19 of the Most Dangerous Small Towns in America

Sam Mire
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When you think of “small town,” you imagine unlocked doors, neighborly hospitality, and picket fences, right? Well, think again. These small towns will have you reaching for Kevlar and a nimble getaway vehicle, leaving your valuables behind. Safety first, my friend!

Robstown, TX

Robstown, Texas
Terry Ross/Wikimedia Commons

According to the latest FBI data, Robstown, Texas, had quite the “action-packed” year with a total of 202 violent crimes. With a population of around 11,500, it seems this small town knows how to keep things “exciting.” Remember folks, even in the tiniest corners of our world, crime can make a grand entrance!

Emeryville, CA

Emeryville, CA
Sharon Hahn Darlin//Wikimedia Commons

One ranking that considered both property and violent crime ranked Emeryville, CA, as America’s least safe small town. In truth, Emeryville may not qualify as the sort of small town you’re imagining. Rather, it sits in the San Francisco Bay Area between Oakland and Berkeley, California.

Unsurprisingly, a small locale in San Francisco’s orbit is grappling with rampant crime. The City by the Bay has its own well-documented struggles with crime, and it appears those problems have bled into Emeryville.

Espanola, New Mexico

Espanola, New Mexico
Carptrash/Wikimedia Commons

Believe it or not, the tiny town of Espanola, New Mexico, with only about 10,000 residents, experienced an alarming 268 violent crimes in just one year! With a crime rate over 150% higher than the rest of the state, one has to wonder what’s contributing to such a spike in violence. Despite being a tight-knit community, it’s clear that Espanola is facing some serious challenges in terms of maintaining public safety.

Lumberton, North Carolina

Lumberton, North Carolina
DiscoA340/Wikimedia Commons

Lumberton, North Carolina, a small town of nearly 21,700 people, certainly doesn’t lack adversity. According to the most recent FBI data, the town experienced a total of 393 violent crimes reported in a one-year period. Despite the challenges facing the community, there are those within it who tirelessly strive to make it a safer, more welcoming place for all who call it home.

Camden, NJ

Camden, NJ
Adam Jones, Ph.D.//Wikimedia Commons

Those who live in the New Jersey and New York City area know Camden. Anyone familiar with crime statistics in the United States knows Camden. They don’t remember Camden for positive reasons, either.

Camden’s crime became so bad that the city disbanded its police force in favor of a system where cameras constantly monitor residents’ every public move. Sound Orwellian? Nah, that’s just Camden.

Anniston, Alabama

Anniston, Alabama
Rivers Langley/Wikimedia Commons

Fun fact: Anniston, Alabama was established in 1872 and has a history of manufacturing metal products and textiles. However, the city is currently facing the challenge of a high violent crime rate, with 735 reported incidents in a year. We hope for the safety and security of all residents.

Ocean City, MD

Ocean City, Maryland
Notyourbroom/Wikimedia Commons

Ocean City, Maryland, made the same report that listed Emeryville, CA, and it’s a shame. A city between the Atlantic Ocean and two bays has the sort of geographical appeal you’ll find in many Floridian islands and peninsulas—water all around.

Unfortunately, there is also crime all around Ocean City.

East St. Louis, IL

East St. Louis, IL
David Wilson/Wikimedia Commons

East St. Louis has claimed the nation’s highest per capita (per person) murder rate in recent years. That dubious distinction will land you a spot as one of the most dangerous small towns (though not too small) in the U.S.A.

Alexandria, Louisiana

Alexandria, Louisiana
Robinaire/Wikimedia Commons

Alexandria, Louisiana may be a small town with a population of only 48,000, but it unfortunately reports one of the highest numbers of violent crimes per year. In fact, there were 882 reported incidents in recent years, which is concerning for the safety of its residents.

West Memphis, Arkansas

West Memphis, Arkansas
Nick8282/Wikimedia Commons

West Memphis, located in Crittenden County, Arkansas, has a population of just under 25k people. Unfortunately, the city has been grappling with a significant increase in violent crime rates in recent years. In 2019, the city saw 463 incidents of violent crimes, including homicides, robberies, and assaults. These numbers are concerning, and efforts need to be made to ensure the safety and security of West Memphis residents.

Sauk Village, IL

Sauk Village, IL
Wiszo8/Wikimedia Commons

Near Chicago, IL, and Gary, Indiana, Sauk Village suffers from the same ills as those troubled metropoles. In a recent year, Sauk Village was named the most violent small town in the U.S., with 55 violent crimes per 1,000 residents.

Here’s a possible tagline for the Sauk Village tourism ministry: Small Town, Big Crime.

Utqiaġvik, AK

Barrow, Alaska
Andrei via Wikimedia Commons

Small towns throughout Alaska could make this list, but Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow) sits frigidly north of the Arctic Circle. If the temperatures don’t kill you, the bears might. If the bears leave you alone, the seasonal depression might claim you. Barrow is one of the most dangerous small towns in the U.S., period.

Florida City, FL

Florida City, FL
Xnatedawgx/Wikimedia Commons

Florida City ranked alongside Emeryville, Ocean City, and Sauk Village on one recent ranking of America’s top five most dangerous small cities.

While there are plenty of great people in sunny Florida City, you can sum up the current state of crime in the municipality with one word. That word happens to rhyme with “city.”

Thomson, IL

Thomson, IL
David Wilson/Wikimedia Commons

No facility has a greater concentration of dangerous individuals than a prison. It’s only fitting, then, that we include Thomson, IL, on this list.

Thomson is home to the United States Penitentiary, Thomson, one of the most dangerous federal prisons in the U.S. Even being in proximity to this place is a goosebump-raising prospect.

Jackson, MS

Jackson, MS
Ken Lund/Wikimedia Commons

As a state capital with more than 150,000 residents, Jackson, Mississippi, is different from what you typically consider a small town. Even so, there are 176 cities with more people than Jackson but few with more crime. Unfortunately, Jackson’s per-capita murder rate is among the highest in the nation, making it one of the most dangerous small-big cities in the U.S.

Vallejo, CA

Vallejo, CA
Kiddo27/Wikimedia Commons

Because we are getting towards the end of the list, we are including cities that aren’t “small” but aren’t large. Vallejo, California, has about 125,000 people and a reported 845 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Those aren’t comforting odds.

Pompano Beach, FL

Pompano Beach, FL
ianaré sévi

A beautiful city in South Florida, Pompano Beach is also a relatively dangerous city in South Florida. Seven hundred ninety-three violent crimes per 100,000 people make Pompano Beach a town in which you should always know which neighborhood you are in.

Cocoa, Florida

Cocoa, Florida
Leonard J. DeFrancisci/Wikimedia Commons

In the most recent data provided by the FBI, it was revealed that there were 369 violent crimes reported in the past year in Cocoa, Florida, a city with a population of 17,800 residents. Although this is a concerning statistic, it’s important to note that authorities in the area are taking steps to address this issue and ensure the safety of all residents.

Monroe, Louisiana

Monroe, Louisiana
Wikimedia Commons

With a population just under 50,000, Monroe, Louisiana is primarily an industrial town. Located in the northern part of the state, it’s home to many paper mills and sheet metal plants, among other industries. Unfortunately, it also struggles with a significant violent crime problem. Nearly 1,500 incidents of violent crimes were reported last year, creating concern among residents and authorities alike. Despite this challenge, the city is taking steps to address the issue and make the community a safer place to live.

A Quora Thread inspired this post.

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