The 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Virginia For 2021


We used data and science to identify the most dangerous cities in the Old Dominion for 2021.

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This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. It is our seventh time ranking the most dangerous places to live in Virginia and is updated for 2021.

Apparently there are things more dangerous than being bitten by a blue crab on Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay in Old Dominion: Virginia has its fair share of dangerous cities.

Gone are the days that parents can let their children run wild until the street lights come on. Heck, parents shouldn’t let their kids out of their sight in our most dangerous cities in Virginia for 2021. You must be wondering, how does one navigate these dangerous Virginia cities when trying to make an informed decision on where you should call home?

We did the work for you.

In order to compile our list, we looked at violent crimes and property crimes in cities with a population of 5,000. That left us with 62 cities. Folks, the cities that made our list have robberies happening in broad daylight, car jackings, and daily shootings. There are neighborhoods in these cities that you shouldn’t drive thru and there are areas that you definitely shouldn’t be in after dark. We’re not saying that there aren’t little pockets of goodness in these dangerous cities or that all of the neighborhoods and shopping centers in these Virginia cities are bad. We do recommend, however, that you spend some time studying them before deciding where to plant your roots.

We know it’s not entirely Virginia’s fault. They are the 12th most populous state in the country and the 10th oldest state in the country. With numbers like these, there’s bound to be cities filled with grumpy, entitled people constantly popping off. We’re pretty sure they’re usually harmless, but there are Virginia cities where people are NOT. To see where these Virginia cities with problems are located, take a look below.

The 10 Most Dangerous Places To Live In Virginia For 2021

Portsmouth, VA

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 93,991
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 945 (Most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,861 (Most dangerous)
More on Portsmouth:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

If you thought having a a whole bunch of battleships around would make Portsmouth any safer, think again. Portsmouth ranked #1 in both violent and property crime in Virginia for 2021, with an overall crime rate three times higher than the statewide average.

Residents faced a 1 in 105 chance of being the victim of an attack, murder, or rape reported in 2019, so it’s not a bad idea to keep your guard up on the streets of Portsmouth.

You also want to keep your doors locked in Portsmouth because the city had the highest burglary rate in Virginia, with 846 cases recorded over the year.

Portsmouth is located on the west bank of the Elizabeth River, across from Norfolk.

Galax, VA

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 6,320
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 3)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 458 (Seventh most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,034 (Fifth most dangerous)
More on Galax:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Galax is known as the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it’s also the gateway to a whole lot of crime. The small city of 6,320 had the highest rate of rape cases in Virginia in 2019 — the reporting year.

Property crime also ranked as the fifth highest in the state, with 255 cases. On the plus side, the vast majority of those were just larceny. And a dozen or so car thefts.

All these fact account for part of the reason Galax featured so high up on our list of the worst places to live in Virginia.

Colonial Heights, VA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 17,793
Rank Last Year: 16 (Up 13)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 399 (Tenth most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,046 (Fourth most dangerous)
More on Colonial Heights:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

A part of the Tri-City area a half-hour south of Richmond, Colonial Heights comes in as Virginia’s third most dangerous city for 2021.

Property crime is all too common in Colonial Heights. Residents had a 1 in 24 chance of being having their stuff stolen or damaged in 2019.

It’s not just stolen bikes and a few broken windows either — Colonial Heights also had the fifth highest rate of rape cases in Virginia for 2019.

Petersburg, VA

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 31,273
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 4)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 748 (Second most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,306 (12th most dangerous)
More on Petersburg:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Located just south of the Appomattox River from Colonial Heights, Petersburg has a bigger problem with violent crime than its northern neighbor.

Petersburg experienced 19 murders in 2019, which gave it the highest murder rate in Virginia. Overall, residents faced a 1 in 133 shot of being the victim of an attack over the year.

Makes you wonder if the Petersburg National Battlefield Park is a memorial site or a testament to day-to-day life in Petersburg.

Marion, VA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,593
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 2)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 429 (Ninth most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,005 (Sixth most dangerous)
More on Marion:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

The county seat of Smyth County in western Virginia, Marion is a small town of 5,593. Marion spends far less than the national average on its schools and we wonder if there’s a correlation between that and above-average crime rates.

Or if both statistics just reflect a town without enough resources to adequately serve the community. Population data sure supports that theory, considering Marion’s population has dropped at one of the most rapid rates of anywhere in Virginia.

Whatever the full story is, you’d be well-advised to keep your doors locked in Marion, the place with the third highest burglary rate in Virginia for 2019. There also 184 larceny cases reported, so make sure a black bear doesn’t swipe your wallet at Hungry Mother State Park.

Norfolk, VA

Source: Public domain

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 242,813
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 4)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 545 (Fourth most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,461 (11th most dangerous)
More on Norfolk:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Virginia’s 3rd most populous city, Norfolk, also ranks as the state’s sixth most dangerous city.

Violent crime is especially bad in Norfolk, where residents had a 1 in 183 chance of being the victim of an assault, rape, or murder in 2019. That’s the kind of thing that makes it hard to stop and smell the flowers at Norfolk Botanical Garden.

That being said, Norfolk is a city of 242,813, so if you steer clear of the worst neighborhoods in Norfolk, you should be as safe as houses.

Roanoke, VA

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 99,752
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 3)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 386 (13th most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,412 (Third most dangerous)
More on Roanoke:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Roanoke is the commercial hub of Southwest Virginia and also one of the state’s most dangerous cities.

Property crime is disturbingly high in Roanoke. To give you an idea, a resident living in Roanoke had a 1 in 22 shot of having their stuff stolen or damaged in 2019. And with the fourth highest burglary rate in Virginia, we hope there’s enough security at Roanoke’s museums to stave off any would-be heists.

On top of property crime, Roanoke experienced about one murder a month on average, so keeping your guard up here is just good protocol.

Richmond, VA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 230,721
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 5)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 462 (Sixth most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,499 (Tenth most dangerous)
More on Richmond:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Richmond isn’t just Virginia’s capital city — it’s also the eighth most dangerous place to call home in the Old Dominion. Richmond has been making strides in combating violent crime in recent years, but it still ranks as the sixth most violent place in the state.

That includes 55 murders, giving Richmond the fourth highest murder rate in Virginia. So while you can spend a nice day out at Maymont Park, you’d be well-advised to get home before dark.

On the bright side, if you stick to Richmond’s safest neighborhoods, you should have less to worry about.

South Boston, VA

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 7,601
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 368 (15th most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,459 (Second most dangerous)
More on South Boston:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

You might think that crime is a bigger problem in Boston, Massachusetts, but South Boston, Virginia has much more criminal activity per capita.

A town of 7,601 located in south-central Virginia, SoBo had the second highest overall crime rate in Virginia, about 2.5 times higher than the statewide average. Talk about a lot of work for the South Boston Police Department.

Most of that’s down to property crime, which residents had a 1 in 22 chance of being the victim of in 2019. South Boston did have the second highest burglary rate in the state, after all.

It’s not just petty theft going on in South Boston, either — the town also had the second highest murder rate in Virginia.

Newport News, VA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 177,319
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 595 (Third most dangerous)
Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,528 (17th most dangerous)
More on Newport News:  | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Located on the peninsula side of Hampton Roads in the Tidewater region of Virginia, Newport News ranks as the state’s tenth most dangerous city.

While Newport News is home to a the Virginia War Museum, the real violence is going down on the city’s streets. Folks in Newport News had a 1 in 167 chance of being the victim of a violent crime in 2019.

On the bright side, property crime in Newport News ranks as the lowest on this list. Now if they could cut down on aggravated assaults, they’ll be off this list by next year.

Graphing The Most Dangerous And Safest Places In Virginia

Most Dangerous Cities In Virginia Graph

Click To Enlarge

How we determined the most dangerous cities in Virginia for 2021?

Every year the FBI release two crime datasets, a preliminary dataset limited to the biggest cities in the country, followed by a more detailed release at the end of the year.

For our analysis, we focused on the JUST released 2019 data, specifically the 2019 Crime In The United States Report. We will update the results when data becomes available in September 2021.

So what criteria did we use? Have a look:

  • Violent Crimes Per Capita
  • Property Crimes Per Capita

In order to make the analysis as apples to apples as possible, we only considered Virginia cities over 5,000 in population. That left us with 62 cities in Virginia.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 62 for the two criteria with a #1 ranking being the most dangerous for the particular criteria.

Next, we averaged the two rankings into one “Dangerous Index”.

Finally, we ranked every city on the “Dangerous Index” with the lowest index being the most dangerous in Virginia — Portsmouth. Any ties went to the smaller city. You can download the data here.

Read on for a detailed look at the 10 most dangerous cities in Virginia.

Locking It All Up In Virginia

So what is the most dangerous city in Virginia? After analyzing 62 cities in Virginia, Portsmouth takes the top spot as the most dangerous city in Virginia based on the most recently reported FBI data — 2019.

The latest FBI crime data shows that Portsmouth ranks as the most dangerous city in Virginia for 2021.

We want to point out again that there’s still safes places in Portsmouth and that this isn’t a comment on the people that live there. So please don’t beat us up.

What are the circumstances that make cities this way: not enough jobs, low wages, people just don’t want to work, prisons, drugs; and in Virginia’s case, road rage caused by Washington, D. C’s. rush hour?

We’re not entirely sure. But one thing we are sure about is our number one most dangerous city in Virginia is Portsmouth.

The Virginia cities on our most dangerous list could definitely use some TLC. If you’re looking for a challenge, or you’re just curious to see if your city made the list, take a look at our list below. And if you don’t see your city there, head to the bottom.

Learn more about the safest places in Virginia.

If you’re looking for something more national, check out the most dangerous cities in America or the most dangerous states in America.

Here are the safest cities in Virginia:

  1. Vienna (Pop. 16,660)
  2. Dumfries (Pop. 5,265)
  3. Falls Church (Pop. 15,008)
  4. Manassas Park (Pop. 17,602)
  5. Fairfax City (Pop. 24,689)
  6. Blacksburg (Pop. 44,948)
  7. Lexington (Pop. 7,107)
  8. Buena Vista (Pop. 6,156)
  9. Purcellville (Pop. 10,346)
  10. Bridgewater (Pop. 6,167)

For more Virginia reading, check out:

The Most Dangerous Cities In Virginia

Rank City Population Violent Crimes Per Capita Property Crimes Per Capita
1 Portsmouth 93,991 945 5,861
2 Galax 6,320 458 4,034
3 Colonial Heights 17,793 399 4,046
4 Petersburg 31,273 748 3,306
5 Marion 5,593 429 4,005
6 Norfolk 242,813 545 3,461
7 Roanoke 99,752 386 4,412
8 Richmond 230,721 462 3,499
9 South Boston 7,601 368 4,459
10 Newport News 177,319 595 2,528
11 Martinsville 12,726 518 2,695
12 Pulaski 8,683 391 3,201
13 Chesapeake 243,726 456 2,273
14 Danville 40,191 278 3,650
15 Vinton 8,110 332 2,392
16 Hampton 133,173 295 2,999
17 Emporia 5,000 239 3,900
18 Bristol 16,234 320 2,390
19 Suffolk 91,486 295 2,476
20 Farmville 7,830 395 2,132
21 Lynchburg 82,512 382 2,183
22 Franklin 7,899 202 3,696
23 Charlottesville 48,453 324 2,319
24 Hopewell 22,461 333 2,137
25 Winchester 28,201 283 2,329
26 Richlands 5,198 307 1,923
27 Woodstock 5,267 189 2,373
28 Waynesboro 22,711 250 2,091
29 Bedford 6,588 136 3,005
30 Ashland 7,916 240 1,995
31 Orange 5,092 294 1,590
32 Staunton 24,931 204 1,897
33 Harrisonburg 54,387 205 1,698
34 Smithfield 8,485 200 1,767
35 Manassas 41,850 246 1,488
36 Front Royal 15,336 182 1,910
37 Herndon 24,693 259 1,093
38 Christiansburg 22,700 136 2,052
39 Wytheville 7,909 63 2,478
40 Culpeper 18,873 169 1,801
41 Salem 25,590 89 2,184
42 Covington 5,372 93 2,159
43 Radford 18,487 243 968
44 Alexandria 162,258 177 1,551
45 Virginia Beach 449,038 129 1,760
46 Leesburg 55,461 183 1,027
47 Williamsburg 14,965 147 1,316
48 Strasburg 6,686 179 987
49 Warrenton 9,977 140 1,092
50 Poquoson 12,126 189 750

How Is Your Town In ?

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.