There isn't a single metric for determining the most dangerous cities in the world. Still, the annual number of homicides per 100,000 people is a decent substitute. First, people tend to be more concerned about homicides than other crimes. Second, comparing cities is meaningless without an equitable basis on which to do so. Strangely enough, the overwhelming majority of the cities with the highest annual number of homicides per 100,000 people exist in the western hemisphere.
What Are the 20 Most Dangerous Cities in the World in 2022?
Here are what WorldAtlas considers to be the 20 most dangerous cities in the world based on the annual number of homicides per 100,000 people:
20. Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil - 52.47 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Vitoria da Conquista isn't one of Brazil's more notable cities. For proof, consider how some call it Conquista to differentiate it from the city of Vitoria over in the state of Espírito Santo. Unfortunately, Vitoria da Conquista has a reputation for violence earned over time. It isn't the worst of Brazil's cities in this regard. Even so, it is bad enough to place on this list.
19. Caracas, Venezuela - 52.82 Homicides Per 100,000 People
UNHCR states that Venezuela is still in crisis. Its people cannot count on access to the necessities of life. Unsurprisingly, that doesn't make for the most stable of environments, as shown by the reports of widespread violence. The Venezuelan capital of Caracas isn't exempt from this. As such, it continues to see high rates of murder and other violent crimes. It is not a good idea for foreigners to visit either Caracas or the rest of Venezuela right now.
18. Acapulco, Mexico - 54.13 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Strictly speaking, Acapulco is Acapulco de Juarez. However, most people call it Acapulco for the sake of convenience. Less than a decade ago, it was still a popular destination for American tourists. Nowadays, most visitors come from within the country because of a surge in murders and other violent crimes since the mid-2010s. As reported by CNN, the situation is so bad that higher authorities detained and disarmed Acapulco's police force in 2018 because of concerns of criminal infiltration.
17. Kingston, Jamaica - 54.46 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Kingston is the Jamaican capital. As such, it is home to more than a million people, thus making it the most populous predominantly English-speaking city south of the United States. People visit Kingston for a wide range of reasons. One of those reasons is tourism despite the city's high crime rates. Supposedly, most of the crime happens in places tourists tend to avoid, thus explaining that.
16. Baltimore, United States - 56.45 Homicides Per 100,000 People
The United States has not one but two places on this list. First, there is Baltimore, a city with a long-running crime problem. Curious individuals should know that it is no coincidence that the city was the setting for The Wire in the 2000s. Like other cities on this list, most of Baltimore's crime happens in poorer neighborhoods. In 2020, Maryland Matters mentioned that the city continues to have a higher than average poverty rate for the United States at 21.8 percent of the population.
15. Zacatecas, Mexico - 59.22 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Confusingly, Zacatecas refers to both the state and the state's capital. On top of that, it refers to a group of indigenous peoples in the region. The Spanish conquered what would become Zacatecas because of its mineral riches. Thanks to those mineral riches, the state became one of the wealthiest in Mexico for a time. Sadly, Zacatecas is now much more troubled. Even worse, its problems are state-wide.
14. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela - 62.1 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Venezuela's problems are by no means limited to Caracas. Ciudad Guayana is the most populous city in Bolivar state in the country's southeast. It is one of Venezuela's most important ports because it is the hub by which Bolivar state ships its manufactured goods. Instability has exacted the same toll on Ciudad Guayana that it has elsewhere in the country.
13. Mossoro, Brazil - 62.21 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Mossoro has one of the highest murder rates in Brazil. Chances are good that interested individuals can guess that it also has high levels of assault and other violent crimes. Mossoro doesn't get as much attention as some of its counterparts because it sees little traffic from foreigners who tend to stick to more familiar places.
12. Fortaleza, Brazil - 62.28 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Fortaleza is one of Brazil's more important economic centers. After all, it is the port closest to Africa and Europe. The problem is that said factor makes it attractive to not just businesses but also organized crime, as shown by this rash of violence reported by The Guardian in 2019. Under these circumstances, Fortaleza is not a safe place to be.
11. Cumana, Venezuela - 62.42 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Cumana has a long history. The Spanish founded it in 1515. Subsequently, the Spanish had to re-found it several times because of successful attacks by indigenous peoples. Even when that became less of an issue, Cumana was devastated by earthquakes on multiple occasions. Despite those unpromising beginnings, the city persevered to become a regional center of commerce, education, and domestic tourism. The last decade has been much less kind to Cumana.
10. Cape Town, South Africa - 64 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Cape Town is the only city on this list that isn't in the Americas. Instead, it sits on the northern end of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa. Judged as a whole, Cape Town is an important city for the country and the world. Despite that, it struggles with drugs, drug-related crimes, and other gang-related crimes. Most such incidents happen in Capetown's poorer townships.
9. Feira de Santana, Brazil - 67.46 Homicides Per 100,000 People
It seems safe to say that the Brazilian state of Bahia has a crime problem. Its third most populous city Vitoria da Conquista is already on this list. Now, its second most populous city Feira de Santana is also on this list. The number nine position on this list is more than enough to make the city the most dangerous in that country.
8. Uruapan, Mexico - 72.59 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Uruapan predates the Spanish Conquest. Economically, it is famous for being the heart of Mexico's avocado-growing region. As a result, avocadoes go to Uruapan before being shipped out to national and international destinations. The issue is that the city also sits on several drug trafficking routes, thus making it a hotly-contested prize for organized crime.
7. St. Louis, United States - 87.83 Homicides Per 100,000 People
St. Louis has the dubious distinction of being the deadliest city in the United States by a considerable margin. Said position isn't a new thing. Instead, St. Louis has held it since the mid-2010s. It is interesting to note that the situation might not be as straightforward as it seems. Essentially, The New York Times reported that St. Louis is unusual in that it has annexed fewer suburbs than most of its counterparts. These choices have two important implications. One, most St. Louis crime is concentrated in a small number of places. Two, St. Louis represents a smaller portion of its metropolitan area's total population than most of its counterparts. As such, the city's crime situation isn't necessarily as bad as it seems. If St. Louis had annexed more suburbs, its crime statistics would be better because suburbs add more population while adding crime at a reduced rate.
6. Ensenada, Mexico - 90.58 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Ensenada has several characteristics that make it similar to other cities mentioned on this list. For example, it is an important trade hub, so much so that its port is the second busiest in Mexico. Likewise, it has a reputation for being a resort town built up in previous decades. Some of these things remain true. Others have not because of the surge in crime throughout much of Mexico.
5. Irapuato, Mexico - 94.99 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Irapuato isn't one of Mexico's most famous cities. If anything, it is mid-sized. In practical terms, Irapuato has some importance but tends to be overshadowed by bigger, better-known counterparts. Still, InSight Crime makes it clear that it hasn't escaped the trend responsible for putting eight Mexican cities in the top ten on this list. Once upon a time, Irapuato was safe. Then, organized crime found it worthwhile to start fighting for the area's illicit oil. Their presence has since caused a wide range of other illegal operations to spring up, thus worsening the situation.
4. Ciudad Obregon, Mexico - 101.13 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Ciudad Obregon is named for Alvaro Obregon. He was a notable figure in the Mexican Revolution for several reasons. First, Obregon was a surprisingly good general even though he was an untrained soldier. He beat Pancho Villa and Adolfo de la Huerta. Second, Obregon had the first stable presidency since the Mexican Revolution. Thanks to that, he exerted immense influence over education, land ownership, and even national identity. As for why the city that bears Obregon's name suffered such high murder rates, it shouldn't be too hard to guess. Simply put, there is a war between rival criminal organizations going on.
3. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico - 103.61 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Meanwhile, Ciudad Juarez is the most populous city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It is so close to the U.S.-Mexican border that it and its northern counterpart El Paso form a single metropolitan area. Such proximity makes Ciudad Juarez a strategic point for organized crime. Every other city on this list with strategic value for organized crime has seen rival criminal organizations fighting over them. Ciudad Juarez is no exception to this rule. Besides this, the city has an extra-bad reputation for violent crimes targeting women.
2. Tijuana, Mexico - 105.15 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Speaking of which, Tijuana is another border city. Indeed, it is the single most visited border city in the world. In part, that interest comes from Tijuana's reputation for entertainment. However, the city has long since become a cultural powerhouse in Mexico and beyond. Simultaneously, Tijuana is a manufacturing hub specializing in medical devices and other valuable products. Unfortunately, it is one of the many cities with high economic inequality on this list. Poverty plus profit-making potential for organized crime make for a volatile mixture. There is an incentive for criminal organizations to fight. Moreover, there are people for them to exploit, recruit, and otherwise use up.
1. Celaya, Mexico - 109.38 Homicides Per 100,000 People
Celaya is nowhere near as well-known as either Ciudad Juarez or Tijuana. There was a time when people might have been most familiar with it because of its vehicle manufacturing industry. Recent years have seen that change. Essentially, several smaller Mexican cities have seen their murder rates skyrocket. Among them, Celaya was hit the hardest, thus explaining its number one position on this list. The crime waves in these smaller cities often happen because of clashes between national criminal organizations and their local counterparts. Even so, the fighting is fierce. Otherwise, Celaya and other smaller Mexican cities wouldn't have overtaken bigger counterparts in other countries on this list. There is no telling how long this state of things will last. Certainly, the last change of policy doesn't seem to have produced the desired change in results.
Written by Liz Flynn
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