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These Are America’s 10 Most Dangerous Small Cities

If you’re hoping to escape from big city crime, look elsewhere. These places actually defy the stereotype of smaller cities being safer.

Randy Nelson

Content Manager

116 articles, 53 comments

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When you see small towns on TV and in movies, they’re almost always idyllic places where the American dream is thriving and neighbors all know each other. That, and unless you’re watching a whodunnit, no one’s ever the victim of a crime.

In reality, small cities are surprisingly similar to all the others, meaning that there are good ones and bad. While the Movoto Real Estate Blog has been writing lately about America’s safest places, we thought we’d switch gears today and look the small cities where crime is a real concern.

After studying more than 200 small cities, we’ve concluded that Wilmington, DE is the most dangerous in terms of crime. It’s joined in this dubious honor by nine other places to comprise our 10 most dangerous small cities in America:

1. Wilmington, DE
2. Canton, OH
3. Jackson, TN
4. Rocky Mount, NC
5. North Little Rock, AR
6. Pensacola, FL
7. Daytona Beach, FL
8. Homestead, FL
8. Lauderhill, FL
10. Warner Robins, GA

Florida accounted for the single largest share of cities in the top 10, with four. It’s interesting to note that all 10 are either in the Midwestern, Mid-Atlantic, or Southern regions of the country.

You can read more about the top 10 most dangerous below, and see a ranking of the 50 most dangerous at the end of this post. Next, we’ll go over our methodology for building this ranking.

How We Created This Report

To produce this ranking, we first decided on a list of small cities between 50,000 and 75,000 residents in size. After eliminating those without available crime data, we were left with a list of 234 places to study.

Using data from the FBI’s 2012 uniform crime report, the latest available, we measured seven distinct crimes using the total reported incidents of each:

  • Burglary
  • Theft
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Assault

We separated these crimes into four groups: murders, violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, and assault), property crimes (burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft), and total crimes. The cities were then ranked on the incidents of each group per 100,000 residents per year, from 1 to 234, with a higher score being more dangerous. We calculated the number of crimes per 100,000 residents for 2012 in order to have a level playing field on which to compare cities with varying population sizes.

The individual rankings (murders, violent crimes, property crimes and total crimes) were then weighted to create a final overall score. Murders, violent crimes, and property crimes each comprised 30 percent of the total, while total crimes made up 10 percent. The higher this combined score, the more dangerous the city.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of how each of the 10 most dangerous small cities fared when judged on these criteria.

1. Wilmington, DE

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user Chris Connell

The most dangerous small city we studied, Wilmington is on the larger end of our range with a population of just over 72,000. Despite the efforts of local authorities, which have included placing the city’s entire downtown area under CCTV surveillance and other aggressive tactics, crime continues to be a serious problem in Wilmington. It topped the list in terms of violent crime, outranking 233 other cities for this dubious honor, with 1,703 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

Wilmington didn’t fare much better in other areas, ranking as the third-most dangerous small city in terms of murder (it saw 26 in 2012) and total crime (5,052 were reported there the same year). The only instance in which it did even slightly better—and then only relatively—was property crimes, where it placed ninth overall for its 5,305 crimes per 100,000.

With a reported 150 shootings by the end of 2013, it would seem that Wilmington has a long way to go before it can be considered a safer place to live.

2. Canton, OH

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user jmd41280

Ohio is known for lots of things, and thankfully being crime-ridden isn’t one of them. Like most states, though, it has its rough spots, and Canton is one of them. A little more than 50 miles outside of Cleveland, this city made No. 2 on our list with a couple of second-place crime rankings: property crimes and total crimes.

In terms of the former, there were 6,550 property crimes per 100,000 residents there in 2012, and for the latter Canton had 7,562 total crimes per 100,000. Thefts led the list of property crimes, with 2,671 reported that year. Elsewhere in our rankings, Canton placed eighth for murder with 10 in all and eighth for violent crime in general with 1,011 per 100,000 people.

3. Jackson, TN

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user frankensmith

Named for native Tennessean and America’s seventh President, Andrew Jackson, this city of nearly 66,000 in Madison County has the dubious distinction of placing fourth overall in terms of both murders and violent crimes per 100,000. It earned that first ranking for the 11 murders reported there in 2012; one more than Canton, in fact.

Jackson’s second fourth-place rank came from its 1,348 violent crimes per 100,000 residents that year. It fared substantially better in both property crimes and total crimes per 100,000, where it ranked 16th and 11th, respectively.

4. Rocky Mount, NC

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user davidwilson1949

Remember how we said every state has its rough spots? Well, North Carolina is home to places like Cary, NC, which are exceedingly safe, but also those like Rocky Mount, which certainly aren’t. In fact, this city of about 58,000 was the sixth most dangerous we looked at in terms of violent crimes, with 1,039 per 100,000 residents in 2012.

Rocky Mount performed ever-so-slightly better when it came to homicides, where it placed seventh overall with 14 per 100,000. Its rankings for property crimes and total crimes per 100,000 were slightly better. It placed 13th for the former with 4,693 and 12th for the latter with 5,732.

5. North Little Rock, AR

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source: Wikimedia user Chris Litherland

Situated across the Arkansas River from Little Rock, AR proper, North Little Rock is only about 30 percent as large as its namesake but actually has more per capita crime. This city’s 5,920 crimes in 2012 were enough to earn it first place in terms of total crimes, while it also took first in property crimes (there were 5,471 of those).

Fortunately, the city’s violent crime ranking was considerably lower at 26th overall, with 623 crimes per 100,000 residents reported in 2012. Its 13 murders per 100,000 were enough to earn it 12th place for that criterion.

With crime stats like this, it’s no wonder the North Little Rock Police Department has been experimenting with drones for the past few years and has plans to use them over high-crime neighborhoods in the not-too-distant future.

6. Pensacola, FL

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source:Wikimedia user Blankfaze

Pensacola is the first of four cities in Florida that made our top 10 most dangerous places, which also means it’s the most dangerous of the bunch. It also happens to be the smallest by about 10,000 residents. Despite this, it ranks six places higher than the next-most dangerous small Florida city in terms of murder; Pensacola placed 10th overall in that category with 13 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2012.

As for violent crimes in general, Pensacola placed 19th with 656 per 100,000. For property crime, North Little Rock ranked 23rd, which is actually the second-safest in our top 10, while for total crime it placed 21st; the safest in our top 10 when judged that way.

7. Daytona Beach, FL

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source: Wikimedia user Gamweb

Probably best known outside Florida for NASCAR’s annual Daytona 500 race, Daytona Beach is fittingly on the higher end of the scale when it comes to motor vehicle thefts (it had 346 in 2012). In fact, the city ranked eighth overall when it came to property crime, with 5,367 per 100,000 residents. This was just slightly better than its rank for violent crime, where it placed ninth overall.

Daytona Beach placed sixth when it came to total crimes, with 6,359 per 100,000 people. Fortunately, it fared much better in terms of the most serious crime we looked at—Murder—where it ranked 44th overall with six per 100,000 during 2012.

8. Lauderhill, FL

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source: Wikimedia user Daniel Schwen

Located just west of Fort Lauderdale, FL, the small city of Lauderhill is the safest place in our top 10 as far as property crimes go. It placed 32nd overall in that criterion, with 4,070 property crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012. For total crimes, it ranked 20th.

Things look worse for the city when violent crimes are considered. Lauderhill saw 814 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012, a number large enough for it to rank 12th overall. In terms of murders, things weren’t much better; Lauderhill had 12 per 100,000, a 16th-place finish.

8. Homestead, FL

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source: Floridamoves.com

Despite having the second-highest violent crime rate in our top 10, Homestead—a city of almost 63,000 located south of Miami, FL—was fortunately much safer in terms of murder. It was third most dangerous overall for violent crimes, at a rate of 1,450 per 100,000 residents in 2012. For murder, it placed 45th, at six per 100,000 that year.

Homestead was 18th overall for property crime, with 4,461 per 100,000—an overwhelming majority of which were thefts. As for total crimes, the city placed eighth, with a combined crime rate of 5,911 per 100,000 annually.

10. Warner Robins, GA

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user ** RCB **

Home to Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins has the lowest overall violent crime rank of any city in our top 10, placing 45th most dangerous in that respect, but makes up for this fact when it comes to property crime. The city is sixth overall for burglaries, thefts, and vehicle thefts, with 5,520 property crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012.

The overall crime rate of 6,027 per 100,000 recorded that year was high enough for Warner Robins to be ranked the seventh-most dangerous place in that criterion. As for murder, the city ranked 23rd—not the absolute worst, but with 234 cities in our ranking, certainly nowhere near good.

Safety In Numbers

As we pointed out earlier, the majority of the most dangerous small cities we found are situated in the Mid-Atlantic, Southern, and Midwestern regions of the country. On the flip side, we noted that the safest tended to be divided into two groups: either out West in places like California and Utah or in Minnesota (where there seem to be lots of small cities, for yet-to-be-analyzed reasons).

Lakeville, MN was the safest small city (at 56,805 residents) out of all the ones we looked at, with a diminutive 14 violent crimes per 100,000 residents during the period studied (no murders or rapes were among them). The rest of the top five safest were, in descending order: Lehi, UT, Minnetonka, MN, Laguna Nigel, CA, and Yorba Linda, CA.

So, if you happen to reside in any of the unsafe spots we just covered, your ticket to low-crime living (without changing city size) just might be in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The Most Dangerous Small Cities In America

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posted on: March 26, 2014
1,193,767 views, 42 comments

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42 Comments

  1. Tre WIlson

    Canton??? I GREW up inOhio and never heard anything about Canton..if anything Youngstown and Warren, Ohio should’ve been on The list…but I’m surprised about Canton

    • ScaredinSchenectady in response to Tre WIlson

      I see that Schenectady, NY is the ONLY Small city in the whole state of New York….really disturbing.

      • joseph in response to ScaredinSchenectady

        If you read the survey definition of small city you will see that means only cities whose population was between 50 – 75k people. That leaves you with only Mount Vernon, Schenectady, Utica, Troy, White Plains, Hempstead and Niagara Falls.

        • ScaredinSchenectady in response to joseph

          I did read that..and still my point…I know very well the city sizes of criteria. Troy should be right along side Schenectady. Schenectady is always compared to Utica for submission of federal funding. So I am still shocked that Schenectady….Is the only Small City listed.

      • Roger Parker in response to ScaredinSchenectady

        I live here and it is very bad

  2. Amanda Primault

    WE NEED TO DO BETTER IN CANTON OH IT IS VERY SCARY HERE!

  3. Brandy

    I don’t agree this at all with this. I live in Warner robins and I love it. Like every city it has its less desirable parts of town but I have never felt threatened, afraid, or scared. I have never had my house broken into our anything stolen from me. I hear about break in but it’s usually kids stealing random stuff. Again I don’t agree with this I could go on and on about how this survey is totally not accurate. I felt less safe in stone mountain ga than here.

  4. Jonny Rockets

    Warner robins blows. My folks got their house kicked in the other day and they live in one of the “nicer” areas. All the bums and jags from Macon have migrated down there and its a shit little town composed of two main roads. I’m glad you love it brandy, enjoy the highschool football game on Friday cus that’s about all there is for entertainment around there.

    • Dan Torpedo in response to Jonny Rockets

      Have to take ALL of this with a grain of salt, including some of these moronic comments. For example “Mr.” Rocket obviously didn’attend the well-respected school system of which Warner Robins is a part. “Blows…kicked in..bums and bags…cus” and a curse word do not lend credence to this comment. As for this survey, this is proof that one can make numbers say anything if one tried hard enough.

  5. Kathy B.

    Born and raised in Canton, Ohio. Great place to grow up as a kid in the 1960′s and 1970′s. Stayed their until around 2000 but now live in Columbus. Come back home every now and then and drive through the old neighborhood…strangely different now. I’m from a family of nine children and the N.E. neighbor hood I lived in was full of families with bunches of kids. Always felt safe because everybody in the neighborhood watched out for one another. Not so sure that kind of feeling is happening anymore…in Canton…or anywhere else…for that matter.

    Sorry to see Canton in this limelight…for how fleeting of a moment it may be. Will always treasure my childhood there…great place to raise a family…back in the day…just glad my parents are not alive to see this part of Canton…My dad loved living there.

  6. K

    I’v lived here in Warner Robins off and on for the last 20 years. I just think it’s odd that it’s also on the list of greatest places to raise a family/retire. What a way to gain fame. Oh well, maybe there is still hope for us yet…

  7. Vicki Laws

    Lived here since I was 2! Used to be a great place to live and raise a family.

  8. Will K

    So you’re really not supposed to make comparisons between communities with this data. Of course, some moron did, so let me point out one of the more moronic conclusions: in Canton, you have a 1 in 7,219 chance of being murdered; in Saginaw, Michigan, you are 5 times more likely to be murdered at 1 in 1,899.

    True, you’re more likely to have your car stolen in Canton (1 in 15 for Canton to 1 in 29 for Saginaw), but I think, given that Saginaw is roughly 2/3 the size of Canton, I’d prefer to take my chances in Canton, because you’re more likely to DIE in Saginaw.

    Let me repeat: you are 5 times more likely to be shot in Saginaw, but twice as likely to have your car stolen in Canton – YET CANTON MAKES THE TOP 10, NOT SAGINAW!

    Just my 2 cents.

  9. Sandra

    Born and raised in Rocky Mount, NC. It’s very sad to hear this

  10. Angelemerald

    We might want to try to raise the minimum wage, address mental illness, provide better and more drug abuse prevention and treatment, and figure out how to strengthen communities instead of just putting low level and non-violent offenders in prison. We can keep focusing on the incarceration end of the problem, or we can try a different approach. Until people have hope, they do stupid things like get into drugs and alcohol and other kinds of relationship trouble. When we spend some effort on instilling hope, developing alternatives to incarceration and addressing underemployment and poverty we will change everything for our communities. We have to stop being afraid and get out into the schools, youth programs and neighborhoods and try to change the course of just one single life. It is possible to build collaborative efforts between schools, police, families and business to put together the infrastructure necessary to instill cooperation and hope.

    • Jason in response to Angelemerald

      Yes, this is the knee-jerk emotional answer. But we’ve tried giving these people things since LBJ’s Great Society and they’re worse off. Sorry, but the policies you support are actually making the impoverished worse off.

  11. Doug

    Somehow, I think the author meant “suburb”, not “small city”.

    Geography FAIL

  12. Kevin

    People, saying Camden or Chester PA would make Wilmington look like paradise. Haven’t been to Wilmington in a while. Come visit and see the paradise yall think it is.

    • Tim in response to Kevin

      Wilmington has the appearance of being a beautiful city. Its until you hit downtown will you realize it is dangerous!

  13. Chris

    I live outside Wilmington, DE and totally agree with where it’s ranked.

  14. Bmar

    Wilmington may be the most dangerous, but I’m pretty sure the ship pictured isn’t contributing to that number. As a crew member on that ship and a Wilmington native, it really feels like the author could have used a different image of the city. Perhaps one where the ship, (whose home port is in Wilmington, but who is actually a representative of the state of Delaware,) wasn’t pictured.

    Maybe a picture featuring a more crime-ridden area in the inner city portion of Wilmington, the more dangerous area by far, would have been appropriate?

    Not the riverfront, which by the way, has seen a huge facelift during the last few years. And maybe not a picture featuring a specific organization which has been attempting to bring in tourism and bring in more interest throughout the years.

    Way to go there guy.
    Perhaps more thought/ research should’ve gone with that image.

  15. Beverly

    I was born and raised in North Little Rock – It used to be the “bedroom” community for Little Rock – now it is the ghetto of central Arkansas!

  16. jay

    man wilmington DE is the hood if half the drugs stopped then most of the crim would to if we didnt have all these dirty cops then that would make things easy too

  17. miznic

    This whole chart is bunk. – you have National City, CA listed as being a dangerous small city without taking into consideration that it’s located right over the city line from 2 of San Diego’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Lancaster, PA is one of many “small towns” located on several major drug-traffic routes – - not to mention that they’re located at least 2-3 hours from major cities like Philly, Harrisburg, Baltimore, and DC. Wilmington, DE has the same problem. And then, you have the majority of those FL small towns that are located where? – oh yeah, near major tourist areas. Tourist areas in FL = high crime. Don’t believe me? Go to Tampa, Orlando, Miami, etc.

    Congratulations though – it’s gotten this site a lot of undeserved attention. Enjoy those clicks and hits, and don’t get offended when you see people blowing off that craptacularly-researched chart of yours.

    By the way – I’m in Warner Robins, GA – another town that didn’t deserve to be on your list. Robins AFB is the state’s largest employer – with the median income in this town to be somewhere around $45-50K a year. Didn’t your site just name our town to be one of the best towns to raise children in? – - I’m too lazy to actually research that, so I’ll just take the assumption as it is.

  18. chuck schumacher

    I’ve grown up in Canton, Ohio and like most cities, Canton has had it’s problems, but not to the extent this profile wants to portray. CANTON’S DOWNTOWN is rapidly changing for the better, and we are NOT 25 miles from Cleveland-Which tells me that someone has NOT done their homework on a large scale! Like some other writers, I’m downtown occasionally and have NO fear!

  19. Roc

    Yea this bogus.im from Saginaw that city should have been #1 plus flint not on there yea this bogus not braging but saginaw is like a third world country

  20. Chuck

    I’m not giving this article much weight. So much is not taken into account.
    The city of Wilmington changes throughout the day and week. Go downtown on a weekday morning and you feel like you are in a thriving city. But, go downtown during the evening and you feel like you are in a ghost town and should watch your back.
    Now, if you want to do a study about how dangerous it is to be a Wilmington resident, then, you have to take out all of the victims whom are non-residents. If you want to do a study about how dangerous it is to be in the city, then, you have to take into consideration the total population of the city throughout the day (residents, workers, tourists, students, etc.), when the crimes are taken place, and average out.

  21. Dawn

    Your data is totally flawed. I grew up in Canton, I couldn’t recommend a more safer place to raise a family. Maybe you mixed data from the roaring 1920′s, then maybe I could say your right.

  22. Danny Adams

    Interesting, in a morbid sort of way, that these small cities have higher crime rates than many of America’s largest cities.

  23. Doug

    This survey is BOGUS! Does anyone else find it just a little odd that 10 of the top 20 cities on the list are in the State of Florida. If the Governor and other State Officials allow this kind of misinformation to go unchecked, they are not properly representing our State.

  24. Gene Kelly

    Bunch of crap
    Notice , all on east coast, not one in California?

  25. Call you out

    Data is crap, thanks for bad press. Ever take in consideration that most of these towns are within a hour of a big city? Take the actual address of the murdered and murderers. Where did they live? Of course you take a number like 11 murders in a town of 60,000 the percentage of overwhelming. What about the all murders , rapes, assaults , robberies a
    week in Memphis? I am involved with the local law enforcement crime stat meeting every week, where they go over actual statistics. You have just spun statistics to back an article. So in a town of 50, 1 murder in 20 yrs would make it the most dangerous town in america?

  26. Linda

    Poverty, drugs, underemployment, unemployment, inner city blight. It’s heartbreaking to see how the neighborhoods in Canton proper have spiraled into decline. Such old, grand homes boarded up and falling apart. The repurposing of downtown Canton should have come 40 years ago. I enjoy going downtown for First Friday to support the revitalization attempts, but am always aware of my surroundings. But I love Canton and its rich history.

  27. Cyndi S

    The drug trade is where the violence is in pensacola…….but for the most part you stay clear of the drug known areas it is a safe place to vacation and raise a family. I have lived here. 30 something years and feel safe. Our transient population has aloft to do with it too……you see the homeless hitch hiking further south for the winters. Sad to say with the younger generations sense of entitlement without having to work for it, there is crime everywhere….it’s all relative

  28. skeet dew

    You will find that quite a few of these are military towns.

  29. Melissa

    First, the photo they used for the City of Pensacola is NOT the City of Pensacola it’s a picture of beautiful Pensacola Beach. Pensacola Beach is a completely separate community from the City,LITERALLY an Island away from the city of Pensacola. You have to drive through a great part of Historical Pensacola,across a 3 mile bridge over Pensacola Bay through the upscale,small, City of Gulf Breeze and across another long bridge over Santa Rosa Sound to get to Pensacola Beach… so it’s very misleading & unfair to use a photo that implicates Pensacola Beach as a “dangerous City” because it is NOT. Second, Just like any other city, the crime factor depends on where you go in the city of Pensacola, I spend a lot of time Downtown / Historical Pensacola,in Scenic Hills, at Pensacola State College & University of West Florida & we’ve never had any problems with crime. I’m sure I could find trouble if I wanted to, but It’s a fantastic city with a lot to offer.

  30. Tom

    These statistics compare the number of crimes to the permanent population, for the Florida cities listed, most get large numbers of tourists each year but these visitors are not considered in the calculated crime rate. I live in Daytona Beach where we get more then 6 million visitors per year, If you consider those tourists the crime rate is actually low. I’ve seen 4 people arrested for assault in the last 2 weeks, in each both the perpetrator and the victim were spring breakers from out of state in a fight over a girl. These fights are added into the statistic for permanent residents. Extremely misleading.

  31. John

    Those are not small towns, towns with a population of 5000 or less is a small town.

  32. Tony

    Very good study. The naysayers should read how the study was done before they criticize it. Having lived in Schenectady I’m not surprised at the ranking. Actually thought it would be worse. And even though they have plowed a lot of tax dollars in the downtown, it doesn’t negate the disaster that lies outside.

  33. john doe

    I lived in jackson where i have peronally seen at least 14 people get killed and heard more about murders in the hood.

  34. LOso

    I live in Wilmington, DE and I can say that it has changed in the past 10 yrs for the worst there maybe a homicide at least once a day.I can say that Philadelphia is 23mi away and thats the style Delaware residents like to copy. Everybody in Wilmington swear there from philly so bad its ridiculous.

  35. Evan

    Yeah loso except wilmington is WAY worse than philadelphia..

 

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