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10 Most Dangerous Cities in Missouri (2024 Update)

springfield Missouri

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

Finding a secure neighborhood is crucial when you’re looking for a family home or business location, and that’s especially true in Missouri. While there are plenty of safe sections of the Show-Me State, high-crime areas make it one of the most dangerous states in the country. World Population Review and Infoplease rank Missouri at number 7 on their most recent lists of dangerous states, while 24/7 Wall St. was even less generous, ranking it number 6 on their 2021 lineup.

We’ve reviewed the most recent FBI crime data to find Missouri’s top 10 most dangerous cities. Only cities with at least 10,000 residents are included in this article.

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The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in Missouri: A Quick Look

Most of the reported crimes in Missouri in 2020 occurred in larger metro areas. Springfield, Kansas City, and St. Louis accounted for most total crimes and violent crimes in the state. The following list ranks each city by crime rate (total crime/population) with a detailed analysis of crime patterns, particularly those involving murder. We’ll then explore recent changes in Missouri crime rates, followed by suggestions on keeping safe no matter where you land.

1. Springfield

Bass Pro Shops Springfield, MO
Bass Pro Shops Springfield, MO (Image Credit: Rob Bixby from Jacksonville, FL, USA Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)
Population 168,856
Murder rate 0.13 per 1,000
Median household income $36,856
Poverty rate 22.9%
Violent crimes in 2020 2,545

Springfield, MO, is a bustling metro area known for its steady job growth and rich cultural scene, making it a popular destination for younger generations seeking to put down roots. Unfortunately, the Queen City of the Ozarks is also known for its lofty crime rates; it’s the highest in Missouri and one of the worst across the United States. For 2021, Safewise ranked Springfield as the 5th most dangerous city in the country.

Although it varies by neighborhood, the overall crime rate in Springfield in 2020 was 144.56 crimes per 1,000 people. Discounting crimes against society, which are often victimless, statistics show that residents have a 1 in 8 chance of becoming a victim of a crime.

Among major cities in Missouri, Springfield has the third-highest population and the third-highest number of murders. St. Louis has the most murders in any city, but the combined crime against individuals puts Springfield at number one.

2. St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri skyline
Image Credit: Goodfreephotos_com, Pixabay
Population 301,578
Murder rate 0.87 per 1,000
Median household income $43,896
Poverty rate 21.8%
Violent crimes in 2020 6,017

Home to the iconic gateway arch, St. Louis is one of the most famous cities in America. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most infamous places in the world, reaching number 7 on the World Atlas ranking of most dangerous cities across the globe. In 2020, you had a nearly 1-in-50 chance of being the victim of a violent crime if you were in St. Louis.

St. Louis reporting does not include crimes against society, but its violent and property crime rates put it squarely in the number two slot. There were 6,017 violent crimes in 2020, 263 of which were murders. The overall murder rate is a state-high 0.87 per 1,000 residents.

Although violent crime has stayed relatively level from 2010-2020, annual murders swelled to a 10-year high of 263 in 2020, a 36% increase over the prior year. On a positive note, property crime continued to decline, hitting a 10-year low of 17,399 incidents.

3. Joplin

Joplin Historic District
Joplin Historic District (Image Credit: AbeEzekowitz, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population 50,935
Murder rate 0.18 per 1,000
Median household income $45,449
Poverty rate 18.2%
Violent crimes in 2020 338

Tucked away in southwest Missouri is the city of Joplin, resting in Jasper and Newton counties. The tri-county metro area is the fifth-largest city in the state. Joplin has a high crime rate of 137.33 incidents per 1,000 residents. At 3,276 incidents, major property crimes, including arson, burglary, larceny, and vehicle theft in 2020, were down to their second-lowest numbers since 2010.

While there was a decrease in property crimes, violent crimes increased in 2020, reaching their highest point since 2010 at 338 occurrences. While most violent crime categories stayed around the 10-year average, assault and murder cases were at some of their highest numbers in recent memory. There were 210 reported cases of aggravated assault in 2020, up from 179 in 2019.

The murder rate saw an even more extreme increase. Annual murders in Joplin bounced between one to three murders from 2010-2019, but it leaped to nine murders in 2020, the highest the city has ever seen.

4. Kennett

Dunklin Co Missouri Courthouse
Dunklin Co Missouri Courthouse (Image Credit: Kbh3rd, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0)
Population 10,005
Murder rate 0.10 per 1,000
Median household income $46,163
Poverty rate  25.1%
Violent crimes in 2020 90

Kennett barely squeaks onto the list with 10,005 residents. The city, located in the bootheel of Missouri, has a generally favorable school system and family-friendly feel, but crime is an ongoing concern in the community. The total numbers are comparably low (there was only one murder in 2020), but Kennett has a high crime rate, given the small population. In 2020, the small city had 125.14 crimes per 1,000 residents.

Like Joplin, property crime and violent crime rates in Kennett are headed in different directions. Property crime was at its lowest point since 2012, but violent crime was at its third-highest point since 2003, with 90 reported cases. The primary reason for the increase was a surge in aggravated assaults.

5. Kansas City

Downtown Kansas City MO
Downtown Kansas City MO (Image Credit: Jordanbruening, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population 499,335
Murder rate 0.35 per 1,000
Median household income $55,259
Poverty rate 16.1%
Violent crimes in 2020 7,919

Between its jazz history, diverse art scene, and famous barbecue sauce, Kansas City is known for its cultural significance. As a cultural epicenter of Missouri, Kansas City is a vibrant community with thousands of goings-on for families and young professionals. In 2020, it was also one of the state’s most active areas for crime.

We added North Kansas City to the numbers in this review of the most dangerous cities in Missouri. Kansas City would have made the list on its own, but as an enclave of the city, the independent municipality is still part of the Kansas City culture.

The total crime rate between the two cities was 94.54 cases per 1,000 people in 2020. On its own, Kansas City had the second-highest murder rate at 0.35 cases per 1,000 people. The 176 murders committed in 2020 were the most in the city’s reported history dating back to 1985.

In general, violent crimes have been level in Kansas City from 2016-2020, but property crime shows a downward trend. Though there was a slight uptick in reported property crimes from the previous year, numbers in 2020 were the second-lowest they had been in the city since 1985.

Interestingly, North Kansas City, an independent municipality almost completely surrounded by Kansas City, had an extremely high reported crime rate of 246.37 offenses per 1,000 residents. The crime rate in the small city of fewer than 5,000 residents has been high historically, but property crime has notably increased since reaching its lowest point in 2009. Between burglary, larceny, arson, and motor vehicle theft, residents saw the most reported property crimes in the area since 2006.

6. Rolla

Headquarters Rolla Division of the Bureau of Mines
Headquarters Rolla Division of the Bureau of Mines (Image Credit: Larry D. Moore, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population 20,522
Murder rate 0.05 per 1,000
Median household income $37,600
Poverty rate 28.8%
Violent crimes in 2020 116

Sitting near Route 66, Rolla is a small city in Phelps County featuring a rich heritage and even richer outdoor adventures, with a bevy of forests, waterways, and caves to satisfy the need to explore. In 2020, a jump in property and violent crime numbers also made it one of the more dangerous cities in Missouri.

The total crime rate in Rolla was 110.17 reported cases per 1,000 residents. There were 116 violent crimes committed in 2020, the second-highest in the city’s history. While many offense types have remained steady or even gone down in numbers, the rising violent crime rate is mainly due to aggravated assault cases that have been increasing since the late 1980s, hitting their highest recorded point in 2020.

Property crime went up in 2020 as well. There were 867 reported cases of major property-related offenses, the highest since 2010.

7. Union

Union MO
Union MO (Image Credit: Paul Sableman, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)
Population 12,195
Murder rate 0
Median household income $52,577
Poverty rate 11.3%
Violent crimes in 2020 50

Union is a small town in the heart of Franklin County on the eastern side of Missouri. While it’s not known for being a violent town, there were enough total offenses committed in the city in 2020 to earn its place on the list.

The total crime rate was 108.32 offenses per 1,000 residents in 2020. There were only 50 violent crimes and one murder in 2020, but a high volume of simple assault, destruction of property, and theft cases make it one of the more dangerous places relative to its size.

Property and violent crimes have generally been increasing in Union. Major property offenses were at their fourth highest in the city’s history, and violent crime was at its second-highest rate since 2009.

8. St. Joseph

St. Joseph MO Police Dept & National Military Museum
St. Joseph MO Police Dept & National Military Museum (Image Credit: Keyhub2, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population 74,680
Murder rate 0.04 per 1,000
Median household income $52,810
Poverty rate 15.2%
Violent crimes in 2020 414

St. Joseph is a mid-sized city in Buchanan County on the western side of Missouri. Along with its unique history and architecture, St. Joseph is popular for its outdoor festivals, but it also has one of the worst crime rates in the state.

There were 8,002 total crimes in St. Joseph in 2020, with a crime rate of 107.15 offenses per 1,000 residents. The amount of crime is nothing new, as property crime has remained even throughout the city’s history. Violent crime, meanwhile, has been on a general upward trend since the mid-1990s.

9. Carthage

Carthage Missouri
Carthage Missouri (Image Credit: Maureen Didde, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)
Population 14,784
Murder rate 0.0
Median household income $41,226
Poverty rate 26.6%
Violent crimes in 2020 45

Carthage is a small town in Jasper County on the southwest corner of Missouri. It receives decent grades for raising a family, but the total number of offenses in “America’s Maple Leaf City” gives it one of the highest crime rates in the state.

Carthage had a crime rate of 100.78 offenses per 1,000 residents. While many were drug-related offenses, they still had their fair share of violent and property-related crimes. Violent crime was at its third-highest number in city history in 2020, while property crime rose to an above-average level.

10. Bellefontaine Neighbors

Bellefontaine Neighbors Missouri
Bellefontaine Neighbors Missouri (Image Credit: Paul Sableman, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)
Population 10,356
Murder rate 0.19 per 1,000
Median household income $46,163
Poverty rate 20.4%
Violent crimes in 2020 206

Bellefontaine Neighbors is a suburb in St. Louis County and the second smallest town on the list, but it is one of the worst areas in Missouri for crime. There were 1,021 total crimes in the city in 2020, with a rate of 98.59 offenses per 1,000 residents.

High volumes of aggravated assault, destruction of property, motor vehicle theft, and robbery make Bellefontaine Neighbors more dangerous than some larger Missouri cities. The community’s property crime rate hadn’t deviated much from its historical average, but violent offenses were at their highest ever in 2020.

The main driver of climbing violent crime numbers was the rise in aggravated assault. There were 176 cases in 2020, the highest ever in the city. That was an increase of 80 cases over the previous record-holding year, which was 2019.

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How Missouri Crime Rates Have Changed Over the Years

Like much of the United States, major crime in Missouri is nowhere near the rate it was during the mid-1990s. Property crime offenses continue to drop in the state, hitting their lowest rate of 2,531 offenses per 100,000 people in 2020. In contrast, violent crime has hit its highest rate since 2007, with 542.7 offenses per 100,000 people.

Missouri has a lot of crime compared to the rest of the United States. Up through the mid-1990s, it kept pace with the country in violent crime and even had lower property crime rates than most other states. But since 1998, property crime offenses have stayed above the country’s average. Meanwhile, violent crimes have stayed consistently higher than in the rest of the states since 2001.

The homicide rate in Missouri hit its highest rate in 2020 at 11.8 offenses per 100,000 people. That followed a rising trend across the country, which reached its worst rate since 1997 at 6.5 homicides per 100,000 people.

How to Stay Safe in Missouri

With a crime rate far exceeding the national average, it’s crucial to ensure your safety in Missouri. Here are some excellent points to remember to make sure you stay safe no matter where you are in the state:

  • Keep windows locked at all times
  • Lock doors whenever you leave the house, even if it’s only for a few minutes
  • Install electronic deadbolt locks on your outside doors
  • Use an alarm system to deter or record crime
  • Record models and serial numbers of expensive equipment
  • Don’t leave spare keys hidden outside
  • Always lock your car, and keep it parked in a garage if possible
  • Don’t leave critical, confidential paperwork or personal items in your car
  • Avoid high crime areas and keep to well-lit spaces
  • Try to find a companion when walking at night
  • Report suspicious activity as soon as possible

Local governments often offer resources for protecting homes and businesses from crimes. Visit their websites to learn essential tips on staying safe in your area.

See Also:

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Missouri may have more crime than most of the country, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fantastic place to visit or settle down with the family. Even in St. Louis, high-crime neighborhoods shouldn’t dissuade you from embracing an energetic culture brimming with one-of-a-kind experiences. While certain pockets of the state are prone to crime, numerous areas boast exceptional safety statistics, letting you enjoy peace of mind and all the unique opportunities only Missouri can offer.

Featured Image Credit: Ted PAGEL, Shutterstock


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