Most Dangerous Cities? 13 Cities With Rising Crime Rates

crime scene
A crime scene in Chicago, Illinois | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Ask the average American about crime, and chances are they’ll say the number of murders, rapes, thefts, and assaults is going up. In 2016, the level of concern about crime and violence hit a 15-year high, according to Gallup. And in a separate 2015 Gallup survey, 70% of people said crime was higher than it was a year earlier.

But statistics don’t support Americans’ anxiety about rising levels of violence. Crime rates in 2016 are projected to be roughly the same as they were in 2015, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, and crime overall is lower than it has been in a generation. In 1990, there were more than 9,000 crimes per 100,000 people. In 2015, that figure had fallen to just over 3,000 crimes per 100,000 people. Murders are down too. Twenty-five years ago, the homicide rate in the U.S. was 9.8 per 100,000, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. By 2010, the number of murders had fallen to 4.8 per 100,000.

Crime rates over time
Crime rates, 1990-2016 | Brennan Center for Justice

“Our findings directly contradict the ‘out-of-control’ narrative we heard from President-Elect Trump this year,” Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program and an author of the analysis, said in a statement. “Crime nationally is projected to remain at all-time lows.”

The Brennan Center analyzed data from the 30 largest cities in the U.S. to make predictions about the trends in crime. (The report was released before the end of 2016, so final crime numbers for the year were not yet available.) Overall crime in the nation’s biggest cities was expected to increase 0.3% and violent crime was up 3%.

While there’s no evidence of a nationwide trend toward more murders and other violent crime, violent crime rates were up in 13 of the 30 cities studied. Does that mean these cities are overrun with criminals and should be avoided? No. In some cases, the rise in crime was small. Others had large percentage increases in violent crime but still had far less crime per person than cities where crime was flat or falling.

It’s also possible the year-over-year crime increase could be temporary. Some of the cities with the biggest increases in murder in 2015 had some of the most significant decreases in 2016, the report’s authors noted. In other words, these numbers could be statistical blips, not evidence of a long-term trend. Nevertheless, these are the 13 cities with rising crime rates in 2016.

13. Denver, Colorado

Denver | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Percent change in violent crime rate: 0.6%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 589.2

Denver experienced a very slight increase in violent crime in 2016. The city’s overall crime rate rose by 3.9%.

12. Nashville, Tennessee

downtown Nashville, Tennessee
Downtown Nashville, Tennessee | Pavone

Percent change in violent crime rate: 1.3%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 795.7

Though the overall increase in violent crime in Nashville was low, murders were up. The Brennan Center predicted a 34.5% increase in the number of homicides in 2016, with murders in the Tennessee city expected to increase from 63 to 85.

11. Baltimore, Maryland

A man walks past a sign reading “We Must Stop Killing Each Other” in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 23, 2016 | NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Percent change in violent crime rate: 5.8%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 1,668.1

Violent crime was up nearly 6% in Baltimore in 2016. The number of murders was down from 2015, but it was still the second-deadliest year on record in the city, according to the Baltimore Sun. At 49.5 homicides per 100,000 people, Baltimore had the highest murder rate of any U.S. city studied.

10. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

oklahoma city
Oklahoma City | SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Percent change in violent crime rate: 6.9%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 734.5

The murder rate in Oklahoma City jumped nearly 26% in 2016. The Brennan Center predicted there would be 95 homicides in the city, compared to 74 in 2015. When non-violent crime was included in the total, the city’s crime rate rose by 11.9% over 2015.

9. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville manhole cover
Manhole cover in Louisville |

Percent change in violent crime rate: 7.8%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 2,407.1

Compared to other cities studied, Louisville had the highest per capita violent crime rate. Though crime is up, police are making fewer arrests than they were a few years ago, according to a report from WFPL.

8. Houston, Texas

houston crime scene
A police officer at the scene of a strip mall shooting in Houston on September 26, 2016 | Bob Levey/Getty Images

Percent change in violent crime rate: 9.1%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 1,008.5

While overall crime in Houston was essentially the same as in 2015, violent crime was up. There would be 14.9 murders per 100,000 people in 2016, the Brennan Center predicted.

7. San Jose, California

San Jose
San Jose |

Percent change in violent crime rate: 9.7%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 316.7

Homicides were at a 25-year high in San Jose in 2016. Rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults were also up compared to 2015. The Brennan Center predicted 51 murders for the city in 2016; the final count was 47. Still, compared to other cities, the per capita crime rate was relatively low.

6. Austin, Texas

austin texas
Police investigate a shooting on July 31, 2016 in downtown Austin, Texas | Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

Percent change in violent crime rate: 10%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 351.2

The number of murders in Austin in 2016 was the highest in nearly two decades, according to the Austin American-Statesman. There were 39 homicides in Texas’s capital city (the Brennan Center predicted 52).

5. Dallas, Texas

dallas vigil
Mourners at a vigil outside City Hall in Dallas, Texas, on July 11, 2016, held in honor of the five police officers killed in a sniper attack | LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Percent change in violent crime rate: 10.2%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 817.9

The overall crime rate in Dallas fell 4.2% in 2016, but violent crime was up roughly 10%. There had been 163 murders in the city through December 19, 2016. Still the numbers are far lower than they were 25 years ago, when 500 people were murdered in Dallas.

4. Los Angeles, California

los angeles crime scene
Police and investigators at a crime scene in Los Angeles on October 15, 2016 | MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Percent change in violent crime rate: 13.3%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 652.1

Violent crime in Los Angeles is up, but the city is still safer than it was 10 years ago. Fewer than 300 people were murdered in L.A. in 2016, compared to nearly 500 in 2006.

3. Chicago, Illinois

chicago protest
Residents, activists, and friends and family members of victims of gun violence march down Michigan Avenue carrying nearly 800 wooden crosses bearing the names of people murdered in the city in 2016 on December 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Percent change in violent crime rate: 16.6%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 1,157.6

The Brennan Center projected 727 murders in Chicago in 2016, an increase of 47% over 2015. In reality, the number of homicides was 762, the highest number in two decades. The reasons for Chicago’s high murder rate aren’t clear, but a combination of a small number of repeat offenders, a decrease in the number of police detectives, and severe poverty and unemployment in a handful of neighborhoods might be behind the increase, the report’s authors speculated. The more than 200 additional murders in Chicago in 2016 compared to 2015 were enough to push up the murder rate across large U.S. cities.

“The ‘national’ increase in murders identified by this report … may owe more to profound local problems in a few Chicago neighborhoods than national trends,” the authors wrote.

2. Charlotte, North Carolina

charlotte police protests
A demonstrator on September 21, 2016, protesting the fatal shooting by police officers of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte | Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Percent change in violent crime rate: 22.5%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 860.6

Violent crime in Charlotte was up significantly in 2016. However, the number of murders in the city was projected to decrease.

1. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas | Sean Pavone

Percent change in violent crime rate: 52.5%

Violent crime rate per 100,000: 783.1

Murders were up in San Antonio in 2016. The city had 151 homicides last year (the Brennan Center predicted 144). The violent crime rate rose 52.5%, the biggest increase among major U.S. cities.

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