Do you live in one of the most dangerous cities in Virginia?
We all watch the news and see reports on Facebook of the latest crimes that happen in our home towns. But it can be hard to tell at a big picture level how dangerous our town actually is.
In order to help Virginians — and future Virginians — know just how close they are to danger, we took data from the annual FBI report and did some serious data analysis.
The data shows that these ten places are currently the most dangerous in Virginia:
- Portsmouth (Photos)
- South Boston (Photos)
- Norfolk (Photos)
- Roanoke (Photos)
- Emporia (Photos)
- Richmond (Photos)
- Franklin (Photos)
- Petersburg (Photos)
Read on for a detailed explanation of the data and analysis we used in creating this ranking, along with more information on the top ten places.
How We Determined The Most Dangerous Places In Virginia
While there are surveys and public polls on what cities in a state are the most dangerous, we didn’t want to rely on speculation and opinion. Instead, we looked at the hard numbers from the FBI’s last three years of reporting.
Specifically, we analyzed the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report which summarizes the number of property crimes and violent crimes in each city per year.
Violent crimes are defined as rapes, murders, robberies and aggravated assaults.
While we had data on every single place in the state, we only analyzed places with populations of more than 1,000 people as of 2013, which is the last year the report was available.
In our opinion, rate statistics become too variable for places with under 1,000 people where one violent crime can swing a places rank dramatically.
This left us with a total of 132 places in Virginia to rank.
Finally, we made 2013 factor more heavily than 2012, and 2012 more heavily than 2011, since more recent crimes are a bigger factor in determining how dangerous a place is now.
If any places tied, we used the violent crime rank as a tiebreaker.
You can see our overall ranking at the bottom of the post.
We must note that this report is not an analysis of the effectiveness of local police departments. It simply states where crimes occurred most frequently.
Violent Crime Rank: 2Property Crime Rank: 2
Portsmouth claims the dubious distinction as the most dangerous place in Virginia according to our analysis.
Home to a large navy facility and, it’s name sake, a large port, these institutions may contribute to the to large incidence of crime.
For the past 3 years of available data, Portsmouth ranked second in both violent crimes and property crimes. Residents had about a 1 in 18.7 chance of being a victim of a property crime in any one of the past three years.
2. South Boston
Violent Crime Rank: 9Property Crime Rank: 3
South Boston is a relatively small town in the southern part of the state, but with an outsized amount of property crime. For a town of only 8,000 people, it registers about 400 property crimes per year, although that number has been falling over time.
The main attraction in the town is the South Boston Speedway and it’s not too far of a stretch to think that the visitors for races contribute to the crime rate in the city more so than the full time residents.
Violent Crime Rank: 3Property Crime Rank: 12
Just on the other side of the Elizabeth River from Portsmouth, Norfolk comes in 3rd on our list of most dangerous cities in Virginia.
Kind of like a semi, underachieving older brother, Norfolk has slightly less violent crime per person and substantially less property crime per person.
Again, the large incidence of crime in this city can probably be attributed to the outsize number of people coming through the port. And, like all cities, there are rougher sections and nicer sections.
Violent Crime Rank: 4Property Crime Rank: 11
Appalachia is the smallest place on our list, with only 1,728, but it packs one heck of a punch.
It’s violent crime rate resembles something more like a big city than the small town that it is.
The crime mentality runs into politics in this small town too as it had to deal with election fraud dealing with the town mayor and head of the police department about a decade ago.
Violent Crime Rank: 6Property Crime Rank: 9
Roanoke is the principal municipality of the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area and it’s also the principal location of crime in the area.
Coming in at number 5 on our list of most dangerous places in Virginia, residents of Roanoke had a 1 in 19.36 chance of being the victim of a crime.
Acting as a commercial hub for Southwest Virginia, the freight rail industry is a major component of Roanoke’s economy. This industry may also contribute to the higher than average crime rate of the city.
Violent Crime Rank: 8Property Crime Rank: 7
Unlike the last three places on the list, Emporia actually ranks higher for property crime per capita than it does it for violent crime per capita.
While it is a known speed trap with rigorous enforcement of speeding laws, it is also a relative hot bed for the occurrence of crime.
As the FBI aggregates crime data based on reporting from local municipalities, it wouldn’t surprise us if Emporia ranks highly simply because the police department does an excellent job of reporting crimes that occur within its city limits.
Violent Crime Rank: 1Property Crime Rank: 15
Not only is Richmond the capital of Virginia, but it’s also the violent crime capital of the Old Dominion.
Richmond has been dealing with violent crime since the mid 1980s when it experienced its first spike in murder rates. It has, successfully, been dealing with the problem ever since and has seen its violent crime rates drop over the past 15 years.
That being said, it still has the most violent crimes occur per resident of any place in Virginia with a rate of .0063 violent crimes per person (631 per 100,000 people).
Violent Crime Rank: 16Property Crime Rank: 4
Franklin comes in 8th on our list of the most dangerous places in Virginia due to it’s significantly above average rate of property crime per capita.
For a relatively small town, Franklin has had an extensive amount of industrialization over the past 100 years due to it being the previous headquarters of Camp Sawmill. This level of industrialization may contribute to the higher occurrences of crime within the city.
Violent Crime Rank: 5Property Crime Rank: 22
Petersburg ranks number nine on our list because of the prevalence of violent crime within the city.
It is an important transportation hub in the state of Virginia. It houses both CSX and NX rail systems, in addition to being a stop for Amtrak. There are also a plethora of major interstate highways that run through the city.
The sheer volume of people passing through the city probably contributes to the high occurrence of violent crime within the city.
Violent Crime Rank: 32Property Crime Rank: 1
By far the hardest place to pronounce on our list, Tappahannock just cracks the top ten most dangerous places in Virginia due to the highest property crime rate in Virginia.
With 123 property crimes reported in 2013 for a town of only 2,398, Tappahannock residents had a greater than 5% chance of being the victim of a property crime.
The good news? The number of crimes is down over 15% from the year prior when 146 property crimes occurred.
Wrapping It Up
While it might feel like your city is dangerous, you can take solace in the fact that even the most dangerous place in Virginia really isn’t all that dangerous.
With only about a 5% chance of being the victim of a crime in any given year, you can stay safe simply by being smart about where you are and what you are doing.
We also wrote about the 10 most redneck cities in Virginia if you’re interested in that one.