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10 Most Dangerous Cities in Pennsylvania (2024 Update)

Historical part of Harrisburg, PA

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

If you live in Pennsylvania or are planning to move there, it can be helpful to know where the dangerous areas are so you can avoid them. Pennsylvania has gorgeous rural areas, and there are plenty of farms and homemade ice cream shops, but there are also several cities, some of which can get a little dangerous. Keep reading while we list the worst places according to the statistics and give you some tips to help you stay out of trouble.

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The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in Pennsylvania

1. Chester, PA

Chester, PA 5th street
Chester, PA 5th street (Image Credit: Smallbones, Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0)
Population 33,982
Murder rate 53.1 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $32,403
Poverty rate 31.4%
Violent crimes in 2021 1,383.3 per 100,000 people

Chester is a city in southeastern Pennsylvania, and it is currently the most dangerous place in the state. It has a murder rate of more than 53 per 100,000 people, which is pretty bad compared to the Pennsylvania average of only 5.2 per 100,000 people. Chester is also much higher than average in robbery, aggravated assault, and grand theft auto. It’s not just the worst place in Pennsylvania; it’s one of the most dangerous places in the United States, with crime rates more than 77% above the national average.

2. McKeesport, PA

Population 19,225
Murder rate 33.7 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $29,094
Poverty rate 31.4%
Violent crimes in 2021 1,531.4 per 100,000 people

McKeesport is a violent city that you will find in southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s the second most dangerous city, and though the murder rate isn’t as high as in Chester, the number of violent crimes is higher. Despite almost 25% of the population having some college experience, the crime rate is 73.25% above the national average, and more than 30% of the people live in poverty.

3. Pottstown, PA

energy atomic chimney Pottstown PA
Image Credit: bbujko11, Shutterstock
Population 22,667
Murder rate 22 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $45,634
Poverty rate 19.7%
Violent crimes in 2021 718 per 100,000 people

Pottstown is a dangerous city with more crime than most cities in the United States and 124% more crime than the average in Pennsylvania. People in Pottstown experience higher-than-average numbers of larceny, burglary, car theft, violent crime, and aggravated assault. Another strange thing about Pottstown is that the poverty rate is quite a bit lower, and the average household income is higher than the top three crime cities on this list.

4. Harrisburg, PA

Population 49,209
Murder rate 26.4 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $39,685
Poverty rate 26.2%
Violent crimes in 2021 900.5 per 100,000 people

Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania, and it’s a mid-sized city with plenty of crime. The murder rate is more than five times the Pennsylvania average, and the robbery rate is also high. The cost of living is slightly lower than the national average, but the crime rate is almost 25% higher. It’s a diverse city with good education, but it can be hard to find homes and jobs.

5. Wilkes-Barre, PA

Population 40,867
Murder rate 7.4 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $37,902
Poverty rate 26.6%
Violent crimes in 2021 594.3 per 100,000 people

Wilkes-Barre is a city in northeastern Pennsylvania that experiences a higher-than-average murder rate and is also high in burglary, property damage, assault, and violent crime. Much of the area is old and deteriorating, so it’s difficult to bring in new business. It can also be hard to find good housing because many buildings are in disrepair. The city currently stands slightly more than 8% above the national average in crime.

6. Allentown, PA

Population 120,915
Murder rate 5.7 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $41,167
Poverty rate 25.7%
Violent crimes in 2021 386.5 per 100,000 people

Allentown is a large city in northeastern Pennsylvania. Despite having a murder rate about average with the rest of the state, there are several robberies, property damage, and car theft that can make it a dangerous place to live in the long term. It currently stands a little under 8% above the national average for crime, and there are few good jobs available.

7. Chambersburg, PA

Chambersburg PA Memorial square
Image Credit: AevanStock, Shutterstock
Population 20,832
Murder rate 18.9 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $49,023
Poverty rate 13.1%
Violent crimes in 2021 279.2 per 100,000 people

Chambersburg is in South Central Pennsylvania. It’s a dangerous city with a higher-than-average murder rate. Property crime and burglary are also quite high in this area, but violent crimes are lower than the average in Pennsylvania, and there are fewer car thefts. It currently stands a little over 5% higher than the national average in crime.

8. Erie, PA

Population 97,263
Murder rate 9.4 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $37,894
Poverty rate 26.2%
Violent crimes in 2021 496.7 per 100,000 people

Erie is in the upper northwestern part of Pennsylvania on the shores of Lake Erie, which is where it gets its name. The crime rate for this city is a little more than 3% below the national average, but it has a high murder rate that’s almost twice the average in Pennsylvania and the nation. There’s also a lot of assault, burglary, and property crime compared to the rest of Pennsylvania.

9. Swissvale, PA

Population 8,760
Murder rate 11.6 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $50,067
Poverty rate 13.2%
Violent crimes in 2021 196.5 per 100,000 people

Swissvale is a small city in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is currently about 22% below the national average for crime, but it has a high murder rate that can cause some people to be afraid to live there. People who live in this area also see significant property damage, car theft, and burglary.

10. Grove, PA

Population 7,945
Murder rate 12.8 per 100,000 people
Average Household income $54,875
Poverty rate 12.8%
Violent crimes in 2021 114.8 per 100,000 people

Grove is a tiny city in north-central Pennsylvania. It’s an interesting city with a very low crime rate for this list; it’s almost 80% below the national average. What’s interesting about it is its extremely high murder rate compared to the rest of the stats. The murder rate is more than twice the average of Pennsylvania and the nation, and it exceeds many of the others on this list. Another interesting fact about Grove is that it reported no robberies in 2021.

Related Read: 9 Most Dangerous Cities in New York

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Why Has Crime Reduced in Pennsylvania Over the Past Decade?

The number of violent crimes has fallen steadily over the past 15 to 20 years (City Rating). Some officials believe that reform in criminal justice has played a big part in the reduction (WITF). The rapid development of innovative technology over the last 20 years also likely had something to do with decreasing crime.

The alarm systems on homes and automobiles are much better now than they were even 10 years ago, which likely discourages a lot of would-be thieves. The dramatic increase in the number of people with video-capable smartphones also makes the chances of getting caught doing something illegal much greater, and fewer people are likely to engage in criminal activities.

man working on laptop
Image Credit: TippaPatt, Shutterstock

How to Stay Safe in Pennsylvania

  • If you live in one of the areas designated as unsafe in Pennsylvania, you can keep yourself safe by following a few simple steps.
  • Install a high-quality alarm on your home and automobile. If you live in a dangerous area, the cost is more than worth it because most criminals will look for the easiest score and pass over a house or vehicle with plenty of security unless there’s something specific that they are after. Make sure there are plenty of visible cameras, which will scare off the criminal element from a distance.
  • Don’t put the packaging from expensive purchases out in the trash. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that putting the box from their expensive TV out in the trash tells all the criminals in town that they just got something expensive that they might want. You can break down the boxes and turn them inside out, so no one knows what you purchased without digging through your trash, especially if you live in a dangerous area.
  • Don’t post all your activities on social media. If a criminal notices that you have something valuable, they might stalk you on social media to learn when you are not around so they can break into your home without getting caught.
  • Make sure your valuables are insured. Most homeowners have insurance, and you’re required to get vehicle insurance, but many people don’t realize that you can get renters’ insurance and other types that will help protect your property from criminals.
  • Keep a can of mace on you, and make sure you can always access it, so you are prepared for any close encounters.
  • Take self-defense classes to protect yourself if you encounter danger.

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Pennsylvania is a large and beautiful state with plenty of fantastic places to visit and live. However, several cities can be dangerous, with higher-than-average murder rates and violent assaults, especially Chester, McKeesport, and Pottstown. Robbery, car theft, and property damage might not put you in personal danger, but they can make your home a lot less comfortable and your neighborhood a scary and unwelcoming place.

If you need to live in one of these places, high-quality burglar alarms and a charged smartphone with good service are essential to your safety. Mace, pepper spray, self-defense classes, and traveling with a friend can also help keep you out of danger. We hope you enjoyed reading over this list and learned more about Pennsylvania’s most dangerous cities.

Featured Image Credit: Ludmila Ruzickova, Shutterstock


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