While there are different ways to define violent crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) defines it as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. With this oft used definition, we can rank each state based on the data compiled by the FBI. While it should be noted that ranking the most dangerous states on this raw data can be more complicated and often allows for other variables, it is still interesting to look at the actual number of recorded crimes.
The FBI data reports the number of violent crimes per one hundred thousand people in each state and territory by year, so it is a way to assess the odds of experiencing violent crime in different states. In simple terms, a higher number of violent crimes reported per one hundred thousand residents means you are more likely to experience a murder, rape, robbery, or assault.
However, the rankings are complicated by the 1004.9 rate for the District of Columbia, down from 1205.9 in 2016. This means you were almost three more times as likely to experience violent crime in Washington, D.C. as compared to the nation as a whole. (For the record, Puerto Rico is also included in the FBI statistics and was up to 232.2 from 224 per 100, 000 residents.)
So, the answer to what is the most dangerous state based on the raw FBI data is surprising. It is not a state, but rather the District of Columbia. Four locations ranked consistently higher than the national average in 2017, all coming in with a violent crime rate over six hundred and fifty, or one hundred and seventy percent or higher than the national average. This is a good place to start a list of the most dangerous states and they are:
Looking at the three-year trend for the states that are over five hundred violent crimes per one hundred thousand residents, Nevada is the only state to show significant reductions in violent crime rate. In addition, all of the states in the top eleven show a rising trend with the exception of Nevada. So, even acknowledging Nevada’s significant reductions, this would revise our list to include a second tier of dangerous states:
The FBI also has a partial, interim report for 2018 based on the first halves of 2014 – 2018. Using the data they have published for 2018 thus far, violent crime is down four point three percent from 2017:
A couple of follow-up notes are due. All the data used came directly from the FBI website through the Uniform Crime Reporting (“UCR”) reports and tables.
The FBI also notes that violent crime data can be impacted by things like changes in state laws, state reporting procedures, population, and citizen crime reporting practices. They state this makes ranking more complicated than just using their raw data. But based on the data for three consecutive years, which is actual reported crimes, trends do emerge in the FBI UCR data. These eleven states and D.C. have been near or at the top of the list for reported violent crime for at least three years, and with the exceptions of Washington D.C. and Nevada, they show an upward three-year trend in the crime rate.
The FBI also noted that the reported violent crime in general in the United States breaks down as follows: aggravated assaults accounted for 65.0% of violent crimes reported to law enforcement in 2017. Robbery offenses accounted for 25.6% of violent crime offenses, rape (legacy definition) accounted for 8.0%, and murder accounted for 1.4%.
The FBI data shows there are variances and trends based on locales. For example, you are twice as likely to experience violent crime in a large city, or metropolitan area (412.3), then in a rural area (201.6).
Using the geographic division data provided by the FBI, a bar chart shows:
The Pacific, Mountain, West South Central, and East South Central divisions had the highest rates and they all increased in 2017. The South Atlantic region was close to this “top” group of regions, but a drop in 2017 put this region back into the middle of the regional ranks along with the West North Central and East North central regions.
The Middle Atlantic and New England regions were the lowest and it decreased in 2017.
Grouping these divisions into regions as defined by the FBI as Northeast (New England and Mid Atlantic), South (South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central), Midwest (East North Central and West North Central), and West (Pacific and Mountain), the data shows:
- The Northeast and South saw a drop in 2017, but the South had the highest number of violent crimes reported per one hundred thousand people.
- The Midwest changed very little 2016/2017 and ranked third overall.
- The highest increase 2016/2017 was in the West, which is now a close second to the South.