Have you ever wondered: what are the most dangerous states in the United States? Sounds like you came to the right place.
The United States is enormous, but I managed to whittle it down to the 15 most dangerous states in no particular order. These include important notes on natural dangers and killer scorpions in the desert to violent crime hot spots.
Keep reading to find out the most dangerous states within the US and which dangers are most prevalent in each state.
Most Dangerous US States: How Is This Determined?
Table of Contents
- Most Dangerous US States: How Is This Determined?
- What Are the Most Dangerous States in the United States?
- 1. Alaska
- 2. New Mexico
- 3. Louisiana
- 4. Arkansas
- 5. Missouri
- 6. Tennessee
- 7. South Carolina
- 8. Michigan
- 9. South Dakota
- 10. Arizona
- 11. Mississippi
- 12. Texas
- 13. Oklahoma
- 14. Montana
- 15. Alabama
- Final Thoughts on the Most Dangerous States in the United States
The United States ranks 131st out of 163 territories on the Global Peace Index. This is because the US average of murders is 6.81 per 100,000 people. To put this in context, Jamaica, which has the highest murder rate in the world, has an average of 52 per 100,000 people.
But homicide isn’t the only way to measure a state’s danger level. Danger can mean a few things; natural disasters, violent crime, and petty criminal dangers were also considered for each state.
To get an accurate view of a region’s potential hazards, the information is put into three categories:
- Property crimes – These are crimes done to a person’s property, including burglary, arson, vehicle theft, and vandalism.
- Petty crimes – These are small offences like pickpocketing, public drunkenness, and speeding that won’t necessarily result in jail time. The most common petty crime in the US is illegal possession of drugs.
- Natural dangers – These include extreme weather phenomena like hurricanes and tornadoes. It also includes things like snakes, scorpions, and other dangerous animals.
What Are the Most Dangerous States in the United States?
Below are the most dangerous states in the US, but don’t let this list deter you from visiting these destinations. Nowhere is perfectly clear of danger, and this guide helps you stay aware of dangers to keep yourself safe while traveling.
Alaska may be the biggest US state, but it’s actually one of the states with the lowest population. And you would think that means a relatively low crime rate, right? Think again.
Because of the large and remote area, the state sees less police presence and resources than other states. Some areas are even unreachable without dog sleds or planes! These isolated areas allow many violent crimes, substance abuse, and sexual assault to slip under the radar.
Many people visit the state because of its natural wonders, like the fjords, glaciers, and snow. But nature can be fickle, too, and the state isn’t unfamiliar with natural disasters like extreme cold, ice jam floods, and landslides. The best way to avoid these is to watch the weather and local warnings before (and while) visiting.
While Anchorage is the state’s most well-known city, Juneau is Alaska’s capital. However, both cities are quite dangerous, with Anchorage having a pretty high violent crime rate. If you do decide to visit this beautiful state, the safest place to visit is Haines — north of Juneau and near Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
2. New Mexico
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Not to be confused with actual Mexico, New Mexico state borders the country. The state is well-known for its diverse landscapes, beautiful rock formations, deep history of indigenous people, and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
While the state is beautiful, it has a high crime rate, with the most prevalent being assault and property offenses. The most dangerous cities within the state include Gallup, Belen, Roswell, and Albuquerque. Roswell and Albuquerque are quite popular amongst tourists and still get thousands of tourists a year.
The natural dangers of the state include heatwaves, wildfires, floods, and landslides. Scorpions are quite prevalent in this state, but the only fatal scorpion is the Arizona Bark Scorpion. These usually hide under rocks and bushes, so they aren’t too common in the cities.
If you plan to visit, consider visiting the capital, Santa Fe (one of the most romantic cities in the US) or Alamos. The state capital has plenty of activities to do, so you’ll have enough things to fill your itinerary, while Alamos is more rural and perfect for a country escape.
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Louisiana, in the South, is known for Jazz music, Cajun cuisine, and Mardi Gras. Of course, the state’s history goes much further than this, with African, French, Spanish, and Native American influences dating back centuries.
Many people visit the Bayou State mainly for New Orleans, set along the Mississippi River. But, while this beautiful city is constantly alive with sweet music, it has a sour underbelly. New Orleans is also one of Louisiana’s most dangerous cities — alongside Monroe, Shreveport, and Baton Rouge.
These cities have a high violent and property crime rate, with New Orleans having the highest homicide rates in 2022. Usually, the most violent crimes happen amongst people who know each other, so tourists are generally safe, but it’s best to be alert to your surroundings.
Louisiana also has occasional natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, and flooding. The most recent big hurricane was Hurricane Ida in 2021, which had 95 fatalities. So, keeping a close eye on the state’s weather and listening for extreme weather warnings if you visit is imperative. Hurricane season is usually from June to November.
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Known for chickens, quirky town names, and relaxing hot springs, Arkansas is a charming state in the south with a little something for everyone.
Unfortunately, the state has a high violent crime rate, averaging 5.8 per 1,000 people. The property crime rate is also high, with most offences being petty (packages are most at risk here). Little Rock, Osceola, West Memphis, and Helena are the most dangerous cities in the state.
Another known danger in Arkansas is its extreme weather, as it is smack dab in the middle of the “Tornado Alley”. Expect between 33 and 37 tornadoes to hit the state in a year. Thankfully, few of these are deadly, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cause injuries, so monitor news and weather channels when here.
While the state has a reputation for being unsafe, there are still plenty of safe places you can visit. Bella Vista, Piggott, and Cave Springs have the lowest crime rates in the state.
You might enjoy reading my article on the most dangerous hikes in the USA.
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You can find Missouri in the Midwest. Its capital, Jefferson City, is quite small and is actually the fifteenth-biggest city in the state. Instead, more well-known cities in the state, like Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield, often catch the limelight.
These big cities are also some of the more unsafe areas in the state, with St. Louis being the most dangerous. The city has a very high homicide rate (the highest in the country), with an average of 68 murders per 100,000 residents, according to 2022 data. However, all three cities see their fair share of muggings, violent crimes, and property crimes.
Missouri is prone to floods, tornadoes, and storms — including ice storms. You can expect blizzards and snowstorms in winter, while summer brings tornado season.
The safest cities in the state are Cottleville and Higginsville. These sleepy towns have a small population, making it more manageable to control the crime rate than in big cities.
You might enjoy reading my article on the most diverse cities in the United States.
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Tennessee is also in the Midwest and pretty close to Missouri. The state is rich in natural beauty, like the Great Smoky Mountains, Fall Creek Falls, and the Mississippi River. So, it’s no surprise it gets so many tourists yearly.
Tennessee’s Gatlinburg is one of the most beautiful towns in America. Unfortunately, Gatlinburg and Memphis have high crime rates. Memphis, in particular, is very high as you have a 1 in 39 chance of being a victim of crime.
The state has a high risk of tornadoes and thunderstorms — especially in spring. In actual fact, Tennessee experiences an average of 14 tornadoes a year.
7. South Carolina
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South Carolina is a beautiful state bursting with color, flavourful food, and southern hospitality. It rests on the Atlantic Ocean, allowing you to soak in the sun on its white-sand beaches.
And, while the state can be a bit dangerous, its crime rate is below the national average. But that doesn’t mean that the state is completely safe. Charleston is relatively safe, with a lower (but not zero) risk of robbery. It is around smaller touristy areas like Myrtle Beach, where mugging and pickpocketing are common.
The state also has a threat of fire, flooding, and hurricanes. The most common hazard is wildfires, with an average of 5,000 fires a year.
Fort Mill is the safest place to visit in the state, but Mount Pleasant, Charleston, and Summerville aren’t too far behind.
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There’s no denying that Michigan is one of the most underrated places to visit on a breakaway. But that may be due to its high crime rates — especially in its largest city, Detroit.
Detroit is one of the most dangerous cities in the US, with a crime rate of double the state average. The biggest crimes in this city are often gang-related, with residents having a 1 in 44 chance of being a victim of crime. If you’re new to the state, avoiding this city is best.
Instead, visit the smaller townships like Grosse Ile, Hamburg, and West Bloomfield for a break from the city. Addison is the state’s safest place to live, with 2022 only seeing three cases of violent crimes.
9. South Dakota
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South Dakota is most well-known as the home of Mount Rushmore and several national parks. This is one of the least populated states, with only 800,000 residents.
Even if you stay away from tourist areas, you still have a 1 in 198 chance of becoming a victim of crime. And, while property crimes declined in 2021, murder rates have risen slightly. Unfortunately, this state also has a very high rate of drunk driving.
Many of the state’s violations happen in Sioux Falls — the largest city in South Dakota. Rapid City, Chamberlain, and Pierre are other cities with high crime rates. If you want to visit South Dakota without much risk, consider staying in safer places such as Brandon, Brookings, and Vermillion.
South Dakota has a low risk of natural dangers. But there are a few to look out for in this state, including floods, fires, tornadoes, and blizzards. These happen throughout the year, so it doesn’t matter when you visit.
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Arizona is one of the most visited places in the United States because of the majestic Grand Canyon.
Unfortunately, this state’s natural beauty also attracts many opportunists. Since there are so many tourists here, pickpocketing and mugging are not uncommon — especially at festivals.
The most dangerous places include South Tucson, Tolleson, and some neighborhoods in Phoenix and Tempe. But you should be fine if you stick to tourist hotspots.
Arizona is in a desert climate, so this adds another layer of safety precautions to keep in mind. For example, these cliffs have many loose rocks that could easily tumble, fall, or cause you to slip. There is also the increased heat that comes with desert temperatures, so remember to stay hydrated as much as possible.
And let me not forget there are a few critters to look out for in this desert climate. These include the Arizona Bark Scorpion, Black Widow spiders, and a few snakes. The best way to stay safe is to be clued up on native animals and book tours with knowledgeable guides.
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Mississippi is a charming state filled with history, culture, and music. This is what draws many people to it. It is the birthplace of Blues music and Elvis, after all. It also has equal amounts of natural beauty as it’s set along scenic trails, state parks, and the river.
Jackson is the state capital and also the largest city. Unfortunately, this city has the highest homicide rate in the state, with 87.8 deaths per 100,000 persons. Overall, the state also has a high risk of muggings. Female solo travelers should also be vigilant as it isn’t all too safe.
Mississippi gets the most natural danger warnings out of all the states on the list. The state can receive anything from fires, heat waves, blizzards, and ice storms. It is also prone to occasional mudslides and floods. The best way to stay safe is to not visit during hurricane seasons from June to November.
That said, the state also has a few safe places to visit. Madison is the safest city in the state, with a small population of only 25,000 residents. The smallest city in the state, Petal is also incredibly safe.
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After splitting from Mexico in the 1800s, the state adopted the nickname The Lone Star State. But, you’ll be anything but alone here as its name also translates to ‘Friendly,’ which local Texans have taken to heart in this friendly corner of America.
However, there are also a few not-so-friendly places in the state as it has a high number of homicides. The most dangerous areas include San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas. Based on 2021 data, Texans are the leading owners of firearms, with over a million residents bearing arms, and it’s legal for anyone over 21 to carry a handgun wherever they go.
There is at least one natural disaster each year in Texas. The state has seen hurricanes, wildfires, sinkholes, and more. However, flooding is most common here.
But Texas isn’t all bad or dangerous — the state capital, Austin, is actually rated one of the safest vacation spots in America.
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Oklahoma is in the South Central region of the US, sitting on top of Texas. The state is best known for its Native American culture and is well worth a visit to learn more about the wonderful tribes residing here. Still today, it has one of the highest populations of Native American residents.
The state has an average of 11.9 homicides per 100,000 persons per year. Cities like Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Del City see the most crimes, with the most prominent ones being property crimes — specifically theft.
Wildfires, tornadoes, and storms are the most common natural hazards here. If a fire starts in the wildfire season around springtime, it can devastate the surrounding land. This is because the fires are more likely to be fueled by dry conditions and strong winds.
The safest places in the state are the close-knit towns of Elgin and Lone Grove. Elgin, in particular, hasn’t had a single violent crime since 2020.
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Most people come to Montana to escape into nature. It isn’t called the “Big Sky Country” for nothing. The state holds immaculate natural wonders like Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and expansive rivers you can enjoy for hours.
While Montana is dangerous, it’s actually one of the mildest states on the list. It’s still high enough to keep it on this list. The most dangerous parts of the state are Billings, Ronan City, and the state capital Helena.
These places have a very high property crime rate, with Billings documenting an average of 4,765 property crimes per 100,000 people. This is even more alarming when considering that these cities have quite a small population, so there is a bigger chance for crimes to affect its people.
If you’re visiting the state for its natural sights, I’d suggest you avoid the cities and visit places like Whitefish and Columbia Falls. These are the safest places to visit while still putting you in a prime position to breathe fresh mountain air. You can also stick to the national parks instead.
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Alabama has deep roots in the Civil War Movement — especially in Montgomery and Birmingham. These cities still have important landmarks, like the Rosa Parks Museum and the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, noting the movement. So, it’s quite unfortunate that Alabama ranks among the most dangerous US states.
The Cotton State’s — as it’s also known — gun violence, property crime, and violent crime are above the national average. The high gun violence statistic also goes hand in hand with 55.5% of Alabamian adults owning firearms.
Fortunately, the state doesn’t have a very high risk of natural disasters, but they can still occur. The state is quite familiar with extreme weather like floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes. Although there’s a lower risk of hurricanes, only around 23 have hit this state since the 1850s.
You can get a taste of the sweet Southern hospitality no matter where you are in the state. But it is especially grand in some of the safest places like Monroeville, Vestavia Hills, and Warrior. As expected, these places have a small population, which helps control crime numbers.
Final Thoughts on the Most Dangerous States in the United States
So, there you have the 15 most dangerous states in the United States of America. Which states surprised you by making the list?
As mentioned above, even though these states are on the list, you should still have them. Many cities and towns within each state are perfectly safe to visit. They also have unique attractions and must-see places on your bucket list, like Arizona’s Grand Canyon, which still sees millions of yearly visitors.
Now that you know which states to be cautious of, why not take a look at the safest cities in the US for a lovely pick-me-up? Perhaps you’ll spot your next holiday destination on the list.