10 Most Dangerous Cities in Tennessee (2023)
Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
Generally, Tennessee is considered a safe state. For the most part, this is due to a mix of Southern hospitality and a lower population density. Tennessee is home to many cities, but the state tends to be rather rural otherwise. When you have fewer people crowded together, you typically have less violent crime.
However, no state is perfect. Tennessee is home to several unsafe areas, one of which is considered the most dangerous city in the United States.
The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in Tennessee: A Quick Look
|Average Household income||$41,228|
|Violent crimes in 2018||12,674|
In 2021, Memphis was rated the most dangerous city in the United States. It has the second-highest homicide rate of any U.S. metro area, and the murder rate is only increasing. In 2019, there were 237 homicides. In 2020, that number rose by nearly 100 to 327 homicides. Those numbers are expected to increase.
The city’s violent reputation is even more striking when you consider that the area around it has a below-average violent crime rating compared to the rest of the country. It is as if all the violent crime in Tennessee is concentrated in this one spot. While there are other violent crimes in Memphis, its murder rate is what really drives up the city’s violence rating. Overall, the violent crime rating is four times the national average.
Many factors likely contribute to the city’s violence. First, the city has no particular attraction other than its music history, so tourism is low. Second, poverty is high, partially due to the lack of tourism.
|Average Household income||$92,486|
|Violent crimes in 2018||7,641|
Nashville is one of the largest cities in Tennessee. It is also the capital city and is home to many tourist attractions. The more people you shove into a small area, the more concentrated the crime tends to get. Compared to the rest of the country, though, Nashville ranks quite low in terms of violent crime. Compared to Memphis, in particular, Nashville is extremely safe.
When you take the population into account, it is striking that Nashville isn’t more violent than it is. The mayor has attempted to make it more of a tourist destination over the last few years, which has surprisingly not led to a sharp increase in crime. That said, crime is going up due to the rising population. However, it is not increasing at the speed that much of the country is.
|Average Household income||$45,527|
|Violent crimes in 2018||1,891|
Chattanooga has a rather low violent crime rating compared to the rest of the country (and Tennessee). This city is on the southern border of Tennessee—in fact, some of the city is located in Georgia. This city is considered to be safer than most others in Tennessee. However, since it is a city, the crime rate is still higher than much of the surrounding area.
While Chattanooga isn’t a huge tourist destination, many people visit for the mountainous terrain and natural beauty. It tends to have a lower poverty rate than many other areas in Tennessee, which likely contributes to its lower violent crime rate.
|Average Household income||$43,307|
|Violent crimes in 2018||6,968|
Savannah typically has less crime than other areas in Tennessee, but the rate is higher based on the population. Both property crime and violent crime are a problem in this city, with a large portion of the crimes being gang-related, which is strange compared to the other cities in Tennessee, where this isn’t a problem.
In fact, Savannah has its own gang unit in the police force, one of the only such units in Tennessee. The violent crime rate is quite high, but the property crime rates are even higher. There are many instances of theft, for example.
|Average Household income||$32,160|
|Violent crimes in 2018||6,770|
Based only on the violent crime number, Newport isn’t that dangerous. However, when you also consider the fact that it has a low population, it is considerably more dangerous than many other cities in the area. Generally, the FBI considers Newport to be one of the most dangerous cities in the state.
Property crime is higher than violent crime. However, many of the crimes are caused by drug addiction. Addicts often steal things to pay for more drugs, and other crimes tend to occur more when a large minority of the population is addicted. Newport was hit hard by the opioid epidemic.
It also has a high unemployment rate, largely because of the drug addiction problem. Real estate is extremely cheap, and if you’re willing to deal with a higher crime rate, you may find a deal.
6. Pigeon Forge
|Average Household income||$51,969|
|Violent crimes in 2018||6,291|
Located at the base of the Smokey Mountains, this town is a hit for tourism. The population isn’t high, but there are many people in the town because of tourism. People stay here due to the draw of the mountains and the many tourist activities within the city.
However, Pigeon Forge seems to have quite a high crime rate, but you have to remember that there are probably twice as many tourists in this town as actual residents, so it isn’t necessarily more dangerous than some of the other towns on this list. The high level of tourism tends to skew the statistics. However, it has a particularly high vehicle theft problem, though this is not counted within the violent crime statistics.
|Average Household income||$48,325|
|Violent crimes in 2018||13,627|
Athens has a surprisingly high crime rate, especially since it is not well-known as a dangerous city. In fact, it is more well-known for its scenery and Southern charm, which typically do not go hand-in-hand with crime. This historic city is well-known for property crime, which also brings some level of violent crime with it. Any time you have more theft in a city, the assault rate also increases—assaults often occur when theft goes wrong.
The property crime rate is nearly twice the national average. Violent crime isn’t as high, making this city land lower on this list. We highly recommend an alarm system for anyone who lives in Athens.
|Average Household income||$36,820|
|Violent crimes in 2018||16,382|
Dyersburg is more of a town than a city. It has a relatively small population and a low violent crime number. However, when you consider how many crimes happen in such a small town, you realize just how dangerous a place it is. Poverty is relatively high in this town, even though housing is quite expensive. Due to the housing and income level mismatch, crime rates tend to be high.
The crime rate here is about the same as those of large cities. Since it is a relatively small town, you are much more likely to be a target. For this reason, we had to include this city on this list. It is simply too dangerous compared to the population.
|Average Household income||$66,984|
|Violent crimes in 2018||44,954|
Cleveland doesn’t have a huge number of crimes compared to places like Memphis, but that is a low bar to clear. Compared to its population, Cleveland has property and violent crime ratings that are quite high. The unemployment rate isn’t that high, and neither is the poverty rate. In fact, the city is known for its historic buildings and plentiful hiking trails.
|Average Household income||$68,351|
|Violent crimes in 2018||11,016|
Millington is a rather small community. However, it is located near Memphis, and some of the crime tends to carry over. It is a typical town at first glance, but it has a higher crime rate per capita than other similar towns. Basically, it has a surprisingly high crime rate for its size, and aggravated assaults and other violent crimes are prevalent.
Many people move to Millington to get out of Memphis while still being close enough to commute. However, they usually find that this area isn’t much safer.
How to Stay Safe in Tennessee
The easiest way to be safe in Tennessee is to stay out of these cities. Otherwise, most of Tennessee is relatively safe. Safe cities in the state include Church Hill and Signal Mountain. Cookeville is also rather safe if you’re looking for a larger city. Much of Tennessee is rural, which makes it generally safer than much of the country.
Featured Image Credit: ESB Professional, Shutterstock