Most Dangerous US Cities May Not Be as Crime-Ridden as the Numbers Suggest

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
May 22, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

The data is in: The most dangerous city in the United States is… Tukwila, Washington.


The second is… Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And third is Emeryville, California. Where?

Apparently, there’s more to the story.

The list of “The 30 Most Dangerous Cities in America — 2016” was created by, a website providing home safety and security news, tips, and product reviews.

Here’s how SafeWise created the list, according to its blog post:

“To identify the 30 most dangerous cities in America, we reviewed the most recent FBI Crime Report statistics, along with population data. We eliminated all cities with fewer than 10,000 residents in 2014 as well as any cities that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI.”

Let’s look at the top five on the list:

1. Tukwila, Washington

Tukwila, Wash. (Screenshot of Google Earth)
The Westfield Southcenter shopping mall is in the foreground with the residential part of Tukwila, Wash., in the back. (Screenshot of Google Earth)

Welcome to Tukwila, a small suburban city north of Seattle with a population of about 20,000. Its staggering property crime rate in 2014 hit almost 166 per 1,000 residents (the national average was less than 26 per 1,000), according to FBI website.

So does that mean one in six Tukwilans was a victim of a burglary, car theft, or larceny-theft that year? Most probably not. 

The city is wedged between two airports and a large shopping area. Thanks to that, it’s visited by massive amount of people every day.

The city had the third highest retail sales in the state per capita. The shopping area, the Southcenter, also seems to have a bad reputation for things getting stolen.

The main shopping mall, Westfield Southcenter, boasts close to 15 million visits a year. Considering just this number alone, the city, on average, triples in size every day.

As for violent crime, there was one murder in the city in 2014. Zero the year before. Less than a dozen rapes, and about 150 robberies and assaults. They are not low numbers, but if we add in the daily rise in populace, the crime rate suddenly seem much more modest.

2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Screenshot of Google Earth)
The 10-mile beach strip with a lineup of resorts dominates the view of Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Screenshot of Google Earth)

Myrtle Beach has a similar story to tell. For its less than 30,000 residents, property crime reached almost 160 per 1,000 residents. Then again, the city sports a 10 mile strip of beaches and hotels plus an international airport. It saw over 16 million tourists in 2013. Most spent four nights or more.

If we count each tourist as spending four nights, the average number of people staying in the city would jump 600 percent and crime rate would suddenly drop below the national average.

Violent crimes consisted of 8 murders, 43 rapes, and some 370 robberies and assaults.

3. Emeryville, California

Emeryville, Calif. (Screenshot of Google Earth)
Large shopping and business area in the front with the residential part of Emeryville, Calif., in the back. (Screenshot of Google Earth)

By the numbers, the most dangerous place in the San Francisco Metro area is Emeryville. It’s also the home of Pixar Animation Studios, Jamba Juice headquarters, and has been described as gentrifying. Why did it have close to 150 property crimes per 1,000 residents?

First of all, Emeryville is tiny. It looks more like a neighborhood, some 24 city blocks across and a little over 10,000 in population. But it is also a major employment center and has a large shopping mall on the southern edge—indeed some people commented online that for San Francicso residents, Emeryville equals Ikea.

The city seems like a blending area between Berkeley in the north and Oakland in the south, with a lot of people coming in for work and to shop. So is it possible that lot of the local crime is imported? It indeed seems so. KPIX 5 obtained a list of every person arrested in the city in 2013—almost 70 percent of them lived in Oakland.

Violent crime included zero murders, seven rapes, and a bit over hundred robberies and assaults.

4. Lumberton, North Carolina

Epoch Times Photo
Lumberton, N.C. (Screenshot of Google Earth)

Lumberton seems to tell a different story. Eleven murders for a rural community of some 22,000 is a lot—more than ten times the national average. Granted, 2014 saw a large spike in murders in the city, but high crime has plagued Lumberton for decades. Just three months ago U.S. Marshals announced arrests of over 120 people in a massive crime bust in Robson County, which covers the city and surrounding rural areas, WNCN reported.

“We were going after the worst of the worst,” said Scott Parker with the U.S. Marshals Service. “We arrested people for murder, accessory to murder.”

Some were also arrested for child sex offenses, cocaine distribution, and attempted rape, while 18 were confirmed as gang members.

Crimes statistics list over 3,000 thefts, car thefts, and burglaries, in addition to 11 rapes and over 340 robberies and assaults. About third of the population was under poverty line.

5. College Park, Georgia

College Park, Ga., with the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on the right and high-rises in Downtown Atlanta in the top right. (Screenshot of Google Earth)
College Park, Ga., with the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on the right and high-rises in Downtown Atlanta in the top right. (Screenshot of Google Earth)

Less than 10 miles south of downtown Atlanta, right by the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, lies the city of College Park. With a shocking poverty rate of almost 40 percent, the city has faced a long-term crime problem. While in Atlanta crime has dropped significantly over the past decade, College Park has seen little improvement.

One theory is that the crime was pushed south from Atlanta with the city’s abolishing of public housing projects during the 2000s. At least that’s what Volkan Topalli, associate professor of criminal justice at Georgia State University, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2010.

On the other hand, not everyone thinks the crime is too bad.

“Our citizens feel pretty safe and we feel pretty good about the job we’re doing out here,” College Park police Capt. Ron Fears. “I don’t think the numbers deal with reality. We’re nowhere near the bigger cities. We feel like we have a safe city.”

For a population of some 14,000, the city had 9 murders, 11 rapes, some 300 robberies and assaults, and over 1,600 non-violent crimes in 2014.

Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.