If I would have to guess the most violent states in this nation, my top picks would be, in order, Illinois, California, and New York.  But in fact it was Tennessee that had the nation’s highest violent crime rate last year.

In fact, for the most part violent crime was only up 1 % in 2012 as compared to national statistics from the previous year of 2011.  In fact there as actually been a decline in some of our major crime cities like New York, Dallas and Washington, D.C.  However, the decline has been less so in cities like Baltimore and Detroit, where economic and racial segregation limit the ability of the poor to move into the middle class.

There has been a national trend in this country of an obvious relationship between low income, low education, and higher crime rates.  Most of the reasons that some of the top 10 states made the list were directly due to pockets of very high crime in the largest urban areas.

For example, Maryland has the ninth-highest violent crime rate in the country, it also has the third-lowest poverty rate, the highest median income and one of the highest proportions of adults with a college degree.  The reason for this discrepancy is likely the concentration of high crime in Baltimore.  The Baltimore metropolitan area also had the ninth highest violent crime rate in the country last year and accounted for nearly a third of all the incidents in the state that year.

This list was based on the incidence of the four types of violent crime per 100,000 persons for that year: murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

These are the most dangerous states in America.

10. Oklahoma
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 469.3
> Poverty rate: 17.2%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,401.0 (9th highest)

The number of aggravated assaults in Oklahoma grew by 3.8% in 2012, while they increased just 1.1% nationally.  The rate in 2012 came to 337.3 assaults per 100,000 residents, ninth highest among the states.  The largest cities, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, have struggled with poverty and gang issues.  Oklahoma reported a sharp increase in forcible rape in 2012.   FBI data show 1,588 reported rapes, up 12.6% from 2011 and the most since 1994.  The incidence of rapes per 100,000 residents reached 41.6 last year, the sixth highest rate in the country.

9. Maryland
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 476.8
> Poverty rate: 10.3%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 2,753.5 (25th lowest)

Compared to the national trend, Maryland’s violent crime ranking should be lower.  The number of violent crimes in the state has fallen for seven straight years.  Crime in the city of Annapolis, for example, was up slightly in 2012 but is still at low levels not seen since the mid-1970s.  There were 369 homicides in the state in 2012, down 7.5% from the year before.  But the homicide rate — 6.3 per 100,000 in population — is still the seventh highest in the country.  A big issue for the state is the heavy concentration of violent crime in and around Baltimore, the largest city.  Baltimore’s murder rate — 35 per 100,000 — is the sixth highest in the country.  A total of 217 murders occurred in Baltimore in 2012, up 10.2% from 2011.

8. Florida
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 487.1
> Poverty rate: 17.1%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,276.7 (15th highest)

Supporters of the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law, passed in 2005, believe that that is the reason crime in Florida has been falling.  But crime rates have fallen steadily for 20 years, dropping 43% since peaking in 1993.  Reported rapes have fallen 28.5% since 1993, to levels last seen in 1979.  There were just over 1,000 murders in 2012, up 2.5% from 2011, but the total is down 28% from a 1989 peak.

7. Louisiana
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 496.9
> Poverty rate: 19.9%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,540.6 (5th highest)

The stark reality of crime in Louisiana is reflected in its murder rate: 10.8 per 100,000. That is the worst in the country and 45% ahead of neighboring Mississippi, which has the second-highest rate at 7.4 per 100,000.  Louisiana also has among the highest rates of violent crime and property crime, and the second highest rate of larceny-theft in the nation.  The high crime rates are a reflection of the state’s high poverty rate.  At 19.9%, it is the third poorest state, ahead of only Mississippi and New Mexico.  Of the 495 murders in Louisiana in 2012, 193, or about 40% of the total, occurred in the city of New Orleans alone.  Gun violence is prevalent in the city; some 427 people in New Orleans were shot in 2012, unchanged from 2011.

6. Delaware
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 547.4
> Poverty rate: 12.0%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,340.9 (13th highest)

Delaware cannot be proud that it had the sixth worst violent crime record in 2012.  Most of that ranking is due to high crime rates in the poorest neighborhoods of Wilmington, its largest city. Its aggravated assault rate of 342 per 100,000 was the eighth worst nationwide in 2012.  Its property crime rate was fifth worst.

5. South Carolina
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 558.8
> Poverty rate: 18.3%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,822.2 (the highest)

South Carolina’s 18.3% poverty rate is the ninth worst in the country, and well above the U.S. average of 15.9%.  South Carolina has the nation’s fifth highest violent crime rate.  Its murder rate of 6.9 per 100,000 is the fifth worst in the country.  Its aggravated assault rate is the third worst.

4. New Mexico
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 559.1
> Poverty rate: 20.8%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,600.7 (4th highest)

New Mexico is a poor state.  Its violent crime rate is the fourth worst in the country; its forcible rape rate is also fourth worst.  It has among the highest rates of drug use in the country, which is known to encourage criminal activity.  No wonder that the hit series Breaking Bad was filed and produced in Albuquerque.  Its burglary rate is second worst.

3. Alaska
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 603.2
> Poverty rate: 10.1%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 2,739.4 (24th lowest)

Alaska has among the worst violent crime rates in part because of its forcible rape rate: 79.7 per 100,000 residents, the nation’s highest rate.  (Next is South Dakota, with a rate of 70.2 per 100,000.)  37% of women who live in Alaska report that they were victims of sexual assault.  Alaska is also second in aggravated assaults.

2. Nevada
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 607.6
> Poverty rate: 16.4%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 2,809.4 (23rd highest)

Nevada ranks among the worst in the country for its robbery rate, motor-vehicle theft rate and aggravated assault rate.  It also ranks high in categories like burglaries and forcible rape.  Much of the crime in the state is centered around the casino traffic in Las Vegas and Reno.

1. Tennessee
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 643.6
> Poverty rate: 17.9%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,371.4 (10th highest)

Tennessee has the dubious distinction of having the worst violent crime rate in the country.  The state was among the top 10 in the country for murders and robberies and was first for aggravated assaults, with an estimated 479.6 for every 100,000 residents. Tennessee’s 41,550 violent crimes in 2012 were up 6.8% from 2011 but down 10% from 2007, when there were 46,380 violent crimes.  There were 388 murders in the state in 2012, up for a second straight year. Tennessee’s violence is concentrated in major metropolitan areas.  Memphis’s violent crime rate was the nation’s fifth worst, while Nashville’s was the 18th worst.

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