According to the 2019 Global Peace Index, the United States is ranked 128th in the list of safest countries in the world. One of the largest factors determining a country’s safety ranking is its murder rate. In 2018, the United State had a total of 15,498 murders or a rate of 5.0 murders per 100,000 people.
While violent crime is lower now than it has been in the last 30 years, it is still widespread across the country.
Crime rates tend to be higher overall in urban areas and still vary greatly between cities in the United States. Several factors affect crime rates overall, including the murder rate. These factors include social influences, family structures, and lower arrest probabilities. Many see gang and gang violence to be large factors in high violent crime rates in urban areas. Additionally, the U.S. has a mass shooting occur, on average, every 200 days, bringing up the murder rate in the city in which the shooting occurs.
Larger populations do not necessarily correlate with higher murder rates. For example, the most populous city in the United States, New York City has a population of 8.6 million people but with 289 murders and a murder rate of 3.6 in 2018, it doesn’t even make it into the top 65 cities.
Cities with the Highest Murder Rates
1. St. Louis, MO
St. Louis, Missouri, has the highest murder rate in the United States of 60.9 murders per 100,000 residents. St. Louis had 205 murders in 2017. Certain neighborhoods in St. Louis are to blame for the high violent crime rates, such as East St. Louis. East St. Louis residents experience conditions that increase the likelihood of violence, such as unsafe housing, failing economy, and poor school systems. Although St. Louis has the highest murder rate in the country, this rate is the second consecutive year of improvement for the city, down from 69.4 in 2017.
Baltimore, Maryland, has a murder rate of 57 murders per 100,000 people, the second-highest in the U.S. In 2019, Baltimore had at least 348 reported homicides, only 32% of which were cleared (“cleared” cases are ones where someone is either arrested, charged, or turned over to a court). This is the city’s second-highest murder rate since 1993 when there were 353 killings and 125,000 additional residents.
3. Detroit, MI
Detroit, Michigan, has the third-highest murder rate in the United States of 40.4 per 100,000. Detroit ended 2019 with 271 homicides, an increase from 259 the previous year. However, this is one of only four years that the city has recorded fewer than 300 homicides since 1967. The Detroit police chief James Craig said that a wave of gang violence caused the homicide rate to increase for 2019.
4. New Orleans, LA
New Orleans has the fourth-highest murder rate in the U.S. For the third year in a row, the city saw a reduction in its murder rate, ending 2019 with a murder rate of 30 per 100,000 or 119 homicides.
5. Baton Rouge, LA
Baton Rouge is the second Louisiana city on the list and has the fifth-highest murder rate in the United States. Louisiana’s capital city has a total of 83 homicides in 2019, a murder rate of 33.5 per 100,000. Luckily, the city is has seen consecutive years of decreasing murders, down from 87 in 2018 and 106 in 2017.
6. Memphis, TN
Memphis, Tennessee, has a murder rate of 28.5 per 100,000 as of 2018, the sixth-highest in the country. Memphis had 191 homicides in 2019, an increase from 18 in 2018 and 180 in 2017. There were just over 400 homicides in the state of Tennessee in 2019, meaning that almost one out of two homicides occurred in Memphis. About 90% of solved homicides showed that the victim and offender knew each other.
7. Dayton, OH
With a murder rate of 26.4 per 100,000, Dayton, Ohio, has the seventh-highest murder rate in the U.S. Crime fell significantly in both 2017 and 2018, and 2019 has an even better outlook. Crime in 2019 overall fell 11% in Dayton from 2018.
8. Shreveport, LA
Shreveport is the third Louisiana city in the ten cities with the highest murder rates and ranks eighth. Shreveport has a murder rate of about 18.3 murders per 100,000 people for a total of 42 murders. Violent crimes overall have dropped about 8% since 2018, with homicides dropping 29% from 59 in 2018 to 42 in 2019.
9. West Palm Beach, FL
West Palm Beach, Florida, has the ninth-highest murder rate in the United States of 17.2 murders per 100,000 people. The city’s homicide rate dropped 29% from 2018 to 2019, from 27 homicides to 19. West Palm Beach police have implemented new technologies that they believe is helping reduce violent crime in the city.
10. Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C. has the tenth-highest murder rate in the country of 22.8 murders per 100,000. There were 162 homicides in D.C. in 2019, two higher than in 2018. Gun violence is a big problem in D.C. and the main cause of death in homicides; however, nearly 8 out of 10 gunshots go unreported in D.C., a statistic that prompted the police to begin using ShotSpotter technology to detect and alert police of gunshots.
Cities with the Lowest Murder Rates
1. Irvine, CA
Irvine, California, has a murder rate of zero murders per 100,000. Irvine’s overall violent crime rate for 2018 was 55.5 per 100,000 people, consisting of 40 rapes, 52 robberies, 67 aggravated assaults, and zero murders. The low crime rate in Irvine is likely the reason for the growing population over the last ten years.
2. Naperville, IL
Naperville, Illinois, also has a murder rate of zero per 100,000 people. Naperville is a suburb located about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago and while Chicago has a high violent crime rate of 1,006 incidents per 100,000, Naperville has one of the lowest rates of 69 per 100,000. Naperville has a very low poverty rate of 4.4%, a factor that is believed to correlate with the amount of violent crime in a city.
3. McAllen, Texas
McAllen, Texas, is tied for having the lowest murder rate in the country of zero per 100,000 people as well. Crime is typically disproportionately concentrated in low-income areas; however, McAllen is one of the least wealthy cities in the country with 25.2% of residents living in poverty, much higher than the 14.6% national poverty rate. The overall violent crime rate is less than one-fourth that of the national average as well at 84.5 per 100,000 vs. 369 per 100,000.
4. Allen, TX
Allen, Texas had zero murders in 2018, resulting in a murder rate of zero murders per 100,000 people. This ties the city with McAllen, Naperville, and Irvine for having the lowest murder rate. Allen is a suburb of Dallas, where the violent crime rate of 765 per 100,000 is more than twice the national violent crime rate; however, Allen’s violent crime rate is 107.6 incidents per 100,000 people, less than one-third the national rate.
5. Glendale, CA
Glendale, California, had one murder in 2018, resulting in a murder rate of 0.49 murders per 100,000 people, the fifth-highest in the country. Although Glendale has a poverty rate of 15.6%, 1% higher than the national average of 14.6%, and has a median income right around the national median, the city has a violent crime rate significantly lower than the national average at 98.7 incidents per 100,000 people.
6. Gilbert, AZ
Gilbert, Arizona has the sixth-lowest murder rate in the United States of 0.86 per 100,000 people. Gilbert’s violent crime rate for 2018 was 94.6 incidents per 100,000 people and of the 234 violent crimes that year, there were two murders, 75 rapes, 32 robberies, and 125 aggravated assaults. Gilbert, like other cities on this list, has a poverty rate, much lower than the national average, of 5.9%.
7. League City, TX
With a murder rate of 0.95 murders per 100,000 people, League City, Texas has the seventh-lowest murder rate in the U.S. The violent crime rate in 2018 in League City was 101 incidents per 100,000 people, less than one-third the national rate of 369 incidents per 100,000. The city has a low poverty rate of 6.2% and this combined with a low crime rate has helped the city grow by 44.8% between 2009 and 2018.
8. Frisco, TX
Frisco, Texas, has the eighth-lowest murder rate in the U.S. of 1.13 murders per 100,000 people. Frisco is a wealthy, growing suburb of Dallas with a very low poverty rate of 3.9%, compared to the national poverty rate of 14.6%. The affluence and low crime rates of the city caused its population to rise by 73.6% between 2009 and 2018.
9. Pearland, Texas
Pearland, Texas, had a total of two murders in 2018, giving it a murder rate of 1.67 murders per 100,000 people. Pearland has the ninth-lowest murder rate in the United States. Like Frisco, Pearland has a very low poverty rate of 3.8%. Being a suburb of Houston, which had a violent crime rate of 1,026 incidents per 100,000 people in 2018, Pearland is significantly safer with a violent crime rate of only 95 per 100,000 people. This is about a quarter of the national rate as well.
10. Murrieta, CA
Murrieta, California has a murder rate of about 1.76 murders per 100,000 people, the tenth-lowest in the United States. In 2018, the city had a total of 2 homicides, the same as Frisco and Pearland, but a higher murder rate when adjusted for population. Murrieta has an overall lower violent crime rate than McAllen and Frisco of 80.2 incidents per 100,000 people. In 2018, there were two murders, 16 rapes, 35 robberies, and 39 aggravated assaults.