2022 Crime Rates in U.S. Cities Report

Which American cities are experiencing the highest rates of property and violent crime?

By: SafeHome.org Research Published: Jan 19, 2022

It seems there are headlines almost every day about how crime has surged in the United States. But while some types of crimes may have climbed in recent years, perhaps coinciding with the Covid-19 pandemic, a longer view can change perspective. And regardless, what’s true in one state isn’t true in another, and because crime is a hyper-local problem, it’s important to consider the community-level data when attempting to understand crime in the U.S. In 2020 alone, there were over 3.9 million incidents reported to the FBI by local law enforcement agencies. To understand how crime has changed in American cities, we analyzed the past decade’s worth of crime data from the FBI to determine which types of crimes are rising (or falling) in about 3,000 cities with populations of 10,000 people or more.
  • On average, violent crime has climbed by 12 percent in U.S. cities, while property crime has declined by 33 percent since 2010. Robbery rates fell in the average U.S. city by 23 percent, while murder, rape, and aggravated assault all climbed by 25 percent or more.
  • Motor vehicle theft was the only type of property crime to rise in the average city over the past decade, increasing by 48 percent.
  • Out of America’s largest metropolises, Detroit led the nation in both murder and rape in 2020. Seattle had the most reported burglaries, and Memphis, Tennessee had the most larceny-theft incidents.
  • Out of all cities with smaller populations (between 100,000 and 249,999 people), two Louisiana cities had the highest murder rates: Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Two similarly-sized California cities, Richmond and Hayward, topped the list for motor vehicle theft.
  • The murder rate in small cities (those with population levels between 100,000 and 249,999), climbed by more than 80 percent on average between 2010 and 2020.

Crime Trends in U.S. Cities

Though recently released FBI data reveals that the U.S. murder rate rose sharply between 2019 and 2020, taking a longer view of crimes reported in communities across the country shows that about half have seen their overall violent crime rates drop over the past decade. Due to some major increases in a handful of cities, though, the average city saw an increase in the overall violent crime rate of 12 percent. And when we say major increases, we mean it. Three Indiana cities saw their overall violent crime rates climb by 1,000 percent or more — Jasper, Shelbyville, and Warsaw, which had the second-highest increase among cities with available data (the overall violent crime rate there increased by 1,918 percent).
Crime 2020 rate per 100,000 2010-2020 change
Overall violent crime 309 +12%
Murder and manslaughter 5 +26%
Rape 36 +38%
Robbery 51 -23%
Aggravated assault 216 +29%
Among U.S. cities with available data in 2010 and 2020 and a population over 10,000; changes in rape rates were calculated using 2013 data due to a change in how the FBI classified rape
Most types of property crime dropped in the U.S. between 2019 and 2020 (with the exception of motor vehicle theft), and this trend is reflected in the average city. Taking the longer view of city data, overall property crime has declined by about one-third in the cities we analyzed. Average property crime rates, U.S. cities
Crime 2020 rate per 100,000 2010-2020 change
Overall property crimes 1,972 -33%
Burglary 281 -51%
Larceny-theft 1,412 -33%
Motor vehicle theft 205 +48%
Among U.S. cities with available data in 2010 and 2020 and a population over 10,000
You can explore 2020 crime rates for cities with populations of 10,000 or more in our data appendix.

Crime in Large Cities

In the nation’s largest cities, violent crime rose slightly and property crime dropped by double digits over the past decade. This classification of cities in our analysis covered about three dozen communities with populations of 500,000 or more people. The biggest cities in the U.S. tend to have higher crime rates than most other cities in the country, though it’s important to note that a higher crime rate does not necessarily equate to a less-safe community. That said, all cities in the largest population tier had violent crime rates higher than the average city overall, and the majority also had above-average property crime rates. And a few cities have consistently high rates across all crime types.

Violent crimes

When it comes to violent crimes, a few major cities tend to appear near the top of the list for multiple types of incidents. For example, Detroit has the highest rate of murder and rape, while it’s second for aggravated assault, and appears in the top 10 for robbery as well. Similarly, Memphis and Milwaukee also appear in the top three for each crime type, while Memphis has the highest aggravated assault rate among large cities.
2020 violent crime rates in large cities (Populations of 500,000 or more)
Rate per 100k people 831
Percent change 2010-2020 9%
Top 3 cities with highest crime rates (per 100,000)
Murder
Detroit, Michigan 49.7
Memphis, Tennessee 44.4
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 32.4
Rape
Detroit, Michigan 102.5
Denver, Colorado 90.8
Columbus, Ohio 89.5
Robbery
Houston, Texas 373.2
Memphis, Tennessee 327.4
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 326.8
Aggravated assault
Memphis, Tennessee 1,917.10
Detroit, Michigan 1,746.20
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1,164.50

Property crimes

While violent crimes understandably make headlines, property crimes like burglary and car theft are much more common, and this is true in America’s biggest metropolitan areas. As was the case with violent crimes, certain communities tend to dominate the list when it comes to high rates of property crime. Memphis ranked first in both motor vehicle theft and larceny-theft and third in burglary. Albuquerque, Denver, Houston, San Francisco, and Seattle also ranked in the top 10 for each type of property crime among major cities.
2020 property crime rates in large cities (Populations of 500,000 or more)
Rate per 100k people 3,260
Percent change 2010-2020 -25%
Top 3 cities with highest crime rates (per 100,000)
Burglary
Seattle, Washington 1,351.5
Albuquerque, New Mexico 902.9
Memphis, Tennessee 895.8
Larceny-theft
Memphis, Tennessee 3,982.6
Albuquerque, New Mexico 3,225.8
Portland, Oregon 3,211.0
Motor vehicle theft
Denver, Colorado 531.4
Portland, Oregon 574.9
Albuquerque, New Mexico 508.4

Crime in Medium-Sized Cities

Medium cities, those with populations between 250,000 and 499,999, have lower rates of property and violent crimes than their mega-sized counterparts, and in most cases, their crime rates have changed in a more positive direction than bigger cities. As with larger cities, there are a few in the medium tier that tend to top the crime lists, including Cleveland, Kansas City, New Orleans, and St. Louis. These cities appear in the top 10 for most individual crime types.

Violent crimes

St. Louis ranks first for murders and aggravated assaults, and it’s in the top 10 for every violent crime category except for rape. The city’s population-adjusted murder rate is almost double the rate of Detroit, which has more than twice the population of St. Louis. New Orleans, second in murder rate among the cities in this tier, ranks in the top 10 for every crime category, as does Cleveland, while several other cities also make multiple appearances, including Oakland, Cincinnati, and Buffalo.
2020 violent crime rates in medium cities (Populations between 250,000 and 499,999)
Rate per 100k people 690.3
Percent change 2010-2020 2%
Top 3 cities with highest crime rates (per 100,000)
Murder
St. Louis, Missouri 88.1
New Orleans, Louisiana 51.0
Cleveland, Ohio 42.2
Rape
Anchorage, Alaska 194.8
New Orleans, Louisiana 180.8
Reno, Nevada 108.4
Robbery
Oakland, California 566.1
Cleveland, Ohio 420.2
St. Louis, Missouri 416.2
Aggravated assault
St. Louis, Missouri 1433.5
Kansas City, Missouri 1216.8
Cleveland, Ohio 1090.7

Property crimes

Tulsa, Oklahoma leads medium cities for burglary rate, in addition to ranking in the top 10 for all three property crime types. St. Louis leads in larceny-theft and ranks second for vehicle theft Several other cities ranked in the top 10 for property crime rates, including Bakersfield, California, Cleveland, Ohio, Durham, North Carolina, Kansas City, Missouri, Lubbock, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana, Oakland, California, and St. Paul, Minnesota.
2020 property crime rates in medium cities (Populations between 250,000 and 499,999)
Rate per 100k people 2,883.0
Percent change 2010-2020 -26%
Top 3 cities with highest crime rates (per 100,000)
Burglary
Tulsa, Oklahoma 1,095.8
Cleveland, Ohio 973.8
Minneapolis, Minnesota 899.8
Larceny-theft
St. Louis, Missouri 3,895.8
New Orleans, Louisiana 3,138.3
Oakland, California 3,053.7
Motor vehicle theft
Oakland, California 1,532.7
St. Louis, Missouri 1,079.3
Aurora, Colorado 1,018.6

Crime in Small Cities

Small cities, with populations between 100,000 and 249,999, had the slowest increase in the overall violent crime rate over the past decade, though the average violent crime rate and average property crime rate of communities in this category are higher than for the average city. Additionally, cities of this size had the highest average increase in the murder-manslaughter rate, an average jump of 83 percent. Because the tier includes more cities than the previous two combined, fewer communities make multiple appearances when it comes to individual types of crimes, though there are still a handful that tend to be at the top of these lists, including Little Rock, Arkansas, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Springfield, Missouri.

Violent crimes

Two Louisiana cities, Baton Rouge and Shreveport, have the highest murder rates among cities in this tier, though neither of them appear among the top 10 for any other violent crime type. San Bernardino, California leads the tier in robberies, while appearing in the top 10 for aggravated assault and murder. Little Rock, Arkansas also makes three appearances in the top 10 for violent crime categories, leading the population subset in aggravated assault.
2020 violent crime rates in small cities (Populations between 100,000 and 249,999)
Rate per 100k people 463
Percent change 2010-2020 3%
Top 3 cities with highest crime rates (per 100,000)
Murder
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 46.5
Shreveport, Louisiana 37.2
Dayton, Ohio 32.8
Rape
Pueblo, Colorado 176.1
Salt Lake City, Utah 137
Independence, Missouri 119.2
Robbery
San Bernardino, California 337.4
Paterson, New Jersey 293.9
North Charleston, South Carolina 270.6
Aggravated assault
Little Rock, Arkansas 1,535.80
South Bend, Indiana 1,391.50
Rockford, Illinois 1,195.50

Property crimes

Tacoma, Washington is the only city in the population bracket to appear in the top 10 for all three property crime types, though the city does not lead any of the categories. Its highest ranking is in burglaries, where the city is fourth, just ahead of Davenport, Iowa. Salt Lake City, Utah has the highest rate of larceny-theft among cities in the population tier, and its rate is 15th highest among all cities. Two California cities, Vallejo and Richmond, lead the bracket in the other two property crime types, burglary and motor vehicle theft, respectively.
2020 property crime rates in small cities (Populations between 100,000 and 249,999)
Rate per 100k people 2,477.0
Percent change 2010-2020 -29%
Top 3 cities with highest crime rates (per 100,000)
Burglary
Vallejo, California 1,480.5
Springfield, Missouri 1,063.0
Dayton, Ohio 977.2
Larceny-theft
Salt Lake City, Utah 5,503.8
Springfield, Missouri 5,116.2
Chattanooga, Tennessee 4,579.0
Motor vehicle theft
Richmond, California 1,356.8
Hayward, California 1,167.2
Chattanooga, Tennessee 1,140.5

Crime in Extra-small Cities

The average extra-small city, defined as having a population between 10,000 and 99,999, has lower-than-average rates of violent crimes and property crimes when compared to all other cities. However, the average change in the overall violent crime rate for small cities is the highest among all brackets (a 13 percent increase between 2010 and 2020). Including nearly 3,000 cities, this bracket is by far the largest, and as such, only a handful of communities make multiple appearances when it comes to individual crime categories and high rates. College Park, Georgia, Emeryville, California, Henderson, North Carolina, and Laurinburg, North Carolina each appear among the top 10 for three crime categories.

Violent crimes

Given their small population, cities with fewer than 100,000 residents can sometimes be unfairly painted as having high crime rates, and in few ways is that more evident than when examining murder and manslaughter rates for cities in this category. Bogalusa, Louisiana has the highest murder rate of any city we analyzed, while Helena-West Helena and Blytheville, Arkansas and Vinita Park, Missouri aren’t too far behind. And while murders are, unfortunately, not exactly rare occurrences in any of these communities, the four combined had 62 murders in 2020, more than 200 fewer than St. Louis, whose murder rate ranks fifth among all cities behind these four.
2020 violent crime rates in extra-small cities (Populations between 10,000 and 99,999)
Rate per 100k people 283.0
Percent change 2010-2020 13%
Top 3 cities with highest crime rates (per 100,000)
Murder
Bogalusa, Louisiana 140.0
Helena-West Helena, Arkansas 138.8
Blytheville, Arkansas 136.0
Rape
Evanston, Wyoming 285.4
Ypsilanti, Michigan 252.0
Juneau, Alaska 238.1
Robbery
Florida City, Florida 558.1
Emeryville, California 527.3
College Park, Georgia 473.6
Aggravated assault
Monroe, Louisiana 2582.8
Florida City, Florida 2291.6
West Memphis, Arkansas 2164.8

Property crimes

Tukwila, Washington has the highest larceny-theft rate in this category and the highest in the country, while Emeryville, California is a close second on both lists. In both cases, the cities’ high rates of larceny-theft are likely connected to their economic status. Tukwila, in suburban Seattle, has become an important center of commerce, where workers outnumber permanent residents by about two to one1. Similarly, Emeryville is home to the headquarters of Pixar Animation Studios and lies in a corridor between the larger cities of Berkeley and Oakland, California, putting it squarely in Silicon Valley. No cities in this tier appear near the top when it comes to all three types of property crimes, but Emeryville and Tukwila are among the top 10 for two of them, as is South Salt Lake, Utah.
2020 property crime rates in extra-small cities (Populations between 10,000 and 99,999)
Rate per 100k people 1,898.0
Percent change 2010-2020 -33%
Top 3 cities with highest crime rates (per 100,000)
Burglary
Laurinburg, North Carolina 2,690.4
El Dorado, Arkansas 2,071.6
Opelousas, Louisiana 2,060.7
Larceny-theft
Tukwila, Washington 10,745.5
Emeryville, California 9,060.7
Gonzales, Louisiana 9,042.6
Motor vehicle theft
Commerce, California 2,832.1
Fife, Washington 2,757.0
Tukwila, Washington 2,587.5

Conclusion

Many analysts and pundits are making a tremendous amount of hay about the increase in some types of crime in many cities across the country. However, as our analysis indicates, dramatic increases that may have occurred since the pandemic typically vanish when taking a longer view of crime data.

About Our Data

In 2010, the FBI reported crime data for more than 9,300 cities and towns; in 2020, that figure was just under 7,700, which means our analysis does not cover data for every city or town. Also, we have limited our nationwide analysis to communities with a population of at least 10,000 to avoid unfairly skewing crime rate data. We also grouped cities by size to make fairer comparisons. Crime rates and trends vary depending on the size of the community in question, and while many may assume these increases have been driven by big cities, our analysis shows that’s not necessarily the case. For example, while cities overall saw their violent crime rate rise by an average of 12 percent, the increase in large cities, those where at least 500,000 people live, was lower, only nine percent. And while the rate of murder and manslaughter climbed by 37 percent in the average U.S. city, the rate in small cities (those with population levels between 100,000 and 249,999), climbed by more than 80 percent on average.

Methods

In 2020 the FBI estimated crime statistics for the nation are based on data received from 15,875 of 18,623 law enforcement agencies in the country. For this article, we analyzed crime data in thousands of cities as reported in the FBI’s “Crime in the U.S” for 2010, 2013 and 2020. In most cases, to calculate changes in crime rates, we used data from 2010 and 2020, but because the agency changed the definition it used for rape incidents in 2013, we used that year as our starting point for calculating changes in that type of crime.

Limitations

Crime rates reported by law enforcement agencies don’t necessarily take into account every incident that occurs, nor do they reflect the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies. Crime rates are influenced by a broad variety of factors such as population size and density, economic conditions, employment rates, prosecutorial, judicial, and correctional policies, administrative and investigative emphases of law enforcement, and citizens’ attitudes toward crime and policing. This data reflects the hierarchy rule, which requires that only the most serious offense in a case be counted. This report is not exhaustive of all types of crime or crimes that are underreported such as rape, and only cities that reported crime data were included in this analysis.

Appendix

  1. https://www.linkedin.com/company/city-of-tukwila/