States With The Worst Crime Rates – Forbes Advisor


Published: Feb 29, 2024, 10:35am

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In the United States, New Mexico is the most dangerous state, with a higher rate of violent crimes per capita than any other location. New Hampshire is the safest. There are many kinds of crimes, though, and it’s important to understand the big picture when assessing risk.

Fobs Advisor examined publicly available data on violent crime rates, property crime rates and the likelihood of becoming a crime victim to determine the safest and riskiest locations. This guide explains all you need to know about the likelihood of encountering someone needing a criminal defense lawyer in New York, Vermont, California, or any of the U.S. States.

Key Takeaways

  • Property crimes have increased in recent years, while the rate of violent crimes has decreased.
  • While murders surged during COVID-19, there was a 6.1% year-over-year decline in murders and non-negligent manslaughter in 2022.
  • More than 75% of murders in 2020 were committed with a firearm
  • New Mexico, the most dangerous state, has more than six times the rate of violent crime per 1,000 people than New Hampshire, the least dangerous state.
  • Southern states account for two of the five most dangerous U.S. states.
  • States in New England account for four of the five safest U.S. states.

Is Crime Rising in the U.S.?

Certain crimes are indeed being committed more frequently—specifically property crimes. However, there was a 1.7% decrease in violent crime nationwide in 2022 compared with the year prior. And murders and cases of non-negligence manslaughter decreased by 6.1%.1

While a reduction in murder and manslaughter cases is positive news, this substantial decline in murder rates was driven in part by troubling trends during the pandemic. Murder rates increased by a shocking 30% in 2020, with more than 75% of those crimes committed with a firearm.2

Murder rates rose disproportionately among young people and in disadvantaged communities during the pandemic. The increase occurred in both rural and urban areas. And, despite popular myths about the epidemic of crime in liberal cities, the best defense lawyers in New York City or Chicago didn’t see a disproportionately greater increase in alleged murderers to represent compared with those in urban areas in red states.

The Best and Worst States for Crime—Ranked

Crime rates vary substantially when comparing the U.S. States with the lowest crime rate to the highest. In New Mexico—the worst state for crime—the violent crime rate per 1,000 residents is more than six times higher than in Vermont.

The table below shows the safest and least states in the U.S. You can see the rate per capita of both violent and property crimes and the relative chance a resident of each state has of becoming a victim.

The Most Dangerous States

The most dangerous states in the U.S. can be found in diverse areas across the country, but Southern States are disproportionately represented.

New Mexico has the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous state, with high rates of both violent and property crimes. Some lawmakers blame criminal justice reforms in 2016 for the increase in unlawful activity, as these reforms increased the number of accused defendants released pending trial. However, factors such as high population density and low per capita income are also contributing factors.

Arkansas and Louisiana are second and third on the list of the most dangerous states, followed by Colorado and California. While Arkansas and Louisiana are among the poorest U.S. States, Colorado and California are among the 10 richest. Crime can happen anywhere—even in wealthy states—income inequality is a contributing factor to high crime rates in Colorado and California.

The Safest States

When it comes to the safest states, there’s a very clear trend. New England and the Northeast are the country’s safest places to visit or live. New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut account for four of the five safest U.S. places, with New Jersey rounding out the list.

The smaller and more homogenous populations of many New England states, coupled with generally high educational attainment and median incomes, help explain why so many states in this region have low crime rates.

Crime Rate Changes since 2019

Crime rates fluctuate over time as policies and populations shift. However, some clear trends have emerged when reviewing specific types of crimes in recent years. Specifically, both assault with a gun and carjacking have become much more common.3

Rates of shoplifting have declined in recent years as many stores take measures to reduce theft loss, such as restricting access to commonly stolen items. There was a 2% decline in shoplifting in 2023 compared to 2019.

The Most Common Arrest in Each State

Alleged criminals can be accused of many different offenses. The table below shows the most common arrests in each state. These crimes include the following offenses:

  • Drug Abuse Violations. Violating controlled substance laws by possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia could result in a drug arrest.
  • Simple Assault. This is a verbal or physical threat of violence, causing a victim to feel fear. Assault charges may be combined with battery charges due to unlawful physical contact without permission.
  • Larceny. Larceny involves stealing personal property that can be carried away without the owner’s consent and with the intent to deprive the owner of their property permanently.
  • Driving Under the Influence. In most, but not all, states, this is defined as driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher or driving while impaired by alcohol or another impairing substance.
  • Possession of Weapons. Unlawfully possessing weapons, such as prohibited types of guns, can result in serious charges.

Check out the table below to see what most people get arrested for in each location.

Data comes from the FBI Crime Data Explorer

Our Methodology

To determine the most dangerous states, the Forbes Advisor team examined three key metrics, including violent crime rates, property crime rates and chances of becoming a victim of violent crime in each state. Each metric listed below was given an individual weight to provide every state with a score scaled out of 100.

Violent Crime Rate—35% of score
This metric accounts for how many violent crimes were reported per 1,000 residents.

Property Crime Rate—35% of score
This metric accounts for how many property crimes were reported per 1,000 residents.

Chances of Becoming a Victim of a Violent Crime—30% of score
This metric shows the probability of falling victim to a violent crime in each state. Each fraction represents how probable this is amongst the entire state population.

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Christy Bieber is a personal finance and legal writer with more than a decade of experience. She earned her JD from UCLA School of Law and was an adjunct professor at the start of her career, teaching paralegal studies and related courses. In addition to writing for the web, she has also designed educational courses and written textbooks focused on a variety of legal subjects.

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