We might all be in danger of an ever-looming nuclear threat and environmental meltdown, but on a day to day basis, we’ve never been safer. Life expectancy is increasing, homicide rates are decreasing, and, thanks to medical advancements, most people can now expect to live to a ripe old age without experiencing too many issues along the way. Well, they can in certain parts of the world. In others, it’s a struggle just to survive, with homicides, assaults, rape, and other violent crimes ranking as a depressingly mundane daily occurrence. In reverse order, we take a look at the 20 most dangerous cities in the world- visit at your own risk.
20. Ciudad Juarez
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 56.16
Liberia Wire states “There is a serious risk from crime in Ciudad Juarez’… and with a homicide rate of 56.16 per 100,000 residents, they aren’t kidding. Carjacking, theft, and burglary are all so common as to be almost mundane, while cartel/ gang-related incidents are at almost epidemic levels. In an interview with El Paso Times, Juárez Mayor Armando Cabada attributed the ever-increasing number of murders to a change in Mexican penal code that has caused a “revolving door” effect. “Instead of being in jail, criminals are back in the streets and up to their old ways,” Cabada said, adding that drug traffickers are often released within just a few hours of their arrest.
19. Feira de Santana
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 58.81
Feira de Santana is a town under siege. With a population of 627,477, the town suffers from a frightening 369 homicides per year, and the rates are increasing almost by the day. “Why has violence gone up?” Francine Farias, a community leader in Loteamento Alameda das Árvores, said to the Guardian. “Why have weeds overtaken your backyard? It’s because you didn’t eradicate them, so of course, they’ll grow. Have we eradicated crooks in Brazil? No!”
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 58.88
In 2016, Aracaju may have been bustling with athletes training for the 2016 Olympics, but these days, it’s more a center for hardened criminals than it is world-class athletes. As 24 Wall Street notes, the rate of violent crime has reached such a critical point that the Federal Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Brazil has selected Aracahu as one of three cities to be part of a new diktat that will see the National Force take control of the district’s policing.
17. San Salvador
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 59.06
El Salvador ranks as one of the most violent countries in the world, and it's capital, San Salvador, as one of its most violent cities. The explanation behind the capitol’s extraordinary high homicide rate of 59.06 per 100,000 is depressingly familiar: drugs. While most of the violence centered around the country’s multi-billionaire dollar drug trade is gang-related, it’s inevitable that civilians get caught up in the crossfire, making the city an inhospitable battleground for local residents.
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 59.71
While there are certainly more dangerous places to live than Kingston, it still ranks highly in the list of most dangerous cities in the world, largely as a result of the various heavily armed gangs roaming its streets.
15. Cape Town
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 62.25
Violent crime in South Africa may have peaked in the 1990s, but Cape Town is still considered one of the most violent cities in the world thanks to a homicide rate of 62.25. Most violent crimes tend to be centered around the poorer areas of Nyanga (which experiences 217 homicides per year]), Khayelitsha
(125 per year) and Gugulethu (150 per year), but regardless of neighborhood, personal security is an ongoing concern for all Cape Town residents, while the entrenched gang culture makes the tourist mecca dangerous enough to reach number 15 on our list.
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 63.94
“Candy-colored historic homes set a cheerful tone in Maceio, whose bustling downtown abuts powdery beaches straight from a postcard”... so says Trip Advisor, whose flattering description of the Brazilian city paints a very different picture to the one presented by The Brazil Business, which ranks Maceio as one of the worst cities in Brazil for crime.
13. St. Louis
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 65.83
Visit St Louis and you’ll find plenty of things to keep you amused. Some top entertainment includes taking a 630-foot ride to the top of the world-famous Gateway Arch, cheering on the St Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, enjoying some thrilling rides at the Six Flags St. Louis theme park, and checking out a creature feature at the Saint Louis Zoo. If you’re exceptionally lucky, you might be able to enjoy all these attractions and more without getting caught up in those other top St Louis pursuits of muggings, assaults, rapes, gang violence, and homicide. If you’re lucky. Unfortunately, 65.83 in every 100,000 aren’t.
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 70.10
Situated about an hour inland from the Pacific coast, Culiacan, the capital city of the Northwestern Mexican state of Sinoaloa, maybe within spitting distance of some of Mexico’s tourist hotspots, but it’s an area that even the most intrepid traveler would balk at visiting. As PBS has noted, “If you say the words ‘Sinaloa,’ and more particularly ‘Culiacán’ to most Mexicans, the first things they think of are drugs and violence. The state’s primacy in the drug world reaches back over a hundred years.” As most of us are only too well aware, drugs and violence often go hand in hand, and in the case of Culiacan, the end result of this unholiest of matrimonies is a homicide rate of 70.10 per 100000 citizens.
11. Vitoria da Conquista
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 70.26
Vitoria da Conquista is a city in Brazil that has a booming economy. In recent years, the city has attracted everyone from Grupo Marinho de Andrade (Teiú and Revani), Coca-Cola, and Dilly Calçados to Umbro, BahiaFarma and Café Maratá. On the outskirts of the city, the entrepreneurial site Ymborés Industrial Park is pumping out commodities such as ceramics, granite, shoes, cleaning products, and bedding, while across the city, enterprising micro industries are popping up everywhere, producing safes, candles, clothing, cocaine, heroin, meth and crack. The result is a city under siege from gang warfare and violence, with an average homicide rate of 70.26 per 100,000.
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 71.38
Belem is a city doing well for itself. Thanks to its location 100 km upriver from the Atlantic Ocean on the Pará River, Belem is considered the gateway to the Amazon, with a busy bus station, 2 airports and a port. Unfortuntaly, along with the aluminum, iron ore, nuts, pineapples, cassava, and jute being transported in and out of the city, there’s an equal number of drugs. And what do you get with a booming drug trade? Gang warfare, violence, and a homicide rate that stands at a frankly frightening 71.38 per 100,000 residents.
9. Ciudad Guyana
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 80.28
Walk around the city of Ciudad Guyana, one of Venezuela’s most important ports, and you’ll be struck at how similar it looks to a 1950s US suburb, with lots of patterned lawns, cookie cutter homes, and wide sidewalks. Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to find very many similarities to days gone other than these purely superficial features: this is a city engulfed by the very modern problem of a spiraling homicide rate, rocketing gang violence, and a booming drugs trade.
8. Ciudad Victoria
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 83.32
In 2017 alone, Ciudad Victoria in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas witnessed 301 homicides. Like many cities to make our list, the root cause of the violence lies in drug trafficking and gang activity, with Business Insider reporting “Much of the bloodshed has come from shootouts between members of criminal groups as well as their clashes with police and soldiers in the streets in and around the city.
Homicide rate (per 100,000)83.48
In January 2019, Fortaleza was hit by a spate of violence after three rival gangs banded together to protest the proposal to end the policy of separating gang factions in Brazil’s prisons. The result was over 160 attacks on local property, including explosions at a telephone exchange (which left 12 cities without mobile coverage), a freeway overpass and a bridge. Three suspects were killed during the ensuing shootouts, while the scale of the tensions resulted in five hundred national guards being deployed in the region. Unfortuntaly, the incidents weren’t isolated: Brazil, and Fortaleza in particular, has seen homicide and crimes rates soar in recent years, largely as a result of the bitter rivalry between gangs fighting for control of the Brazilian drug trade. “It’s complete chaos here and I feel like I’m in the middle of the ocean without a life raft,” one local resident reported to the Guardian.
6. La Pez
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 84.79
It may look idyllic at first glance, but peep behind the window front of La Paz’s stunning beaches and scenery, and you’ll find a city torn apart by violence and crime. As the LA Times has noted, “The violence has been concentrated among warring gang factions and has largely spared foreign visitors.” Most disturbingly for visitors, the bodies are often dumped along the road between La Paz and the airport, given holidaymakers a truly unforgettable start to their holiday.
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 100.77
Tijuana is home to the world’s busiest land crossing; every day, over 50 million people pass through it on their journey to find the American dream. Those that make it to the other side are the lucky ones; the few that decide to stick around in Tijuana face living in a city dominated by crime, and a truly startling homicide rate of 100.77 per 100,000.
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 102.56
In recent years, the violence in Natal, the capital state of Rio Grande do Norte in northeast Brazil, has reached extraordinary new heights. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of homicides grew by 232%, largely as a result of escalating gang violence. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the number of dead bodies piling up in the city has reached such proportions that pathologists are struggling to keep pace, with some seeing as many as 14 deaths a day.
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 106.63
Once a popular destination for the glitterati, Acapulco’s hay days are well and truly behind it. Like many other cities in Mexico, Acapulco has fallen into the hands of the crime barrens and drug lords whose grip on the city seems to strengthen every day. In fairness, the city has taken strides in making sure its streets remain safe for tourists: thanks to a public safety initiative focused on delivering support to visitors, most travelers can visit the city without trouble. Its residents are less lucky, with 106.63 in every 100,000 falling victim to homicide.
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 111.19
Thanks to a murder rate of 111.19 per 100,000, the Venezuelan city of Caracas is considered the second most dangerous city in the world. The most worrying factor in its homicide rate is that it shows no signs of decreasing; as Global Security notes, when it comes to violent deaths in Caracas, the numbers are on the up, with over 9000 more deaths reported in 2003 than in 1991, and little signs of a reversal in the trend in the intervening years. What’s most worrying is that the number of reported deaths may only be a fraction of the actual number. As the government doesn’t consider "deaths of unknown cause" or "deaths from resisting authority" worthy of inclusion in the homicide figures, Caracas could be even deadlier than we realize.
1. Los Cabos
Homicide rate (per 100,000): 111.33
At number one is Los Cabos, the most dangerous city in Mexico, and, indeed, the world. Its idyllic location on the far tip of the Baja California Sur peninsula makes it a prime destination for beach-loving tourists, but for locals, the picture is far from pretty. In recent years, the gang violence between rival cartels has escalated to unpreceded levels, turning the city into a den of crime and lawlessness.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson