To determine the most dangerous states in America, USA Today reviewed the 2017 violent crime rate for all 50 states with data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The violent crime rate consists of the number of murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 residents.
We never like to work ourselves up into a panic over nothing, but with high unemployment and poverty rates, it does get you wondering if you're going to be in danger in some areas. And that doesn't even include all of the other types of crime going on in the country.
The important thing to remember is to always stick to the facts and official statistics - don't let sensational news give you a warped impression. We've ranked all 50 states from safest to most violent so you don't have to do the work. The 5 most violent states are a bit surprising!
Beautiful Vermont! It's no surprise that this simply gorgeous state is the safest in the country. When you stop to think about it, you realize that you barely ever hear any bad news from there. The towns are pretty sleepy and it's one of the smaller states, so it's not totally fair to be putting it up against something like New York, for example. But the stats don't lie! Move here if you want to be safe.
Another picturesque state takes out a top spot in the safest places awards. As it turns out, Maine isn't just a pretty face - it totally lives up to its peaceful, seaside image. To put things into perspective, the national average when it came to violent crimes was 373 per 100,000 people. In Maine it was only 130, which is less than half! The state's incarceration rate is also less than half of the national average.
We're betting nobody expected New Hampshire to be dangerous, so it's not really a shock to see that this leafy state is the third safest in the country. When you adjust per capita, New Hampshire's crime stats are some of the most favorable nationwide. For example, in 2015 (the year these statistics were recorded), there were only 14 homicides in New Hampshire - the lowest in the country when adjusted to account for population.
Here we have another state with a very low homicide rate compared to the national average. It seems like these quiet little states have discovered the secret to living a peaceful life: don't hurt each other and enjoy the great outdoors! Maybe there really is something about the seaside that keeps people calm. And when you think about it, have you ever been angry on a boat?
Okay, this definitely gives our seaside theory some legitimacy. Hawaii has the second lowest murder rate in the entire country (after New Hampshire). And we have to think again that it's because it's difficult to be upset when you're by the ocean, or just in Hawaii in general. Imagine reclining back in a sun lounge and sipping on your favorite cocktail as you listen to the waves - pretty difficult to think about committing crimes, right?
There's something about Minnesota that just makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Maybe it's dreams of a lakeside cabin, walking through the woods, and getting a classic taste of the great outdoors. If it sounds that good to think about, maybe its residents think so too. Loving your beautiful state would probably be enough to stop you going on a murder spree.
As it turns out, Utah has some pretty sensible laws when it comes to crime, which might be why it has a very low incarceration rate compared to the national average. In Utah, 391 out of every 100,000 people are incarcerated, whereas the national average is 607 per 100,000 people. This has a lot to do with their Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which saw certain non-violent felonies reclassified as misdemeanors.
You wouldn't think that a state famous for its harassment and assault of women in the form of the Salem Witch Trials would have been able to clean up its image so well. But it totally has and everybody loves it here now! In fact, it has the sixth lowest murder rate in the country, so they've definitely done away with that whole "witch" burning thing. We hear there's even some wonderful tourist attractions out that way now.
We're not going to make any crazy assumptions here, but it's definitely worth noting that the state of Connecticut has the fifth highest median household income in the country. Sitting nicely at $71,346, it's certainly something to consider when you ponder the state's very low crime rates. Only 10.5 percent of the population lives in poverty, which is the sixth lowest in the USA.
Here we have the final state that made it into the top ten. Most people probably wouldn't have expected to see New Jersey up the top of this list, but given the high median household income of $72,222 (the fourth highest in the country), we guess everyone is probably too busy working to care about going on violent killing sprees.
Welcome to super safe Iowa, where the murder rate is the eighth lowest in the country. We're sure the information that you're unlikely to be murdered here comforts a lot of Iowans and visitors to the state! Though the murder rate is one of the lowest in the country, the violent crime rate is only the 18th lowest at 286.1 per 100,000 people. Despite all this, they're still doing pretty well.
Wow, North Dakota is certainly impressive when it comes to unemployment rate. It's sitting at 2.5 percent, making it the second lowest in the entire country. We definitely wouldn't have picked it! But relatively recent oil activity has definitely boosted the amount of jobs overall. As we've seen previously, lots of jobs generally means a lot less violence.
We always imagined it would be so peaceful up in Washington. Maybe because of all the greenery and nature trails, or maybe because of its proximity to Canada. We're not totally sure where the idea came from, but it definitely seems to hold true, as Washington sits pretty high on this list. This is especially impressive given the large metropolitan area of Seattle.
Another state famous for its stunning nature makes it on the safer end of this list. To be honest, everyone in Oregon is probably way too busy hiking and enjoying the fresh air to worry about committing violent crimes. While this leafy state sits at number 14 for overall safety, Oregon makes it into the top ten for its low murder rate of only 2.5 per 100,000 people per year. We've got to say, we love a good low murder rate.
We were really shocked when we saw that New York was one of the safest states in the USA. Given that it is home to the most populous city in the States, we kind of thought bad stuff would be going on all the time. New York City itself has a higher than average crime rate, which is not unusual for a city of more than eight million people, but the rest of the state is pretty normal when it comes to crime.
Idaho might be number 16 on this list, but we would like to point out that its murder rate is very low. At 1.9 per 100,000 people per year, it's the seventh lowest in the entire country. So, well done to Idaho! And unlike some other states, it also has an extremely low rate of other violent crimes such as robbery, rape and sexual assault, and grievous bodily harm - at 215.6 per 100,000 people, it's the fifth lowest in the country.
We've said it before and we'll say it again - when people have jobs there's significantly less crime to report. In Nebraska's case, they boast one of the lowest unemployment rates in the whole country. Only 2.9 percent of the population doesn't have a job, which is the sixth lowest in the United States. The amount of people living in poverty is also below the national average.
The people of Wyoming certainly have a lot to be proud of when it comes to crime. The violent crime rate in Wyoming is significantly lower than the national average of 373 per 100,000 people per year. In Wyoming it's only 222 per 100,000 people per year, which is the eighth lowest in the country. It's not just murders we're looking at here either. The rate of reported rapes and other forms of sexual assault is also low, as well as robbery.
Here's another state favored by nature lovers all over the world. But this one is not ranked as high as some of the others. Colorado's safety is kind of brought down a little by the metropolitan area of Pueblo, where there is some gang violence that alters the statistics. In general, Colorado is a very safe state and perfect for hiking and ski trips!
Virginia definitely has a lot to be proud of. With a violent crime rate of 195 per 100,000 people per year, it's the third lowest in the country. Median household salaries are the eighth highest in the USA, which, as we've seen, often correlates with low violence. However, high salaries may partially be skewed due to the state being home to the nation's capital, Washington D.C.
Home of cheese curds, lush nature and lakes, and many, many craft breweries, life in Wisconsin tends to be pretty laid back for residents. There's definitely less than the average amount of violence to worry about. There are around 306 violent crimes per 100,000 people per year in Wisconsin, whereas the national average is 373 per 100,000 people per year.
While Ohio isn't a particularly violent state in general, its cities really increase the rate of violence. The city of Toledo has a violent crimes rate of 1,129 per 100,000 people per year. The national average is 373 per 100,000 people per year, so you can see how much more dangerous certain cities are! About 90 percent of violent crimes in Ohio take place in metropolitan areas - outside of this, crime rates are relatively low.
As a state, Montana does really well when it comes to education. About 94 percent of the population has graduated from high school, which usually correlates with lower levels of violence. All of that education could have something to do with Montana's relatively low unemployment rate. At 3.9 percent, it's the 20th lowest in the country. And as we've seen, when people have jobs, there tends to be less crime.
When it comes to crime, West Virginia generally sits at the middle of the road when compared on a national scale. Violent crime rate is the 24th lowest in the country, while the murder rate is the 21st lowest. If we take a look at property crime, West Virginia is again below the national average. It's not great, but it's not bad either.
Sitting halfway down the list at number 25, South Dakota is fairly middle of the range when it comes to crime statistics. The violent crime rate is just slightly above the national average; however, the murder rate is below the average. It is mostly aggravated assault driving the violent crime statistics up, as opposed to homicides. All things being considered, we'd say good work with the fewer than average murders, South Dakota!
Our 'less crime happens by the ocean' theory might be a little shaky now that we've reached California. The stereotype is chilled out surfers, gorgeous beaches, and pretty great weather all year round, so it's not unreasonable to think that it might be fairly safe. And it is definitely not a 'dangerous' state to visit, but it's just not as innocent as you may have originally thought.
Home to the city of Chicago, nobody could blame you for assuming Illinois might be a little more violent than position 24 on this list. It seems like all we ever hear about on the news is violence in Chicago, so it makes sense to think that Illinois could be the most dangerous state of them all. This isn't actually true, though - this misunderstood state is pretty much in line with national averages when it comes to crime.
As the state with the tenth lowest median household income, you wouldn't exactly expect a crime-free environment (low salaries and crime often go hand in hand). However, North Carolina doesn't score too badly on the statistics front. Most elements are pretty much in line with the national averages. Homicide is slightly higher than middle range, though, and is the 18th highest in the country.
Kentucky is what people think of when they imagine southern charm, hunting, and fishing. It also has a bit of a hillbilly stereotype attached to it, but we won't go too far into that one! Given its position at number 29 on this list you'd probably be surprised to learn that the violent crime rate in Kentucky is one of the lowest in the country. The seventh lowest, in fact. For every 100,000 people, there were 219 violent crimes annually - way below the national average of 373.
As far as Kansas goes, it's probably got the most average violent crime statistics of all the states. In fact, it comes in 25th place for murder rate, so you can't get much more average than that. The violent crime rate is slightly higher, though, at 389.9 per 100,000 people, making it the 19th highest in the USA. Kansas is also on the high end for suicide rate - it's the 15th highest in the country at 17.9 per 100,000 people.
At your first glance of the statistics, Pennsylvania seems fairly peaceful. With slightly lower rates of violent crime than the national average, you'd be thinking "what's the problem over there?" It's not so much that Pennsylvania is 'dangerous' but it does have a higher than average incarceration rate, with 655 people imprisoned for every 100,000 people (the national average is 607).
Michigan is certainly a mixed bag when it comes to crime and the overall stats don't always reveal the full story. Metropolitan areas bump Michigan up to 15th highest murder rate and 15th highest violent crime rate, but most non-city areas experience little violence. All round, the violent crime rate here is 416 incidents per 100,000 people per year, which isn't ridiculously higher than the national average of 373.
While Indiana as a whole enjoys a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.2 percent (13th lowest in the country), there are still a lot of problems when it comes to violent crime. The capital, Indianapolis, is one of the most dangerous cities in the US with a violent crime rate of 675 incidents per 100,000 people. The state average is much lower at 387.5 per 100,000 people, but it's still the 20th highest in the country.
When most people think of Arizona, they immediately conjure up images of the Grand Canyon, cactus-filled deserts, and the flowing Colorado River in their minds. What most people don't realize is that it's not exactly the most peaceful state in the country, despite all of the wide-open space and surrounding nature.
We've got to be honest, we really thought Texas would be a little more violent than this. At number 16, it's not exactly in the best position on this list, but we were betting on it being up there in the top five. We're sure we're not the only ones imagining a 'no rules' environment and cowboy-related violence over here!
Many of us picture silver-haired retirees, cocktails by the pool, and beautiful beaches when we think of Florida. But like so many places, there's a bit of an underbelly that you don't necessarily see in the tourist brochures. Florida boasts the 11th highest violent crime rate in the country. For every 100,000 residents, 462 violent incidents occur per year. This is much higher than the national average of 373 incidents.
Maryland is another state where major cities drive up the crime rate. In this case, the state's largest city, Baltimore, is the culprit. In 2015 there were 8.6 homicides per 100,000 people in Maryland, making it the highest murder rate in the whole country. To be fair, there were riots that year, which definitely increased this rate a little more than what it would usually be.
The state of Georgia certainly has a rich history of violence that spans centuries. As one of the original Confederate states, it's not totally shocking that violence still continues down here today. Horrific histories can be hard to shake, and tensions often remain high even centuries after the events are put to rest. In Georgia's case, it puts them at number 13 on the list.
The bad news about Delaware is that it suffers from a high rate of violent crime (as you might expect from the 12th most dangerous state in the USA). Overall, Delaware comes in eighth for murder rate, as well as violent crime rate, which includes murder, rape, assault, and robbery. Despite having the 14th highest median household income at $61,255, it hasn't seemed to spark a positive effect on crime rates in Delaware.
With the second lowest median household income in the whole country, it's not really a huge surprise that Arkansas has an issue with violent crime. We've seen time and time again that low incomes tend to correlate with higher rates of violence. In the case of Arkansas, it has the sixth highest violent crime rate in the country, at 521 incidents per 100,000 people. With the national average sitting at 373 incidents, this is well above the norm.
Okay everyone, we've officially made it to the top ten most violent states in the USA. First up is Oklahoma, which we weren't really expecting if we're being honest. This state kind of just flies under the radar and most people probably don't associate it with violent crime. When we think of Oklahoma, we mostly just think of cowboys, tornadoes, open plains, and windmills, as opposed to high murder rates.
There are definitely a lot of things going on in this very complicated southern state. First of all, Mississippi has the lowest median household income in the whole country, which always seems to be a recipe for disaster when it comes to crime. The murder rate is the second highest in the country, with 8.7 homicides taking place per 100,000 people.
As we've seen with some of the other states on this list, low wages and high unemployment rates tend to go hand in hand with violent crime. In the case of New Mexico, its population suffers with the second highest unemployment rate in the country, at 6.6 percent. Due to a lack of jobs and low median household incomes (sixth lowest in the USA at $45,382), about 20 percent of the state lives in poverty.
Most are familiar with South Carolina because of its stunning coastline, but it definitely has a more sinister side that you might not know anything about. In this list we have frequently seen some more chilled out crime rates where the land meets the sea, however, in the case of South Carolina, it certainly isn't so.
Famous for the Ozark Mountains, jazz and blues, delicious barbecues, and perfectly brewed beer, Missouri is one of those states that simply doesn't seem threatening when you think about it. Unfortunately, the violent crime statistics tell a completely different story. Coming in at the 15th lowest for median household income and 20th lowest for unemployment, these statistics are somewhat unremarkable. It's the violence in Missouri that has earned it 6th place on this list.
Here we were thinking of Tennessee as the peaceful home of country music, when in reality it's the fifth most violent state in the USA. Who would have thought? Definitely not us! Like many of the more violent states in the country, there is a correlation with low median household income (9th lowest in the country), but that's not the only thing to take note of in Tennessee. Aggravated assault takes place here at a higher rate than most other states. For every 100,000 residents, about 452 instances of aggravated assault take place.
As the ninth least densely populated state in the USA, it's hard to imagine Nevada as the fourth most violent state in the country. All we really think about is the vast and empty desert. Of course, it does start to make a whole lot of sense when you think about all the trouble that goes on in Las Vegas. There's a reason the saying exists, and it's because things that aren't meant to happen definitely end up happening there.
Fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd probably automatically start singing the lyrics to "Sweet Home Alabama" when they think of this iconic state. But in terms of violent crime, it's really anything but sweet. One of the main indicators of violence in the state is its extremely high prison population. In Alabama there are 883 inmates for every 100,000 residents, which is the fourth highest incarceration rate in the country.
Well, we certainly weren't expecting the most sparsely populated state in the country to be one of the most violent! All we think about when we imagine Alaska is salmon, bears, and lots and lots of snow. We never would have thought of it as the state with the highest rate of violent crime in the USA. We thought everyone up there was living a peaceful life in the great outdoors. It really shows that you can't assume anything.
Well, here we are at number one, and the 'winning' state is Louisiana. We have to admit, we always felt a creepy vibe about all of those swamps and empty plains you see in the movies. We're not totally surprised that there's a fair bit of violence going on in this southern state. The main thing cementing Louisiana in first place is its extremely high murder rate, which is the highest in the country.