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The most dangerous cities in the United States

Two homeless men on the streets of Detroit, Michigan
Image: Detroit, Michigan has faced significant issues with urban decay | Small Town Big World /

For one of the most developed and richest countries on Earth, the United States of America is a shockingly dangerous place to live. 48,117 people died by guns in the year 2022 alone. That’s an average of one person being killed by a bullet every 11 minutes.

The US is a huge country, with a landmass a shade under 3.8 million square miles in total. There are, technically, thousands of cities in the country, although only 10 of them have populations of one million or more. 310 cities are deemed to be at least ‘medium-sized cities’, with populations in excess of 100,000 residents.

But which of them is the most dangerous?

St. Louis, Missouri

With a population of around 300,000, St. Louis may not be the biggest American metropolis, but it’s certainly one of the more crime-affected. Named after King Louis IX of France, the city has previously been ranked the most dangerous city in the whole of the US, as well as the 19th worldwide.

The unwanted accolades are largely thanks to a high assault rate. Over the previous few years, the city has experienced several unsettling events, such as deadly flash flooding, a serial killer and decades of unsettling reports of police brutality.

In 2020, there were 17,399 property crimes and 6,107 violent crimes recorded in St. Louis, which has a crime rate of 7,847 per 100,000 residents. All told, the city has a crime rate that is 234% greater than the average for the country.

Memphis, Tennessee

2023 saw a worrying surge in violent crimes in the city Elvis called home. As of October, the Memphis Police Department reported 302 homicides in the city, a sharp increase from the 221 homicides that were recorded in October 2021.

‘Memphians are absolutely terrified, businesses are frightened,’ says Tennessee State Senator Brent Taylor. ‘There are people who live in Memphis, and I hear from them all of the time, they’re looking to sell their homes and move to a community they think is safer. I believe our crime problem may be beyond our local grasp to fix and we need assistance from the governor and the state to ensure we have police.’

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit was once the crowning glory of the US economy. Motor City, as its nickname suggests, was the epicentre of American car manufacturing. This certainly isn’t the case anymore.

The city's spectacularly sad decline can be attributed to a number of different factors, including deindustrialisation, a drop-off in population and significant troubles along racial lines. The city has faced significant issues with urban decay, largely due to financial reasons.

Detroit is among the deadliest cities in the country due to its high crime rates. With 632,464 residents, it has 5,389 crimes committed per 100,000 people. Compared to the national average, this is 130% higher.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

You might be surprised to learn that this desert city, steeped in the rich culture, history and heritage of the Pueblo people, is quite as dangerous as it is.

With 6,356 crimes committed against every 100,000 residents, Albuquerque is 171% more dangerous than the typical American metropolis. There were 7,552 violent crimes in 2022, comprising 1,439 robberies, 5,592 assaults and 80 homicides.

In Albuquerque, property crime is also an issue. 5,075 burglaries, 18,131 theft events, and 4,965 car theft incidents occurred in 2022.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is an exciting, modern city with incredible food, nightlife, culture and sports. The darker side, however, is its unenviable crime rate. The Windy City has always been a bit of an outlaw’s settlement, ever since its incorporation back in 1837. Al Capone helped cement that reputation just under a century later by building a criminal empire on bootlegging during prohibition.

Nowadays, Chicago is frequently mentioned in the media as one of the deadliest and most violent cities in America, especially in terms of gun deaths. Chicago is 67% more violent than the average US city, with a crime rate of 3,926 per 100,000 residents. There were 26,620 violent offences in Chicago in 2020, including 774 homicides. Gang warfare and violence are largely responsible for this violent crime and it’s often strongly associated with the illicit drug trade.

Baltimore, Maryland

We end our round-up of the most crime-riddled and dangerous cities in the United States with a city that may only be the 30th most populous in the nation but tops a worrying amount of crime indexes.

The rate of violent crime in Baltimore is 6,170 per 100,000 residents and there were 9,498 violent crime events as of 2022. That's an especially high incidence of violent crime - there were 177 homicides in the first half of 2022 alone. Gang and drug-related crimes account for a large portion of Baltimore's violent crime.

One of the biggest issues the place faces is policing. After Freddie Gray died in police custody in 2015, causing civil disobedience, the chasm between the people of the city and the police widened. When six officers were charged in relation to the death, police officers decided a soft strike was in action. Worried about their jobs and liberty if they made a bad arrest, apprehension rates declined and criminals took full advantage.