The 5 Most Surprisingly Dangerous Big Cities in America

Safety Team
Updated Jan 27, 2021
3 min read

It’s the American dream – a decent job, family, and a home with a white picket fence. More often than not you’ve probably imagined that home in a safe, low-crime neighbourhood, especially if you have children. Chances are that idyllic safe life that you’re envisioning is happening somewhere in a small-town, away from the lights, noise and major crime of the big city – and with good reason.

While statistically-speaking, some big cities in America are surprisingly safe, and smaller cities generally tend to be safer, there are some big cities that are more dangerous than you’d expect. And while violent crime rates in the United States have decreased by half in the past 20 years, many Americans wrongly believe that it’s increased.

Here are some of the most dangerous cities in the US:

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Miami, Florida
  • Houston, Texas


In order to create this list, we looked at the most recent survey by YouGov that found which big cities in the United States that Americans consider to be the safest. Then, using data from the FBI’s 2012 uniform crime report, we explored the incidence of total reported violent crime rates including:

  • Murder
  • Assault
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Motor vehicle theft

We ranked each city according to the incidence of each of the above five crimes, with a heavier weight given to more violent and serious personal crimes such as murder and rape. We adjusted the total rate of crimes to per 100,000 to more easily compare. Totalling the scores when compared to their perceived level of safety, we then determined that the following cities are some of the most surprisingly dangerous big cities in all of America.

Philadelphia, PA

While the majority of Americans report that they believe Chicago is the most dangerous city in America, looking solely at the murder rate per capita, Philadelphia could be considered one of the most dangerous big cities in America with a murder rate of 21.5 per 100,000 people. The majority of Americans ranked Philadelphia middle of the road in terms of considering it safe, with 48% of them considering it either very safe or fairly safe. The city of brotherly love also boasts an assault and robbery rate of more than 500 per 100,000 people.

Dallas/Fort Worth, TX

Considered the safest big city in America according to the YouGov survey, Dallas/Fort Worth is surprisingly unsafe, when you look at their violent crime rates. While the per capita murder rate is lower than the other cities on this list (9.8 per 100,000), the other crime rate markers were comparable to the other big cities on this list. A rape incidence of 43.5 per 100,000 also bumped it up on our list. Given how safe Dallas/Fort Worth is considered by most Americans, it was a surprise to see its crime rates on par with many other of the dangerous big cities.

Atlanta, GA

A total of 52% of Americans say they consider this southern city to be very safe or fairly safe, but the murder rate in the land of peaches isn’t so sweet.With a murder rate of 18.9 per 100,000, it rivals Philadelphia for most surprisingly dangerous big city in America. This is before we even consider Atlanta’s alarmingly high motor vehicle theft rate, with 1178 per 100,000 – that’s nearly 1 in 100 – and assault incidence of 813 per 100,000.

Miami, FL

The land of suntans, bikinis and Spring Break vacations is not as safe as the 44% of survey respondents who say they believe Miami is very safe or fairly safe believe it to be. Third on this list based on its per capita murder rate of 15 per 100,000, Miami also has a high incidence of both assault and motor vehicle theft – 553 per 100,000 and 547 and 100,000 respectively. While it was middle of the road for perceived safety, its crime rates compared to the other big cities polled pushed it up into our top five.

Houston, TX

Another Texan city, Houston is perceived as being very safe or fairly safe by 56% of Americans but boasts a fairly high rate of both assault and motor vehicle theft – 520 per 100,000 and 600 per 100,000 respectively. The incidence of rape in this city is middle of the line with a rate of 30 per 100,000, so while it is overall not the most dangerous city in America, the numbers are surprising given how safe the majority of Americans consider Houston to be.

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