The Most Dangerous Places in the United States

The following is a guest post by Collin Palkovitz and Jason Latshaw of Elany Arts, creators of an iPhone app called LETHAL that tells you what dangerous things are lurking just around the corner, or in any given location in the United States.

We scoured government databases and academic publications to find crime rates, disease rates, disaster occurrences, and deadly wildlife ranges. We then compiled our findings into one centralized database that pulls those stats, combines the score into four categories, and gives you an overall “LETHAL Index” for hundreds of locations.

The research for this project was both captivating and terrifying. It was fascinating to learn about the different dangers that various locations pose. Below are the most dangerous locations in each of our four categories.


Photo: King Power Cinema [Flickr] (Yes, in Mobile, AL)

We were all surprised to discover the location in the United States with the greatest number of deadly animals.

One might think that somewhere in Alaska with polar bears, grizzly bears, AND great white sharks would take the prize, but no. (Even though the possibility of meeting up with all three of those fearsome beasts does make Alaska pretty exciting. But you’ll read later what keeps Alaska from being all around completely awesome.)

Or maybe the Everglades, the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators are both native (in addition to bears, panthers, and poisonous snakes! Seriously, think about that, they’re one tiger away from being able to say “Oh my!”)? But again, no. The Everglades aren’t it either.

Instead, welcome to Mobile, Alabama, the home of 19 – yes, nineteen - deadly animal species. It’s like the Baskin Robbins of blood-thirsty predators. Whether you are on the land or the sea, something here can kill you. The sheer number of creatures you have to watch out for is impressive. A day at the beach near Mobile may sound pleasant, but you should be prepared to wind up fleeing the shark infested waters only to find yourself in a land crawling with more kinds of poisonous snakes and spiders than anywhere else in the country.

But I’m sure you’re wondering what the most BORING place is when it comes to Wildlife? I know we were. Well, if you don’t like the idea of being offed by something that you thought was lower on the food chain, make immediate plans to move to North or South Dakota or Nebraska. There, the only thing you’d have to watch out for would be a couple of lame standbys that are just about everywhere else, too – Dogs, Hornets, Black Widow Spiders, and Mosquitoes. Yawn!


The St. Louis Arch is there to distract tourists from the city's dangers.
Photo: Storm Crypt [Flickr]

When it comes to crime in the U.S. you may think that New York or Los Angeles sound like scary places, but compared to Detroit and St. Louis, those cities are delightful locations for Sunday-school picnics.

St. Louis and Detroit battle it out for the title of “Which City is More Likely to Annihilate You With Its Crime,” and quite honestly this contest is going into extra innings with no end in sight.

St. Louis comes out of the gate and scores some quick points because of its insanely high violent crime rate – 2,480 violent crimes per 100,000 citizens. But the Motor City comes right back – nearly tying the match with its own hefty rate of 2419 per 100,000.

Maybe the Lions went 0-16 because they couldn't focus on the game – they were too busy looking over their shoulders to make sure they weren't going to get mugged or killed!

Speaking of getting killed, if you do decide to ignore the fear of being mugged, stabbed, or beaten and decide to brave these Midtown Detroit streets, you run the risk of being one of many yearly murder victims there – people are killed at the gaudy rate of 61 per every 100,000 citizens. When you realize that the national rate is a mere 7, you see how dangerous this area is.

But before you fall out of your chair and start hyperventilating know this: Downtown St. Louis has that rate beat – by a mile – because 93 out of every 100,00 are murdered there. All of a sudden, Midtown Detroit might be looking safe. But it isn’t.

Because St. Louis has one thing going for it in the crime department ­– at least when it comes to Forcible Rape, it’s not Midtown Detroit.

Detroit is not safe enough even for the Department of Public Safety.
The building has been abandoned ...
Photo: Derek Farr (Detroit Derek) [Flickr]

We’ll let you know just how bad Midtown Detroit is in the rape department, but first a discussion about the stats we found for rape in the US: When we were doing our research, we were horrified by Juneau, Alaska. I don’t know what they’re drinking there, but 102.3 out of every 100,000 people are getting raped in the land of “Whatever It Is People Do In Juneau,” Since the US average is a mere 33.1, clearly they have a serious problem. (And actually, it’s kind of widespread to the whole state of Alaska! That place has an unbelievably high rate of 76 – that’s for the state on average. Sarah Palin, what in the world is going on up there?).

Truly it can’t get worse than Juneau, right? Wrong. Sleepy little beach communities Ocean City, Maryland and Key West, Florida made a baffling and troublesome attempt to hang with the major cities by weighing in with rates of 123.3 and 127.3, respectively. Think about that for a second. If you had a NFL Football game in Ocean City, Maryland, about 127 people in that crowd would be raped that year, on average. What’s going on, Ocean City? Considering that New York City’s Rape rate is a mere 13 per 100,000, one has to wonder if NBC should move the Special Victim’s Unit to Ocean City, Maryland! Benson and Stabler, head to the Shore!

Actually, no. If we’re going to be calling Benson and Stabler anywhere, it should be to Midtown Detroit. While we were scandalized and terrified by Key West, Ocean City, and Jeneau – we were absolutely left in a state of disbelief by Midtown Detroits numbers. 181 rapes per 100,000 people. Yes, 181. Just about six times the national average.

So it looks like Midtown Detroit is more likely to rape you while Downtown St. Louis will more likely just kill you. We can’t pick a winner. But we know two areas we’ll be avoiding for the near future. (This would be the time to point out that both Detroit and St. Louis have areas that are very safe and lovely. But really, don’t go to Midtown or Downtown without body armor and some pepper spray.)


We were shocked to learn which location ranked the highest for disasters. Memphis, TN!

The Mississippi River has a nasty habit of flooding in Memphis.
Photo: jeb simpson [Flickr]

As it turns out, this unsuspecting town sits in the path of tornadoes and is located in an area geologically prone to earthquakes, floods, and landslides. There is also significant potential for wildfires in this area. In addition to natural disasters, motor vehicle deaths, accidental firearm deaths, and suicides are all above average.

But if you’re headed to the nation's capital, you might want to follow Obama’s lead and drive in a bullet proof SUV, because Washington DC has the most gun related deaths per year – by far. A full 21% more deaths than the runner up in this inglorious category, New Orleans.

And if you’re feeling a little down, you may want to steer clear of Montana. There’s something about all that ranching and wheat farming that must make you want to just up and end it all, because Montana has the worst suicide rate in the nation. 22 out of every 100,000 Montanians (I have no idea if they’re called that or not, but what’s the alternative really… Montanites?) kill themselves every year.


US Naval Hospital Ship Mercy docked in San Diego in 2006.
Coincidence? I don't think so ... Photo: Jim Frazier [Flickr]

San Diego takes the cake (ew, what kind of cake would that be? Pro tip: don’t eat it) for the most disease-ridden location in the United States. It is a good thing that cancer, heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s are non-communicable; otherwise the entire city would have to be quarantined.

But it’s a city on the other side of the continent that takes the unfortunate status of being the “AIDS capital of America.” That would be Baltimore, with 37.7 AIDS related deaths per 100,000 citizens. Its sister city Washington DC isn’t much better off in that department at 37.1. Compare that to a mere 3.7 AIDS deaths per 100,000 in Oakland, California or the very impressive virtual ZERO in Salt Lake City, Utah and you’ll see that Baltimore and DC have to change something up.

Win a Free Download!

If you’d like to score yourself a free copy of LETHAL for your iPhone or iPod touch , be the first to answer ONE of the following questions in the comments. We’re giving out 5 freebies here.

  1. Can you guess what location has the highest overall LETHAL Index?
    Hint: it is none of the locations listed above. It is a city where a moderately high score in all four categories reveals that it has the most cumulative danger.
  2. Can you guess what location has the least overall LETHAL Index?
    Hint: It also wasn’t mentioned.
  3. Can you tell us which city comes in 3rd behind Detroit and St. Louis with the Crime Index?
  4. Which state should probably have its collective Drivers License taken away because it has the highest automobile death rate?
  5. What state has the highest rate of Occupational Fatality?
    Yep, a whole lot of people seem to die on the job here… over 40% more than the second most dangerous area in this category!

Please login and use your Neatorama username (if you don't have one, please register). Place your guess in the comment. One answer per comment, though you may enter as many guesses as you'd like. One free download per person.

Be sure to check out LETHAL App for more information (or get one at iTunes now!)

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Newest 5 Comments

Hmmm.... let's see all of these cities mentioned in this article and in the comments have the highest population of blacks in the entire country. Talk about buyer's remorse!
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If going to conventions in NEW ORLEANS you will want to stay away from HARRAHS CASINO,My wife who had never even had so much as a speeding ticket was falsely arrested while being comped for 3 days during a convention. While in jail she was beat and since has had 4 back surguries and is now disabled,Do yourself and your family a favor and stay away from this seaspol. JAMES HERRING
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Los Angeles is still getting a bum rap for the high crime rates of the early 90s. Since then, the murder rate and other crimes have plummeted. To be sure, there are still some very unsafe areas of the city, but they're located, for the most part, in sections of town that tourists would have no reason to be near.

Brush fires are a problem in the fall, but they're confined to hillside communities in the suburbs. Pollution is a big problem, and even the move toward ecologically-friendly autos and such have had a limited effect on air quality.
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I'm a native detrioter and i can believe this is the most dangerous citi in america

Your article is very topical for me. Thanks for the information. I really liked your blog. I add this blog into bookmark.
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I'm from New Orleans. That is the most dangerous city in the U.S. It floods frequently, there are alligators, poisonous reptiles, and black widow spiders at every turn. Oh, and I forgot, stay out of downtown after dark
I really enjoyed this article. You have very good blog with good quality recordings. Thanks for the article.
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