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10 Most Dangerous Cities in Tennessee (2022)

nashvlle tennessee

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.

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The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in Tennessee: A Quick Look

1. Memphis

Memphis, Tennessee trolley
Image Credit: MikeGoad, Pixabay
Population 651,932
Murder rate 0.0194
Average Household income $41,228
Poverty rate 21.7%
Violent crimes in 2018 12,674

In 2021, Memphis was rated as 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 does not have any particular attraction, so tourism is low. Second, poverty is high, partially due to the lack of tourism.


2. Nashville

centennial park in Nashville Tennessee
Image Credit: f11photo, Shutterstock
Population 692,587
Murder rate 0.011
Average Household income $92,486
Poverty rate 15.09%
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 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, and this 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.


3. Chattanooga

Walnut Street Bridge Chattanooga, TN
Walnut Street Bridge Chattanooga, TN (Image Credit: Stephen Matthew Milligan 0>, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population 179,690
Murder rate 0.011
Average Household income $45,527
Poverty rate 20.7%
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 a bit 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.


4. Savannah

Hardin County Courthouse Savannah, TN
Hardin County Courthouse Savannah, TN (Image Credit: Cohee via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)
Population 6,947
Murder rate 0.012
Average Household income $43,307
Poverty rate 21.9%
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 poverty 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.


5. Newport

Newport Tennessee PD
Newport Tennessee PD (Image Credit: Dwight Burdette via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)
Population 6,848
Murder rate 0.008
Average Household income $32,160
Poverty rate 42.94%
Violent crimes in 2018 6,770

Based only on the violent crime number, Newport isn’t that dangerous. However, when you also take into account 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 generally 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, though, so if you’re willing to deal with a higher crime rate, you may find a deal.


6. Pigeon Forge

Hollywood Wax Museum Pigeon Forge, TN
Hollywood Wax Museum Pigeon Forge, TN (Image Credit: Momwriter via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population 6,229
Murder rate 0.009
Average Household income $51,969
Poverty rate 15.38%
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 super high, but there are many people in the town because of the tourism. People stay here due to the draw of the mountains and the many tourist activities within the city.

Therefore, Pigeon Forge does seem to have quite a high crime rate, but you do 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.


7. Athens

Battle of Athens, TN marker
Battle of Athens, TN marker (Image Credit: Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)
Population 13,851
Murder rate 0.009
Average Household income $48,325
Poverty rate 28.32%
Violent crimes in 2018 13,627

Athens has a surprisingly high crime rate, especially considering that 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, though, which also brings some level of violent crime with it. Any time you have more theft in a city, the assault rate also tends to go up. (Assaults tend to happen when theft goes wrong.)

The property crime rate is near twice the national average. Violent crime isn’t nearly as high, though, making this city land lower on this list. We do highly recommend an alarm system for anyone who lives here, though.


8. Dyersburg

City Drug Co Dyersburg, TN
City Drug Co Dyersburg, TN (Image Credit: Detsom via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population 16,476
Murder rate 0.009
Average Household income $36,820
Poverty rate 9.92%
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.


9. Cleveland

Ocoee Street Historic District Cleveland, TN
(Image Credit: Andrew Jameson via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population 44,595
Murder rate 0.009
Average Household income $66,984
Poverty rate 30%
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 city doesn’t have any particular problems, though. 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.


10. Millington

Centennial Park Millington, TN
Centennial Park Millington, TN (Image Credit: Thomas R Machnitzki (thomasmachnitzki.com) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)
Population 10,645
Murder rate 0.009
Average Household income $68,351
Poverty rate 18.6%
Violent crimes in 2018 11,016

Millington is a rather small community. However, it is located near Millington, so 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. Its proximity to Memphis is likely to blame.

Basically, it has a surprisingly high crime rate for its size, with aggravated assaults and other assaults being quite high.

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.

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How to Stay Safe in Tennessee

The easiest way to be safe in Tennessee is to stay out of these cities. Otherwise, the whole of Tennessee is quite 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.

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Featured Image Credit: ESB Professional, Shutterstock

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