The United States doesn’t have the highest murder rate in the world. In fact, it’s not even in the top ten. It is still way ahead of many other developed nations though and when you look at the highest murder rate in the US, focusing on the fifty states as well as the biggest cities, then there are a few surprise results.
That’s the purpose of this guide. We have already looked at Murder Rates by Country and even Murder Rates by Race. But throughout those articles the question that you have continued to ask us is “What is the Highest Murder Rate in the US?”. So, without any further ado, let’s get to the bottom of that.
Are the US Murder Rates Falling or Climbing?
In the 1980s and 1990s, the US murder rate was at its highest. In the years leading up to these decades it was also a very violent country in which many were killed with guns, knives and other weapons. These figures began to drop as we moved into the new millennium and that’s a huge positive for all of the country.
However, between 2015 and 2017, those numbers seem to have increased yet again. In some cities they are back to the levels that they were at their worst point during the 1990s. There are a number of reasons for this, including political instability, rising tensions with law enforcement and increased gang activity. If they are not slowed soon, then many US cities could return to the criminal playgrounds that they were during those difficult years in the 80s and 90s.
Murder Rate by State
The last main census regarding the highest murder rate in the US was taken a few years ago in 2014. Based on this information and on the figures coming out over the last few months and years, the states that have the highest rates include Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Maryland and Nevada.
Cities like New Orleans, Las Vegas and Baltimore have always been in the spotlight where homicide rates and violence are concerned, but a few of those states will likely surprise many of you. In most cases, US states had a higher murder rate in the 90s than they do now, with some states being half or a third of the rate they had in the 90s. However, there are a few states where the levels of violence are increasing.
Delaware is the most notable of these. It currently sits in the top ten for the highest murder rate in the US, but in the 90s it was a veritable safe-zone when compared to other states. Others include South Dakota and North Dakota, but in both cases the homicide rates have always been fairly low and it has therefore taken just a handful of murders to send that figure one way or the other.
As for the states with the lowest murder rate in the US, many of them are in New England. New Hampshire is bottom of the list, followed by Vermont, Minnesota and Maine. Hawaii is next and Iowa, Oregon and Massachusetts follow.
Murder Rate by City
The highest murder rate in the US may be Louisiana if you focus on the murder rate by state. But what about the most violent cities? The Detroit murder rate and Baltimore murder rates are considered to be two of the highest, and there are many reasons that this issue is rife here. However, neither of these two cities are in the top five for the highest murder rate in the US.
Below are the five cities that have the highest murder rate in the US, going from the lowest to the highest:
Fifth Highest Murder Rate: New York City
The Big Apple was notoriously violent during the 1990s and was one of the most violent cities on earth. That’s no longer the case and while NYC still makes it high on this list, it’s a paradise when compared to those 1990s figures. Homicide rates are nearly half of what they were and the number of deaths by gun are always down on the whole.
This city is a model for the rest of the country. It shows that a city can clean-up and grow at the same time, and it can do it in a very small space of time.
Fourth Highest Murder Rate: Los Angeles
Gang crime is high in Los Angeles, with some of the country’s fiercest gangs patrolling the streets. This is where a large proportion of gun crime and homicide occurs. However, as with NYC, this crime is much lower than it was in the 1990s. In the decade and a half after the new millennium there have been around a third of the deaths that there were between 1990 and 1999.
Third Highest Murder Rate: Houston
Houston, Texas, is one of the biggest and most active cities in the country. It’s also one that has a high murder rate. The murder rate in Houston is the highest in the Lone Star State and the third highest murder rate in the US. Gang crime is a problem here and it has been for some time, but these figures are down on what they were during the 80s and 90s and that’s a big positive for the natives.
Second Highest Murder Rate: Chicago
The Windy City has always had a high homicide rate. This was the city that birthed some of America’s fiercest and most notorious gangsters, a city that has played host to countless fictional and real life murderers, gang bangers, serial killers and massacres. All of this serves to increase the murder rate in Chicago, with more than 85% of all weapon-related homicides involving guns.
The Chicago murder rate is not the highest murder rate in the United States, but it has the highest percentage of gun crime.
Highest Murder Rate: Philadelphia
This won’t come as a surprise to many, as the City of Brotherly Love hasn’t always lived up to its nickname. It is a city that has faced its fair share of problems over the years, with crime and drug use at an all time high.
As with all cities on this list, the murder rate in Philadelphia during 2000 to 2016 was actually down from the 1990s. However, a higher percentage of those killed were shot. One of the most shocking statistics about the murder rate in Philadelphia is that by the summer of 2017 there had already been more deaths in that year than there had been in any of the previous 5 years. That indicates that the rate could be returning to those previous highs.