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10 Most Dangerous Cities in Virginia (2024 Update)

Hicksford Ave Emporia VA

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

Anyone planning to visit or settle in the city must know the ins and outs of the area. That includes the location’s crime statistics. You do not want to make a lifetime investment in buying a home only to discover that the area is too dangerous to raise a family. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to go on a vacation in a not-so-secure area. In Virginia, there are many lovely places and attractions to see. However, not all is rosy since this state also has some dangerous cities worth noting. In this article, we will go over 10 cities in Virginia with high crime rates.


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Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in Virginia:

1. Portsmouth

Portsmouth Virginia
Portsmouth Virginia (Image Credit: Doug Kerr, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
Population 93,694
Murder Rate 36.1 per 100,000 people
Average Household Income $63, 882
Poverty Rate 16.80%
Violent Crimes in 2021 920 per 100,000 people

Portsmouth tops the list of the most dangerous cities in Virginia. It’s quite a historic town whose incorporation dates back to 1836. It has many historical sites that visitors love to tour spanning three centuries. While it’s always been an economic hub, the city has its fair share of challenges. Crime is a big issue in Portsmouth, especially property crime which rates at 19.29%. In a city with such a small population, theft, burglaries, and arson are a huge concern for residents. An isolated or poorly secured home is often a soft target for thieves in the city.

In addition, other types of crimes take place, including violent crimes, vandalism, and drug-related offenses. Certain areas, like Newton, are more prone to crimes than others. Therefore, it’s always prudent to learn more about an area before moving there. The high crime rate in Portsmouth can be attributed to unemployment which is a persistent concern for the city. Still, crime reduction has been a focus of the police department since 1995. Police aim to use friendly engagement and build bridges to encourage people not to pursue a life of crime.

2. South Boston

South Boston Virginia
South Boston Virginia (Image Credit: Doug Kerr, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
Population 7,452
Murder Rate 1 per 1000 people
Average Household Income $55, 549
Poverty Rate 17.06%
Violent Crimes in 2021 2.442% per 1000 people

When you compare South Boston with cities like Portsmouth, it’s quite a small place. After a new settlement was set up, it grew into a town and was incorporated in 1884. South Boston became an independent city in 1960 but still retains one of the lowest populations in Virginia.

Despite its small population, South Boston comes in second as one of the places with a high crime rate in Virginia. The biggest issue is property crime, especially in those homes that don’t invest in security systems. Unsecured homes are 300% more likely to be broken into while the owners are away.

Central neighborhoods in South Boston are a hotbed of crime. The chance of becoming a victim of a crime is 1 in 27. But there are safe areas like the southeast part of the city, where the crime rate is 1 in 65. Total property crime in the city is 15.76%, which is quite high considering the small population in the city.

South Boston lacks a flourishing economy, contributing to a high crime rate. About 17.1% of the population lives below the poverty line. There’s also the issue of an overwhelmed police department as crime continues to grow by 20% per 2021 reports.

3. Danville

Danville Municipal Building
Danville Municipal Building (Image Credit: Mx. Granger, Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0)
Population 38, 834
Murder Rate 1 per 1000 people
Average Household Income $51, 599
Poverty Rate 22.38%
Violent Crimes in 2021 1.95 per 1000 people

Danville is popular with tourists visiting historical sites. However, Danville, unfortunately, ranks among the most dangerous cities in the state of Virginia. At the top of the list in terms of crime in this populous place is property crime which rates at 17.65%. Southeast neighborhoods are some of the most unsafe. You have a 1 in 19 chance of being a victim of crime in these areas where most of the low-income earners in Danville live. The north is populated by higher-income residents.

However, not all is lost as the city heads towards better days with a drop in crime. In 2020, there were reports that Danville had experienced a drop in crime not seen in 30 years. Murders dropped from 8 to 5, while robberies were down by 42%. These changes have come about because of the Police department implementing community empowerment programs. In addition, the police force has implemented new ways to patrol the streets in Danville.

4. Galax

Galax, Virginia downtown
Galax, Virginia, (Image Credit: Doug Kerr, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
Population 6,345
Murder Rate 0.0298 per 1000
Average Household Income $53, 117
Poverty Rate 23.81%
Violent Crimes in 2021 2.833 per 1000

Another of the small cities in Virginia with a high crime rate is Galax. Situated Southwest of Virginia, Galax was part of 800 acres of land granted to James Buchanan in 1756. One thorny issue that residents face is a high crime wave which rates at 32.93 per 1,000 residents every year. The Northeast parts of this city are the worst affected by crime. Southern areas are relatively safer in comparison.

Even with the small population, there are lots of violent crimes taking place. Property crime tops the list, with home invasions, theft, and burglaries being quite rampant. The high crime rates can be attributed to the weak economy and a lack of job opportunities for many who live below the poverty line.

In comparison to other historically significant places in Virginia, there isn’t much to see and do in Galax. Still, the local authorities are making strides to encourage more visitors to the city to boost the economy. This will help to open up the city to business opportunities. In addition, the police department is investing more in the latest technology, like cameras, to improve surveillance.

5. Roanoke

Downtown Roanoke Virginia USA panoramio
Roanoke, Virginia, (Image Credit: Chanilim714, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population 94,386
Murder Rate 1 per 1000
Average Household Income $60,914
Poverty Rate 20.77%
Violent Crimes in 2021 58 per 670 people

The Blue Ridge Mountains are part of the reason many people visit Virginia. Among the cities in this area is Roanoke. It’s among the most populous cities in the state but has a high crime rate. Roanoke is safer than 6% of US cities, which is pretty low. It became an independent city in 1884 with an economy driven by rail transport and coal. Today, the city has a thriving economy centered on retail and health care.

With this success, many people have managed to be homeowners. However, this raised the property-related crime rate. There are 38.13 property crimes per 1,000 people in Roanoke. But there are also cases of violent crime and murder.

Reports from the police department show an increase in crime in the city since 2020. The year saw the department respond to 389 violent crime cases compared to 335 in 2019. This has led to the department working on outreach programs to help reduce these incidences in the city.

6. Marion

Marion County Courthouse
Marion County Courthouse (Image Credit: Upstateherd, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population 5,429
Murder Rate 1 per 1000
Average Household Income $44, 814
Poverty Rate 25.10 %
Violent Crimes in 2021 1 in 233 people

Another city that requires you to be cautious when living, working, or visiting is Marion. Marion is situated on Interstate 81, making it easy for any person committing a crime to get in and out fast. The city grew a lot during the 20th century, but the population began to decline during the 21st century. Today the population is relatively small but is still prone to violent and property crimes. Cases of burglary and theft lead by a high margin. In one report, there were 590 burglaries per 100,000 people and 3298.2 theft cases for the same number of people.

In terms of violent crimes, Marion continues to experience cases of murder, assault, robbery, and rape. A large number of the population is retirees who make easy targets for criminals. To combat these crimes, the Marion Police Department continues to ask people to be vigilant and report any crimes they witness.

7. Richmond

strawberry-street richmond virginia
Image Credit: andrewawood, Pixabay
Population 230,206
Murder Rate 1 per 1000
Average Household Income $76,182
Poverty Rate  23.23 %
Violent Crimes in 2021 3.74 per 1000 people

Richmond is a big city in the state of Virginia and is among the oldest ones in the country. Today, Richmond is a thriving city but one of the most dangerous places in Virginia. The city has been witnessing a surge in the number of violent crimes. 2021 saw the number of homicides increase to 72 by November. 75% of these deaths were a result of shootings.

Property crime has also increased significantly as more people in the city face unemployment. The rate of property crime lies at 31.56% per 1,000 people. This increase has been brought on by many people losing their jobs due to the pandemic.

Even with a high annual household income, the poverty rate in Richmond is still high at 23.23%. This has led to the rise of gangs like the Bloods and MS-13, who are responsible for many violent crimes. Law enforcement is partnering with the local communities to spread awareness. Also, the justice department continues to crack down on these criminal gangs in the city.

8. Emporia

Emporia Virginia First National Bank
Emporia Virginia First National Bank (Image Credit: DanTD via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
Population 5,312
Murder Rate 1 per 100,000 people
Average Household Income $46, 692
Poverty Rate 26.97 %
Violent Crimes in 2021 3.47 per 1000 people

Another of the most dangerous cities in Virginia is Emporia, despite its small population. It has numerous historic buildings which visitors to the area love to visit, and the city played a significant role during the Civil War.

But, if you want to visit Emporia, you have to be vigilant of your surroundings. This small city experiences 20 violent crimes per 1,000 people. In addition, there’s also a property crime rating of 179 per 1,000 homes, which is quite high considering Emporia only has a population of only 5,312.

In comparison to bigger cities like Richmond, Emporia is quite relaxed and not as busy. Unemployment remains high due to a lack of opportunities. Consequently, the poverty rate is quite high.

However, all is not lost, as police reported a significant drop in crime in the city in 2020. The Emporia Police Department reported a 1.9% drop in violent crime in 2020 compared to 2019. There was also a drop of 7% for Group A offenses and a 21.8% drop in total arrests in the city.

9. Norfolk

Norfolk Virginia dock at night
Image Credit: 12019, Pixabay
Population 239,125
Murder Rate 239,125
Average Household Income $72,315
Poverty Rate 18.75 %
Violent Crimes in 2021 6.63% per 1000 people

Norfolk, the third most populous city in Virginia, ranks 9th in the most dangerous cities in the state. Any person visiting Norfolk must be aware of the crime rate in this city. Being an economic hub and quite populous makes it a breeding ground for criminals. Violent and property crimes are reported every day.

Violent crimes in Norfolk are at a rate of 6.63% per 1,000 people. Property crimes, on the other hand, are at a rate of 28.53% per 1,000 people. Despite a thriving economy, Norfolk still grapples with an unemployment rate of 3.8%. The Norfolk Police Department has several programs in place to help reduce the rising crime rate in the city.

10. Petersburg

Virginia Avenue Petersburg, Virginia downtown
Petersburg, Virginia (Image Credit: Antony-22, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Population 31, 926
Murder Rate 0.72 per 1,000
Average Household Income $53, 064
Poverty Rate 24.07 %
Violent Crimes in 2021 4.15% per 1000 people

Petersburg is located on the fall line of the Appomattox River. The first settlers to the area date back to 1645, after a fort was built. It’s among the few cities in the area with a free black settlement in 1774. Today, 21st-century Petersburg is considered a dangerous city and has a high murder rate. For instance, in 2020, a total of 24 murders occurred in the city. This was at a rate of 76.9 per 100,000 people. Violent crimes are also quite high, with 197 taking place per 1,000 people.

The Petersburg Police Department is employing better technology to combat crime. Among its best endeavors is partnering with BAIR analytics for better crime reporting services. The system makes it easier for people to report crimes. It also sends out alerts to residents about important issues.

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What Can Be attributed to the Crime Rates in Virginia’s Cities?

Cities in Virginia are not immune to crimes affecting other states in the US. Some parts of Virginia continue to experience a growing crime rate as the poverty rate increases. These cities have a poor economy which doesn’t provide enough jobs for the residents. Some, like Emporia and Marion, have a small population that’s not capable of driving the economy.

However, bigger cities like Richmond still experience crime. The police departments in these areas are more active in combating crime. They put in place programs and strive to reach a consensus with local communities.

In addition, together with the Department of Justice, police are working towards eradicating gangs in Virginia, like the Bloods, which are taking root in larger cities like Richmond, causing the crime rate to increase. Another measure is incorporating the latest technology to fight crime. Some cities are adding more surveillance cameras in public areas. These will make it easier to spot crimes taking place.

Others are partnering with tech companies to create better crime-reporting platforms. So far, this is working well for the city of Petersburg.

Ways to Remain Safe in a Virginia

Cities can be exciting places to visit when touring a state like Virginia. There are many attractions to see, including historical sites, museums, and parks. As a newcomer to the area, it’s important to ensure you always remain safe.

One of the best ways to do so is to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Ensure you walk in public places with other people around. Also, in these public areas, be aware of who is next to you. Many tourists fall prey to thieves and pickpockets when they’re not paying attention to what is happening around them.

In addition, if you need to ask for directions, find a tourism office or a police officer. Though you can still ask a passerby to help you, it’s risky, considering you’re new to the area. If you must ask a person who isn’t a police officer, trust your gut if the directions they give you seem suspicious.

Also, keep your valuables in a safe area, like the inner pocket of your bag.

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Crimes, especially violent crimes, have been rising in many cities across Virginia. This is likely related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many citizens to lose their jobs. Also, as the poverty rate increases, many people commit crimes. Property crimes are also on the rise as many homes continue to report break-ins every day across the most dangerous cities listed above.

Always be vigilant and report any cases witnessed to have the assailants apprehended. That way, crime rates can start falling.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: Hicksford Ave Emporia VA (image Credit: DanTD, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)


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