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8 Most Dangerous Cities in South Carolina (2024 Update)

police car with police tape

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

South Carolina isn’t a large state physically, coming in at 40th by area in the country. It isn’t the most populous either. However, the population density is relatively high for the 36.8% of residents who occupy the incorporated municipalities. That may explain its rank in the safest states of the United States. It sits at 46 on the US News list.

Several contributing factors exist, with perhaps the number of tourists and larger transient population topping the reasons. The seasonal spikes might play a role in the crime rates. The FBI considers the entire picture when viewing these data. Things like the climate, weather events, and the local economies undoubtedly add to the tensions.

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The Top 8 Most Dangerous Cities in South Carolina: A Quick Look

Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the cities on our round-up are among the largest in the state. That’s not unique to South Carolina. However, that’s not the only driving force. Of course, there are exceptions. It’s essential not to categorize an entire city either. All have neighborhoods with varying crime rates. Remember that our stats are aggregated figures.

1. Sumter, SC

Sumter mainstreet South Carolina
Sumter mainstreet South Carolina (Image Credit: Prince Grobhelm, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population 43,463
Murder rate 8
Average Household income $45,439
Poverty rate 19.2%
Violent crimes in 2019 418

Sumter is in the state’s center, about 106 miles northwest of Charleston. It was named after General Thomas Sumter, a brigadier general and hero of the American Revolutionary War. Several sites on the National Register of Historic Places, given its role as one of the original 13 colonies. It is also the site of Shaw Air Force Base.

Sumter has quite a bit of crime for a town of its size. Assaults, auto theft, and burglaries have seen a slight uptick in recent years. It’s worth noting that the overall crime rate exceeds the national average significantly. It’s a trend that goes back at least until 2002. The poverty rate exceeds the state average, while the average household income is 20% below this figure.

2. Greenwood, SC

Greenwood County Courthouse South Carolina
Greenwood County Courthouse South Carolina (Image Credit: change-of-venue, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
Population 22,545
Murder rate 2
Average Household income $33,549
Poverty rate 30.3%
Violent crimes in 2019 350

Greenwood is in the northwest quadrant of the state, about 189 miles northwest of Charleston. The town offers many recreational opportunities. Its claim to fame is its annual South Carolina Festival of Flowers. It’s a popular event that draws many visitors to the area. Greenwood is also home to several sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

Greenwood isn’t among the most populated cities in South Carolina. That’s part of what makes its crime so disturbing. Like our previous entry, its overall rate has exceeded the national average since 2002. Poverty is certainly a contributing factor, with a rate nearly double the state figure. Its average household income is less than 60% of the overall percentage for South Carolina.

3. Rock Hill, SC

Main Street Rock Hill SC
Main Street Rock Hill SC (Image Credit: Hashtag youre it, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population 74,372
Murder rate 4
Average Household income $32,610
Poverty rate 12.6%
Violent crimes in 2019 498

Rock Hill is in the northeastern portion of the state, about 185 miles northwest of Charleston. The town owes its rise to the innovative thinking of early residents to persuade the railroad line to come through the area. It would later become a factor during the Civil War. While manufacturing is the city’s main economic driver, other companies, such as the NFL Carolina Panthers, also play a role.

Crime in Rock Hill has been on a decline since 2010, despite a slight uptick in 2017. Current figures show it following national trends and rising. Assaults and theft have increased more dramatically and significantly exceeded both state and national averages. The fact that its cost of living is in line with the United States makes its lower average household income an issue, at less than 60% of the state.

4. Florence, SC

Florence SC Amtrak Station
Florence SC Amtrak Station (Image Credit: DanTD, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population 39,899
Murder rate 7
Average Household income $52,708
Poverty rate 19.1%
Violent crimes in 2019 447

The bright spot for Florence is that it has a history of being a strong community as an All-American City, and its effort to revitalize its downtown. The railroad has been a vital part of this area throughout its history. Its location on the east side of the state is undoubtedly a factor in its economy. Several major companies are also based near the town, including GE Healthcare and AT&T.

Crime in Florence had been on a downturn since 2008. However, 2018 saw a spike in overall reported offenses. Assaults and burglaries saw the largest increases. Like many cities on our list, the town’s rates are higher than the national average. While the cost of living is lower here, the poverty rate is 25% higher than the state average.

5. North Charleston, SC

Population 114,852
Murder rate 26
Average Household income $53,470
Poverty rate 15.1%
Violent crimes in 2019 1,114

North Charleston is a burgeoning city that has seen double-digit growth in the last 10 years. Several major companies have brought much-needed jobs and income to the area, including Global Financial Services and Boeing. It’s also a transportation hub for water, air, and rail. The town has several high-profile tourist attractions, such as the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum.

North Charleston has dealt with several struggles that have fueled its crime rates, including the closure of the Charleston Navy Base and subsequent loss of revenue. Unfortunately, the rates for violent and property crimes far exceed the state’s average. Crime has been on an upward trajectory since 2013. The city has 2.96 law enforcement officers per 1,000 residents, 32% higher than South Carolina.

6. Charleston, SC

Population 150,227
Murder rate 8
Average Household income $79,359
Poverty rate 12.2%
Violent crimes in 2019 516

Charleston is the largest city in the state. Its coastal location makes it a popular state for residents and tourists alike. It has a lot to offer—from its annual Spoleto Festival to its many museums and cultural attractions to its vibrant downtown. Several companies are headquartered here, including Le Creuset. It captured national attention in 2016 as part of Travel & Leisure’s World’s Best Cities.

Unfortunately, Charleston has been a spotlight for crime since several high-profile incidents since 2015. Nevertheless, known offenses have declined in recent years. However, auto thefts spiked nearly 50% in 2019, at 497 incidents. It’s worth mentioning that the average household income is over 50% higher, too, undoubtedly bringing more desirable vehicles with it.

7. Columbia, SC

Columbia South Carolina skyline
Columbia South Carolina skyline (Image Credit: Runner1928, Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0)
Population 136,632
Murder rate 29
Average Household income $47,386
Poverty rate 22.5%
Violent crimes in 2019 1.037

Columbia is the capital of South Carolina, an honor it received after the American Revolutionary War. It’s located in the center of the state and is a major transportation hub. Several businesses bring vital income to the area, including Honeywell and the University of South Carolina. Nevertheless, the cost of living is below the national average.

Rising crime has played a pivotal role in prompting businesses to leave the downtown area, despite the city’s efforts to bring them back into the fold. The rates remain high with no significant declines in recent years. Violent and property crimes exceed the state and national averages. Homicides nearly doubled in 2019, with similar trends in theft and stolen vehicles.

8. Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach South Carolina
Myrtle Beach South Carolina (Image Credit: The ed17, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population 35,682
Murder rate 3
Average Household income $45,747
Poverty rate 21.6%
Violent crimes in 2019 415

Myrtle Beach is a popular tourist destination for a good reason. It has so much to offer—from golf to retail to dozens of cultural attractions. That’s saying nothing about its pleasant climate. It’s no wonder that the population has increased by over 30% since the 2010 census. The city hosts several events that encourage the tourist trade.

Like other cities of its type, the pandemic hurt Myrtle Beach’s economy hard, leaving a higher poverty rate and unemployment. Consequently, property crime has skyrocketed in recent years. Not surprisingly, the number of law enforcement officers per 1,000 residents is almost triple that of the rest of the state. Parking garages and hotels are the most frequent sites of property crime.

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How to Stay Safe in South Carolina

South Carolina certainly isn’t alone in its fight to manage its rising crime rate. It’s a pattern that played out in many major cities across the United States, particularly with homicides. It’s hard to hypothesize about what has changed in South Carolina (and the country), since the last two years has presented so many unique challenges.

Undoubtedly, declining tourism contributed to the South Carolina economy with decreasing revenues. Remember that leisure and hospitality are the state’s primary sources of income. COVID-related travel restrictions hurt many local economies that depend on these revenue streams, hence, the rise in property crimes.

Therefore, it behooves tourists to play it safe when returning to their favorite vacation destinations. Simple precautions, such as staying in groups and locking your doors when away, will go a long way toward keeping you and your belongings safe, especially in the state’s larger cities and popular tourist attractions.

While violent crime has declined since 2010, South Carolina is following national trends with an uptick in 2020. It is also above the national average. Property crime has also increased. However, over half of the known offenses were committed in residential homes, with far fewer occurring in public places. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re renting an Airbnb.

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South Carolina has so much to offer with its recreational opportunities, historic places, and fun tourist attractions. While the crime rates are troubling, it’s not a reason to avoid visiting the Palmetto State. It’s just a matter of using common-sense precautions at home and when traveling. Stay aware of your surroundings to avoid becoming a victim.

Featured Image Credit: Filmbildfabrik, Shutterstock


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