The 11 Most Dangerous Cities

These cities have the highest overall crime rates in the United States.

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Crime rates in the United States have dropped significantly in the last two decades and continue to be on a steady downward trajectory, according to FBI figures. In 1991, there were 758 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans, compared to 2009's figure of 429. Property crime has diminished similarly, and is down to 3,036 per 100,000 people from 5,140 in 1991. Total crime numbers have also decreased over that period, despite population increases; 1.9 million violent crimes were reported in 1991, a figure that in 2009 stood at 1.3 million. Property crime has decreased even further, from 13.0 million incidents in 1991 to 9.3 million in 2009. Of course, crime remains a major problem in some of the largest urban areas, some of which have crime rates that are more than double, triple, or even quadruple the national figure.

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An analysis of FBI data shows which cities in the United States have the highest overall incidence of crime, relative to the national rate. Below are the 11 U.S. cities with the greatest crime risk, according to an Onboard Informatics analysis of the most recent seven years of FBI crime reporting data. This data includes property crime, such as burglary and motor vehicle theft, as well as violent crime, like murder and robbery. An index score of 100 is equal to the national crime rate, meaning that Memphis, for example, with an index of 361, has a crime rate more than three times the national average.

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Here are the 11 most dangerous cities in terms of crime risk:

City Crime Risk Index
1. St. Louis 530
2. Atlanta 484
3. Birmingham Alabama (tie) 380
3. Orlando (tie) 380
5. Detroit 369
6. Memphis 361
7. Miami 346
8. Baltimore 339
9. Kansas City, Missouri 337
10. Minneapolis (tie) 331
10. Cleveland (tie) 331
 

Source: Onboard Informatics

Property crime is far more prevalent than violent crime in all of these cities, as with the rest of the nation, and nearly all of these 11 cities have also experienced significant drops in property crime in recent years. St. Louis, the city with the highest crime risk, has made major strides in the years covered by this index figure, with a property crime rate that has dropped from 13,187 per 100,000 residents in 2003 to 8,331 in 2009. In particular, the city's motor vehicle theft rate dropped by more than half in those seven years. Meanwhile, several of the cities among the top 11 experienced fluctuations or even growth in violent crime rates. Cleveland, for example, saw murder and aggravated assault rates grow from 2003 through 2009, though forcible rapes and aggravated assaults on the whole declined. Memphis saw the largest violent crime rate jump of the group, up to 1,806 per 100,000 residents in 2009 from 1,577 in 2003.

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Of course, the above index figures do not provide a full picture of crime in any given city. For example, Birmingham and Orlando share an index rating of 380, but a statistical snapshot shows that the two cities deal with their own unique crime patterns. In 2009, Orlando had a greater incidence of larceny and theft than Birmingham, which itself experienced more forcible rapes and robberies.

It is also important to note that the above figures give an overall view of crime in these cities. Several other cities that have high rates of particular crimes are not among the 11 cities with the worst crime rates. For example, New Orleans and Richmond, Virginia had the highest murder rates in the country in 2009, according to the FBI. Likewise, Anchorage, Alaska, and Abilene, Texas, which are not among the cities with the most overall crime, still had the second- and third-highest rates of forcible rapes in 2009, behind No. 1 Minneapolis. [Take the U.S. News poll: In which city do you feel the least safe?]

According to the FBI, a diverse array of factors can contribute to a city's crime rates, including population density, transportation trends, economic health, and even climate.