Violence in the United States has steadily declined for several decades. While the violent crime rate has fallen considerably — from 685 incidents reported per 100,000 Americans in 1995 to the current rate of 383 incidents per 100,000 — the national violent crime rate rose 3.0% last year.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates in each state from data collected through the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report Program. Violent crime includes all offenses involving force or threat of force and are broken into four categories: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. These crimes are more common in some states than in others.
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 461.9
> Total population: 20,271,272 (3rd highest)
> Total 2015 murders: 1041.0 (3rd most)
> Poverty rate: 15.7% (16th highest)
Across the nation, violent crime levels range from 118 incidents per 100,000 people in Vermont, to 730 incidents reported for every 100,000 people in Alaska.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Nancy G. La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at public policy research organization Urban Institute, said, “crime clusters not just within major metropolitan areas but even within cities.” For this reason, La Vigne noted, it is very difficult to draw conclusions from statewide trends alone.
Violent crime is considerably more common in urban centers than elsewhere. While it is not always the case, violent crime rates in states can be largely attributed to high crime levels in the states’ cities. States with relatively low violent crime rates tend to be home to fewer, less dangerous, cities.
There appears to be a relationship between socioeconomic factors and crime levels. As La Vigne said, “People who engage in criminal behavior often may do so because of an absence of opportunity.” While the relationship is somewhat tenuous and controversial, unemployment rates tend to be relatively high in states with high violent crime rates while the opposite is true in states with low levels of violence.
Local factors are perhaps better drivers and predictors of violence. By seeking to address some of the roots of crime, state policies can help reduce a state’s crime levels. La Vigne noted sets of reforms that focus on reducing recidivism as one example of policies that can improve public safety. According to a federally funded 2014 study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, “Reducing Recidivism: States Deliver Results,” some states have had success lowering recidivism with state-level policies.
The violent crime rate increased in all of the nation’s most dangerous states. In seven of the 10 states, the violent crime rate increased faster than the nationwide uptick of 3.0% between 2014 and 2015. In Alaska, Missouri, and Alabama, the increase exceeded 10%.
To identify the 10 most dangerous states, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of violent crimes reported per 100,000 people (the violent crime rate) in each state from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report. The total number and rates of murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, which are included in the violent crime rate, as well as burglaries, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson — all classified as property crime — also came from the FBI’s report. We considered these data for each year from 2011 through 2015. Annual unemployment rates for 2015 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Median household income, poverty rates, the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, population, and the percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey.