good parts of town. Per 100,000 there were 8 murders, 33 rapes, 928 robberies, and 774 assaults. That’s a total of 1,743 violent crimes.
- 9. Wilmington, Delaware. It’s a small city of just 71,525 people, but it goes to show that small cities can be just as bad (or worse) than the big cities. Per 100,000 there were 27 murders, 39 rapes, 675 robberies, and 969 assaults for a total of 1,710 violent crimes.
- 10. Memphis, Tennessee. This musical city has a lively nightlife, but the violent crime rates aren’t something to sing about. Per 100,000 there were 19 murders, 67 rapes, 480 robberies, and 1,102 assaults. That’s a total of 1,668 violent crimes.
Are Cities Dangerous?
With all these stats regarding dangerous cities, you may start to think that all big cities are dangerous. But that’s not actually the case, especially here in the US.
In all likelihood, if you’re going to die in an urban area it’s probably going to be because of a car crash or a similar accident. One comprehensive study, involving 1,295,919 deaths from injury between 1999 and 2006, showed that the death rate from an unintentional injury like a car crash is actually 15 times more likely than getting murdered.
And that’s one main reason why it’s been found that many of the top 100 dangerous cities are actually safer to live in than rural areas. In urban areas like New York, people walk or take public transit. Even in LA where people drive all the time, the traffic slows down everyone anyway.
But in the rural areas, people drive more frequently for longer distances and at a much higher speed. And they’re more likely to drive drunk. Factor in the availability of well-equipped hospitals in urban areas and you’re probably better off living in a city, even if they’re included in the bottom half of the list of the top 100 most dangerous cities in the US.