In 2019, roughly 379 violent crimes per 100,000 people were reported in the U.S., according to data gathered by the FBI.1 When it came to violent crimes, aggravated assault was the most common offense, followed by robbery, rape, and both murder and non-negligent manslaughter.
Given that not all police departments reliably submit their crime statistics to the FBI, however, it’s difficult to say for sure how many crimes occur in the U.S. every year. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) tracks a slightly different set of offenses, but their findings are consistent with the FBI's. In 2021, the FBI switched exclusively to NIBRS, meaning that police departments would have to submit data via that system or not at all. Many chose the latter. Only 63% of law enforcement agencies submitted data for 2021, the lowest level of participation reported by the FBI in decades.
It appears that from 2019 to 2020, based on the available data, the murder rate in the U.S. rose by nearly 30%, marking the most significant single-year increase ever recorded.2 In 2021, the number of homicides increased by 4.3% but reportedly decreased by a similar amount in 2022.
We analyzed data on "crimes against persons" from the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The FBI’s data comes from both Summary Reporting System (SRS) and National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) reports, which are derived from individual police department data that’s voluntarily submitted. To generate the overall scores of our report, we first determined the prevalence of each crime per 10,000 residents by state; then, we multiplied each incidence by its weighted value and summed the totals. Ultimately, the higher the score, the higher the prevalence of crime in that state.
Crime types and weights:
(Note: We did not include Florida in our analysis because there was no crime data for the specified time period provided to the FBI.)
Regarding Americans’ perception of crime, at least 60% of U.S. adults believe that more crimes are being committed nationally compared to the previous year, but the data tells a different story. Between 1993 and 2019, the rate of violent crime actually fell by 49%, with significant decreases in the rates of robbery (-68%), murder and non-negligent manslaughter (-47%), and aggravated assault (-43%).1
Incomplete data and political posturing haven’t helped to assuage the general public’s misconceptions about the prevalence of crime in the U.S.3 The purpose of our analysis is to provide a more accurate assessment of violent criminal activity in each state.
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The likelihood that an individual will be involved in a crime strongly correlates with the quality of parenting they received. Key factors related to this include attachment, supervision, and discipline, as well as the modeling of deviant behavior. Other factors that increase a person’s risk of criminal activity include poor school performance, delinquent peers, alcohol consumption, and illicit drug use.4
Geographic regions with higher crime rates are often characterized by poverty, unemployment, and income inequality, which can lead to a breakdown in informal social control and concentration of crime. The percentage of women in the labor force and the availability of firearms may also affect the crime rate of a given region.
According to our analysis, the majority of the top ten states with the lowest prevalence of crimes against people are located in the Northeastern states:
And five of the top ten states for most crimes committed against people are located in the Southern United States:
Besides California, New Jersey is stricter on gun control than any other state in the country, which more than likely contributes to it landing at the #1 spot on our list.5 But New Jersey wasn’t the only state with strict gun control policies to make it into our top ten. Other states we identified that are low on crime and high in gun control include:
Many of the states we found to have the highest numbers of crimes against people also have some of the most relaxed gun laws. These states include:
In 2021, there were 48,830 total gun deaths in the U.S., the highest yearly total on record, up 23% from 2019, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center. Along with this uptick in gun deaths among Americans overall, firearm-related fatalities among children and teenagers increased by 46% from 2019 to 2021.6 This statistic includes homicides, suicides, accidents, and all other categories where firearms are listed as the underlying cause of death.
While suicides accounted for 55% of 2021 gun deaths among U.S. adults, homicide was the most prevalent cause among children and teenagers, making up 60% of the total, followed by suicides (32%) and accidents (5%). Boys accounted for 83% of gun deaths among children and teens, with girls making up the remaining 17%.
Nearly half (46%) of all gun deaths among children and teens involved Black victims — despite only 14% of the U.S. population under the age of 18 being Black in 2021 — followed by white (32%), Hispanic (17%), and Asian (1%) victims. Homicides comprised a large majority of gun deaths involving Black children and teens (84%), while suicides accounted for just 9%. Among white children and teens, however, the majority of gun deaths (66%) were suicides, while less than a quarter (24%) were homicides.
Firearm-related fatalities have also been observed in larger concentrations in more socially vulnerable communities, even in states with stricter gun laws and, therefore, less access to firearms.7 For example, the rate of gun deaths was almost six times higher for children living in the most vulnerable neighborhoods with strict gun control compared to those living in the least vulnerable areas of states with minimal gun control.
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The most prevalent type of crime committed against people is assault (91.49%), followed by:
Arkansas had more reported assaults than any other state, nearly 214 per every 10,000 people, while New Jersey had the least, just 43 per 10,000 people; New Jersey also had the lowest number of sex offenses (2.52 per 10,000 people).
Overall, the U.S. crime rate has been steadily declining since 1991, reaching its lowest point on record in 2014. In 2020, however, there was a significant spike in violent crime and certain types of property crime.8 Most notable was the 28.9% increase in murders — reaching an average of 6.5 per 100,000 people. The number of murders rose by roughly the same amount in cities run by both Republicans and Democrats, but poor and historically disadvantaged communities were more significantly affected.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of experiencing a violent crime on the street (measured in crimes per hour spent in public) increased significantly, despite the decrease in the overall number of crimes committed, suggesting a period of lawlessness that isn’t apparent in the raw numbers. But even with this jump, the current murder rate is still nowhere near what it was in the early 1990s (roughly nine per 100,000 people).
Though they do not tell the whole story, two factors that likely contributed to the rising murder rate during this period were the availability of firearms and the rise in socioeconomic instability. More than 75% of murders in 2020 were committed using a firearm, and one-third of the firearms recovered in 2021 were purchased within the previous year. (Roughly half had been purchased within the previous three years.)
Mimicking a similar trend between 2015 and 2016, the national property crime rates reached a record low in 2020. This decoupling of property and violent crime trends could be due to decreased opportunities for theft and robbery during pandemic-related lockdowns. Interestingly, only motor vehicle thefts increased during this period, perhaps due to being more frequently reported than other property offenses. Motor vehicle thefts have also been associated with more serious crimes, such as murder.
In 2020, the U.S. experienced a brief recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic.16 And while many white-collar workers were able to shift to remote work, many of those in the service industry faced extended periods of unemployment. These challenges were likely compounded for people with a criminal record, who were facing a challenging labor market in general. Along with other disruptions caused by lockdowns and social distancing measures, these sudden and unprecedented hardships may have disrupted connections and support networks previously established among neighbors, family members, and employers.
Ultimately, more research is needed to fully understand the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on crime and criminality in the U.S.
Along with being deemed our safest state in the U.S., we also found New Jersey to have the lowest rates of sex offenses, human trafficking, kidnapping, and abductions.
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Most of the other states with lower-than-average rates for these offenses are located along the East Coast or in the South:
New Jersey’s position at the top of our list could be partially due to the state’s ambitious police reform policy, a part of Attorney General Mathew J. Platkin’s “Excellence in Policing” initiative.9 This initiative was developed to promote a culture of professionalism, accountability, and transparency. Platkin based this initiative on a set of four core principles:
Alaska ended up having the highest rates of sex offenses, human trafficking, kidnapping, and abductions. Most of the other states that are high in these offenses are in the Western and Midwestern United States:
In 2021, Alaska’s property crime rate decreased by 17.3%, and violent crime declined by 9.7%, resulting in fewer instances of murder, robbery, rape, and aggravated assault. That same year, following a downward trend that began in 2018, Alaska’s overall crime rate decreased by 15.2%, marking the lowest number of reported offenses since 1975.10
However, despite this progress, Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) women continue to be a particularly vulnerable group in this region, especially in terms of sexual assault and domestic violence.11 Four out of five AN/AI women and girls experience some form of violence in their lifetime, including sexual violence, stalking, physical violence from an intimate partner, or psychological abuse from an intimate partner. This looming trend of crimes perpetrated against AN/AI women could certainly be a contributing factor when it comes to Alaska’s higher rates of sex offenses, human trafficking, kidnapping, and abductions.
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In terms of the highest rates of murder and assault, six of the top ten states are located in the South. This statistic is not, however, an indicator of increased crime rates in general. Alabama, for example, has relatively low rates of sex offenses, kidnapping, and abductions but landed at number five on our list for murders and assaults. Here’s the list of the top ten:
Given that firearms are involved in the vast majority of murders and that, historically, the South has taken a more relaxed stance on gun control than other regions of the U.S., there certainly appears to be a connection between murder rates and the availability of firearms. But more research is necessary to make a definitive assessment.
According to Mental Health America (the nation's leading national nonprofit dedicated to promoting mental health, well-being, and illness prevention), the South is arguably the region with the highest prevalence of mental illness.12 The six measures that make up the organization's prevalence ranking system include:
States near the top of Mental Health America’s list of the overall least healthy states in terms of mental health include:
The three states bordering the Pacific Ocean all landed just shy of our top ten list for the lowest overall crime rate. These states are all also relatively low on Mental Health America’s list:
Despite this, only Oregon made it on our list of states with the lowest homicide and assault rates. The rest of the top ten were located primarily on the East Coast or in the Midwest:
Interestingly, a number of these states were also located near the top of Mental Health America’s rankings in terms of the overall prevalence of mental illness:
Though links between mental illness and violence were suggested in the past,13 more recent research has found that those with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.17
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Homicide, assault, human trafficking, kidnapping, and sex offenses occur most often between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. After that, instances of these offenses steadily decline until picking back up again around 9 a.m.
The location also appears to be a factor.
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Interestingly, bars and nightclubs have a surprisingly low prevalence of violent crime, especially considering the number of people who are typically under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Unfortunately, nearly half of all violent crimes are committed in a residential home. This is likely due, at least in part, to the global prevalence of intimate partner violence. According to data from the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), about 41% of women and 26% of men experience sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.14 Common outcomes of intimate partner violence experienced by the victim include:
When it comes to relationships, more than 61 million women and 53 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner to date. And over a quarter (27.6%) of crimes are committed by offenders listed as “relationship unknown,” while a slightly smaller percentage (21.2%) are committed by strangers. A sibling or child of the victim is the least likely to have committed the offense in question, making up just 1.8% and 2.5% of the total, respectively.
Regarding race and ethnicity, only a slight difference was found between Black and white offenders (44.2% compared to 43.6%), while a somewhat larger gap emerged between Black and white victims (37.6% versus 55.6%). For additional clarification, it should also be noted that when a more accurate option wasn’t available, some Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) and Latinx individuals ended up categorizing themselves as white.
We analyzed data from the FBI’s Summary Reporting System (SRS) and National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) reports to rank the most and least dangerous states in terms of crimes committed against people. We also analyzed different demographics to determine which groups are most likely to commit or be victims of “crimes against persons” and at what times and locations these crimes occur. To reach our overall scores, we first calculated the incidence of each crime per 10,000 residents by state, then multiplied each incidence by its weighted value and summed the totals.
Innerbody Research is committed to providing objective, science-based suggestions and research to help our readers make more informed decisions regarding health and wellness. We invested time and effort into creating this report to increase the health and safety of citizens through information about the prevalence, demographics, and potential causes of violent crime. We aim to reach as many people as possible by making this information widely available. As such, please feel free to share our content for educational, editorial, or discussion purposes. We only ask that you link back to this page and credit the author as Innerbody.com.
Innerbody uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Treisman, R. (2022). Many Midterm Races Focus on Rising Crime. Here’s What the Data Does and Doesn’t Show. NPR.
Stanton, A. (2023). Republican Cities That Have Higher Crime Rates Than New York. Newsweek.
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Kwon, E. G., Rice-Townsend, S. E., Agoubi, L. L., Rowhani-Rahbar, A., & Nehra, D. (2023). Association of Community Vulnerability and State Gun Laws With Firearm Deaths in Children and Adolescents Aged 10 to 19 Years. JAMA Network Open, 6(5), e2314863.
Gramlich, J. (2023). Gun Deaths Among U.S. Children and Teens Rose 50% in Two Years. Pew Research Center.
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Alaska Department of Public Safety Public Information Office. (2022). Annual Crime in Alaska Report Shows 14.5% Decrease in Crime. Alaska Department of Public Safety.
Rosay, A. B. (2016). Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men. National Institute of Justice.
Mental Health America. (n.d.). Ranking the States - 2023. Mental Health America, Inc.
Hiday V. A. (1997). Understanding the connection between mental illness and violence. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 20(4), 399–417.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Fast facts: Preventing Intimate Partner Violence. CDC.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). Crime Data Explorer. FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
Schneider, H. (2021). U.S. recession ended in April 2020, making it shortest on record. Reuters.
Ghiasi N., Azhar Y., & Singh J. (2023). Psychiatric Illness and Criminality. StatPearls Publishing LLC.