Some states get a bad rap. New York is actually fairly pleasant and safe, as long as you’re not showing off your new solid gold watch in some back alley of Harlem at 3:00 AM. California has incredible wilderness preserves and lovely beaches, but outsiders often seem to fixate upon Los Angeles and its widely publicized gang warfare. However, when you really take a close look at all of the facts, many often-demonized states actually end up looking pretty benign.
On the other hand, some states don’t have quite as bad of a rap as they deserve. These are the places that seem innocuous enough, but once they’ve lured you in with their low housing costs and rich cultural history, you quickly find out that “stabbings” is a local attraction that was never mentioned in any of the travel brochures. These are the kind of places where a home security system is a necessity. So, to help set the record straight, here’s a countdown of the five most dangerous states in the country.
5. South Carolina
Surprising, isn’t it? Well, not if you’re aware of the relationship between poverty and crime. South Carolina's poverty rate is nearly three points above the national average, and this results in an increase in violent crimes. Couple that with the fact that only about 1/4 of its residents possess a college education, and you’re left with a place that is far more dangerous than most people give it credit for.
4. New Mexico
Hey, what do you get when you combine low employment, high poverty, and a local economy that is absolutely thriving on illegal drug sales? The answer is violent crime. Few states are able to understand this correlation quite as well as New Mexico. Whether you’re talking about murder, rape, aggravated assault, or any grotesque combination of the three, New Mexico makes the list.
Seriously? Alaska has low poverty rates, a high number of college graduates, and above average employment, so why is it that it ends up number three on this list? Well, the answer is rape. Lots and lots of rape. In fact, Alaska has the highest rape rate of any state in the country. Other than that, the overall crime rate is actually pretty low... which really isn’t much comfort in the face of all that rape.
Invariably, when people think about Nevada, their minds drift to wild days and hazy nights throwing money away in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas, as Nevada’s rates for aggravated assault, vehicle theft, and outright murder are highly—and negatively—influenced by the crime that invariably surrounds casino cities. So the next time you decide to try your luck in Nevada, you might be gambling with more than just the money in your wallet.
Here it is, the most dangerous state in the country: Tennessee. Cultural treasures aside (yes, we’re referring to Graceland), Tennessee has more aggravated assaults than any other state and is no slouch when it comes to murders and robberies either. The upside is that most of these crimes take place in just a few cities, leaving the rest of the state relatively safe. Of course, that’s not really an upside at all if you happen to live in one of those cities. Places like Memphis and Nashville are bad enough to bring the entire state all the way down to the number-one spot on this list.