No one wants to be a statistic. Yet every 3.8 seconds, someone in America becomes the victim of a property crime – and every 26.3 seconds, someone suffers a violent attack.
Although no community is untouched by crime, some locations seem to fare better than others. Using data from the FBI and the U.S. Census Bureau, we took a hard look at criminal activity in America. What factors affect crime rates? And how do your city and state compare? Keep reading to find out.
Violent crimes comprise four offenses : murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Among U.S. states, Alaska is No. 1, with 636 violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year, and Nevada is a close second with 608. In Alaska , experts attribute the high violent crime rate to various factors: the large geographical size, remoteness of the communities, limited economic opportunities, and lack of government services. At least 75 remote Alaska Native villages have no law enforcement, and the state has only one trooper for every million acres. Alaska has the highest rate of rape in the country.
In Nevada, it’s clear Las Vegas plays a role in the crime rate: The city’s rate of violent crime is nearly 60% higher than the national average – and considerably higher than comparably sized western cities such as Sacramento and Salt Lake City. Factors that potentially contribute to high violent crime rates in Nevada include the state’s low education funding, low graduation rates, and poor child health system. Additionally, the influx of tourists to Las Vegas and Reno can increase crime just as they increase local population.
Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Washington leads the nation, with a rate of 3,706 property crimes per every 100,000 residents. Police noted that many incidents involve repeat offenders and career criminals, many of whom sell stolen goods on the black market for drug money. In greater Seattle , property crime rates are more than double rates in the Boston area and nearly one-third higher than the Denver metro area. New Mexico comes next for property crime, followed by South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida.
St. Louis, New Orleans, and Detroit top the list for most murders per 100,000 residents. In St. Louis, some experts blame a high availability of firearms coupled with minimal consequences . Local police have responded by formulating a plan to target 15 high-crime neighborhoods with increased law enforcement presence and surveillance cameras. New Orleans has traditionally had a high murder rate, despite fluctuations in violent crime rate overall. Local law enforcement note that the murder rate is due not to gangs, but to arguments, robberies, and domestic violence incidents that turn fatal. The dwindling police force in New Orleans may also play a role.
On the low end, 7 of the 10 major cities with the lowest murder rates are located in the West. San Diego and San Jose, both in California, rank at the bottom. Austin, Texas, New York City, and Charlotte, North Carolina, also have low murder rates. New York’s murder rate began declining around 20 years ago. One factor is the city’s growing Asian population, which is known to have a low rate of homicides.
In terms of raw numbers, Chicago made headlines in 2015 for the highest total number of homicides. A shocking 465 people were murdered in Chicago last year. That was 113 more deaths than second-place New York City.
We mapped of a year’s worth of murders in five major U.S. cities: New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Each purple dot represents a killing. As you can see, every city has unique trends for factors such as frequency and concentration in certain geographic areas.
Looking at murder statistics in the U.S. reveals a sobering truth: Over 7 in 10 murders are committed using some type of firearm. Handguns, by far the most common murder weapon, are used in exactly half of murders. Knives or other cutting instruments are employed in 14% of murders, while personal weapons (hands, feet, and fists) factor in nearly 6% and blunt objects in nearly 4%. The least likely murder methods are explosives, poison, and drowning, each comprising only 0.1% of killings.
The circumstances surrounding a murder can be murky at best. But reviewing a year’s worth of homicides that were solved yields some surprising takeaways. In just less than half of cases, the relationship between the victim and the killer is unknown. Nearly one-fifth of victims were murdered by an acquaintance, while just over 1 in 10 were killed by a stranger.
Examining murders among family members is a complex affair. Among married couples, wives are five times more likely to be murdered than husbands, and girlfriends are nearly three times more likely to be murdered than boyfriends. Sons and daughters are killed more often than mothers and fathers. Surprisingly, brothers are killed nearly five times more often than sisters.
Why do people kill? In over half of cases, the murder stems from an argument. Juvenile gang killings and robbery-related murders also comprise just over 1 in 10 homicides apiece, while 7% of cases are related to drug deals. Romantic triangles, burglaries, brawls, and children killed by babysitters make up around 1% to 2% each. The least likely murder cause? A sniper attack.
A closer look at the five cities with the highest murder rates (based on population) reveals some intriguing trends. Across the board, these unusually violent metro areas share similar economic hardships. In addition to murder rates that are five to 13 times the national average, these cities have lower incomes, higher poverty rates, and higher unemployment rates than the rest of the country. And although many regions are gaining residents, these cities all have populations that are steadily declining.
Of every crime, the one that you are most likely to experience in the U.S. is burglary . We created an interactive map to examine a year’s worth of burglary patterns in five major U.S. cities: New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Each red dot represents a burglary incident. You can zoom in on different neighborhoods to see where these break-ins occurred.
According to the FBI, burglary refers to the “unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or offense.” We gathered some little-known facts about burglary that might make you rethink everything you thought you knew about it.
Do you picture burglars stealing into your home during the dead of night? Actually, most burglaries occur during the day. Burglaries are quick – lasting on average less than 12 minutes – and they’re also hard to solve. Perhaps the most shocking statistic: If your home is burgled, it’s likely you live within two miles of the perpetrator – and may even know him or her.
We ranked the most likely ways burglars gain access to a home. The top method? The doors. In over half of burglaries, the perpetrators gain entry through either the front or back door. First floor windows were the next-most-common access point.
According to the FBI, nearly 60% of burglaries involve forcible entry – the premises are locked, and burglars pry, pick, or smash something to enter. But in just over 35% of cases, perpetrators enter through an unlocked window or door. (The remaining 6.5% of cases involve attempted – but unsuccessful – forcible entry.) On average, each burglary translates into a loss of $2,251 to the victim. However, costs of law enforcement and criminal justice can propel that number closer to $20,000. Unfortunately, though, over 86% of burglaries are never solved.
Examining crime trends in the U.S. yields some interesting takeaways. Some of the states and cities you wouldn’t expect have the highest rates of crime, while others are surprisingly low given their reputations. Additionally, if you are victimized, your odds of knowing the criminal are surprisingly high. Your best bet is to be alert and prioritize your safety – and the safety of your loved ones – no matter where you are in hopes that you won’t become a statistic.
The selection of cities for interactive maps was guided by their size and the availability of geotagged 2015 crime data. Each incident was plotted using information from that city’s public crime incident reports. In all cases, data were the most recent available. At the city level, we exclusively used 2015 data. For national comparisons and analysis, the only complete data sets were from 2014.
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