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The 20 Worst Places to Live in Kentucky

After splitting from Virginia, the Commonwealth of Kentucky -, became the 15th state admitted to the Union in 1792. The "Bluegrass State" references the type of grass introduced by European settlers, which supports the state’s thoroughbred industry – highlighted by the yearly running of the Kentucky Derby since 1875.

Kentucky is best known for its historical tobacco production, automobile assembly, bourbon, KFC, the country’s longest continuous cave system, college basketball championships, moonshine, and the Louisville Slugger – the manufacturer of famous baseball bats (among other athletic-related products) since the mid-1880s.

Kentucky’s location in the Appalachian region has, unfortunately, seen a long-running prevalence of poverty, limited access to education, and generational cycles of unemployment, which connect heavily to rising crime rates in some of the worst places to live in Kentucky.

Are you considering a move to the state of Kentucky? If so, there are some beautiful places to settle in this state, which borders seven states and the Ohio River. There are also some places with high crime rates you'll want to avoid. Check out our curated list of the 20 worst places to live in Kentucky below.

Our Methodology

Our methodology for determining the worst places to live in Kentucky starts by looking at unbiased or objective data – readily available through government agencies and specialty organizations – both of which provide up-to-date metrics to help identify and manage the problems related to criminal behavior.

Current population data for our analysis based on the worst places to live in the state was obtained from Neighborhood Scout’s most recent data.

Other factors that may impact a city’s crime rate include -

  • Housing Affordability - so one can maintain a desirable standard of living.
  • Employment, Education, Recreational, Opportunities.
  • Available Healthcare & Services.
  • Negative Environmental Factors.
  • Cultural and recreational opportunities, and many more.

Using Crime Rates As Primary Criteria Data to Select the Worst Places to Live in Kentucky

For our analysis, we began with the FBI's Crime Data Explorer, which gathers data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System because high crime rates are often a significant deterrent to those in search of a safe neighborhood to raise a family, begin their career, or retire. Their latest data for 2022 include the following statistics for Kentucky’s 419 cities -

  • There were 8,419 - Violent crimes -- which included rape, robbery, aggravated assault, homicide, etc.
  • 66,853 property crime incidents.

Our ranking and analysis primarily also used crime rates from Neighborhood Scout’s Violent Crime list and Area Vibes; however, other relevant factors – like cost of living, employment options, home values, and overall livability were used to help guide our final rankings.

20. Murray, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 17,311
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 1.68

Murray is a moderate-sized city, but the prospects of finding a job there are low. Unless you've already secured gainful employment, it isn't the best place to go in hopes of a fresh start. Murray is home to Murray State University, so there is a large college student population, although, according to BestPlaces.net, the job growth outlook for the next decade is estimated to be 29.3%, below the US average of 33.5%.

19. Somerset, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 11,954
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 1.84

Somerset is a smaller city and is known to attract artists of all kinds. The local poverty level in 2021 exceeded 30%. The median home value is only $117,000, which falls below the national and state averages. The crime rate includes the chance that a resident will be a violent crime victim nearly two times for every thousand residents. And property crime rates exceed both the state and national property crime rate averages.

18. Maysville, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 8,761
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 2.05

Mayfield is a small town that, unfortunately, has seen a sharp upswing in violent crime in recent years. Though Mayfield is home to a professional re-creation of an old west town from the 1880s - Cartwright Grove, the crime might make you feel like you really are in the Wild West while in this city. Maysville is a small community of nearly 9,000 residents, which is rough around the edges and has a recent poverty rate that exceeds 32 percent.

17. Glasgow, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 15,087
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 2.12

Glasgow has seen some signs that the city is on a downswing, with a chance of being a violent crime victim higher than the state average. The area’s median home value of $127,300 is below the state average of $196,580 (Zillow Jan 2024). The poverty statistics are disturbing, with 27.3 percent of the population below the poverty line. Glasgow’s property crime statistics also exceed Kentucky state averages, so when combined, these factors suggest that it's a good idea to look for a town that has a little more going for it if you plan to set down roots.

16. Frankfort, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 28,595
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 2.34

Frankfort, the state capital, has also made the list of the worst places to live in Kentucky. While the city offers great amenities for residents to enjoy, including a rich history, the Bourbon Trail, and more, the violence and property crime rates for the city are troubling. Property crime rates exceed the state average by more than 50 percent, making the residents feel unsafe in their own homes. The state's capital city is home to much history but has seen an increase in both violent and property crimes.

15. Ashland, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 21,476
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 2.47

Ashland is a medium city in Kentucky that is challenged by violent crime and overwhelming property crime statistics. Residents and visitors to this city have a 1 in 35 chance of becoming a property crime victim. In addition, Ashland’s crime per square mile is 2.5 times the Kentucky state average. More than 23 percent of the city’s residents live below the poverty line, representing an increase of more than 8 percent year of year. And the median home price – at $106,000 – is well below state and national levels.

14. Hazard, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 5,111
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 2.54

Hazard is a small town with a current unemployment rate of 6.7%, which exceeds the national average of 6.0 percent and the state average of 4.3 percent. Part of the problem is that recent job growth has been negative, and the future growth for employment opportunities is estimated at 12.5%, which is lower than the US average of 33.5%.

13. Russellville, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 7,190
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 2.78

This small town with a population of 7,190 residents has a median household income of $34,000, which is below the state average ($44,000) and the national average of $55,322. Although not the worst in Kentucky, the poverty level for Russellville residents exceeds 23 percent, far above state and national rates. Property crime rates also rise to concerning levels of 30.46/1,000 residents – far above the Kentucky (17.42/1000) and the national (19/1,000) averages.

12. Pikeville, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 7,327
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 2.87

The town of Pikeville has a population that has grown to over 7,000 residents. Although there is hope that the economy will improve, the town’s unemployment rate of 7.0 percent far exceeds state and national unemployment averages. The violent crime rate is above Kentucky’s average,e and the property crime rate soars above state and national trends.

11. Paducah, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 26,278
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 3.01

Paducah is a fairly large city in Kentucky with a lot to offer its residents. However, the city has an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent – above the state average. The city’s median home value of $150,024 falls below the state average and is less than half the national average of $387,600 (11/23). The most recent FBI numbers indicate that 1 in 34 people who live in Paducah have a chance of becoming a property crime victim, among the worst in the state.

10. Lexington Manor, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 756
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – N/A

Lexington Manor's crime rates are 256 percent above the national average, with violent crime rates 158 percent above the national rate, than Eastland Park-Dixie Plantation. Residents of this neighborhood live in a city that is 84% more dangerous than any other Kentucky city, as they have a 1 in 14 chance of becoming a property crime victim in Lexington Manor.

9. Radcliff, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 22,942
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 3.31

Radcliff is a small town that has made the list of the most dangerous cities in the state, according to Only In Your State. Crime has increased in the city in the last 12 months, with property and violent crime rate averages exceeding state and national levels. Some wonderful people are living in Radcliff, but according to the crime rates, there are too many who put everyone else at risk of becoming a crime victim.

8. Lexington Cemetery, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 1,637
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – N/A

Lexington Cemetery takes danger to a whole new level. This suburb of Lexington has a violent crime rate that is 228 percent above the national rate, with overall crime rates nearly 3 times the national level. Residents of this suburb have a 1 in 12 chance of becoming a crime victim. The median home price in Lexington Cemetery is 61% lower than the national average.

7. Covington, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 40,837
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 3.33

Covington has a population of 40,553 residents. It has the 15th worst unemployment rate in the state at a whopping 8.5 percent. The median home value is 5,900 ranking it in the top 20 worst places to own a home.

The average combined household income is just $41,254 a year, which doesn't leave much to live on for a family of four. The crime rate puts it in the worst 10 percent of all cities in Kentucky. When you add up all these factors, Covington isn't a great place to live if you have other options. The poverty rate in Covington exceeds 23 percent.

6. Castlewood Park, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 3,624
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – N/A

Castlewood Park has a violent crime rate that beats Lexington Cemetery by a full percentage point. The odds of having a crime committed against you in this suburb are 1 in 9. If you do live in Castlewood Park, if you haven't become a victim yet, there's a good chance you will soon or that you know someone who has. The overall crime rates are 384 percent higher than the national level, with violent crime rates nearly 2.5 times the national level.

5. Oak Grove, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 7,793
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 3.46

While this small city has a peaceful appearance, its residents are at risk of becoming the victims of crime. Surprisingly, the chance of becoming a violent crime victim is 1 in 289. This makes it one of the last places you'd want to put down roots and raise a family. Though Oak Grove is a popular location for outdoor recreation in Kentucky, the city isn't immune to crime. It's among the smallest cities on this list, but its crime ratios make it significant and worthwhile to note.

4. Central Downtown, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 6,359
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – N/A

Central Downtown is Area Vibes' most dangerous place to live in the Fayetteville area. This suburb has an overall crime rate that is 315 percent above the national average, with violent crimes at 255 percent. There is a one in eleven chance that you'll become the victim of a crime if you live in this city, or if you spend too much time there. If you're a person who plays the odds, then you know that it is likely to be a matter of time before you become one of the statistics that are recorded in the criminal statistics report.

Times are tough in Central Downtown, Kentucky, and it's just not worth taking the chance with your own life or with that of your family.

3. Bowling Green, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 73,529
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 3.67

Bowling Green is one of Kentucky's larger cities. It's filled with wonderful amenities, and there's always something engaging to do, from shopping to entertainment and more. While there is plenty of housing, the property crime rates – more than twice the state average -have pushed the city to the number one worst place to live in Kentucky. Though it's home to one of the most charming Kentucky downtowns, Bowling Green, you should remain cautious in this Kentucky city in the southern part of the state, or you could wind up like one of the victims of violent crimes.

2. Shively, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 15,528
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 4.64

Shively is a smaller suburb or medium-sized city near Louisville that has seen some rough times. Property crimes are nearly twice Kentucky state averages, while violent crimes, but what is even worse, violent crimes have jumped significantly in recent years. Shively has a spine-tingling 121 crimes per square mile, compared to the state average of 25.

1. Eastland Park-Dixie Plantation, Kentucky

  • Population (2023) – 15,528
  • Violent Crime Per 1,000 Persons – 9.33 (estimated)

According to Area Vibes, some of the suburbs of Lexington-Fayette take the lead in being the most dangerous cities in the entire state. Eastland Park-Dixie Plantation has crime rates that are 279 percent higher than the national average. Violent crimes are 152 percent above the national average, so it's not a safe place to call home. The chances of becoming the victim of a crime are 1 in 12 in this city, and that's after a year over a decrease of 1 percent in the crime rates.

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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