Analysis: Where is violent crime taking place in America? (And where should you avoid going?)

Violent Crime by is licensed under Canva

Author's Note: I’m the former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. I’m the Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. I offer commentary from that experience along with my six years in law enforcement.


This is the first in a series offering data from the FBI’s latest crime reports based on crimes reported to law enforcement. The FBI is a US Department of Justice agency.

Note: Per the National Crime Victimization Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, only 42 percent of violent crimes are reported to law enforcement. Thirty-two percent of property crimes are reported. The USDOJ uses a national survey (National Crime Victimization Survey) as a gauge of all crimes.

In addition, there are major law enforcement agencies not reporting their crime data to the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System for its latest report.

So what you read below is a subset of total crime.

Nevertheless, the numbers below are some of the best indicators we have as to the total number of “reported” crimes and the characteristics of crime.

See the chart below.

Where Violent Crime Happens

  1. Your Home

A residence/home is by far the location of most violent crimes and this makes sense when considering that most crimes of violence involve someone the victim knows. Take a look at the number of sexual assaults (chart below). The crime prevention community has said for decades that who you invite into your home or whose home you decide to enter is one of the biggest concerns in rape and sexual assault prevention.

This observation is substantiated by the fact that 76 percent of female murders were perpetrated by someone known to the victim.

As to burglaries, there are many unknown offenders yet when known, they accounted for almost 30 percent of burglars in occupied dwellings.

Females knew their offenders in almost 70% of violent crimes committed against them (they are relatives, friends, or acquaintances). Females now lead males as to violent criminal victimization rates in recent years.

The majority of violent crime happens between people who know each other. Strangers committed about 1.8 million nonfatal violent crimes or about 38 percent of all nonfatal violent victimizations, Bureau Of Justice Statistics. The percentage will vary from year to year but what doesn’t change is the fact that most violent crime involves people you know. There is a chart from the FBI that comes to the same conclusion (forthcoming).

2. Public Streets

Public streets/highways/alleys/roads are the next largest category, many involving areas close to your home (per crime prevention specialists).

3. Parking Lot-Garage

Your likelihood of being targeted in a parking lot or garage is considerable because of your lack of movement or mobility. People are preoccupied with finding car keys and getting into their vehicles rather than viewing their surroundings.

4. Elementary And Secondary Schools (not colleges)

Crime is correlated with age (15-25 age group) and many of these events are related to violent crime in and around high schools.

5. Hotels-Motels

When I was a police officer, we responded to criminal events at interstate hotels or hotels. Being far from home has its vulnerabilities; you need to pay attention to your surroundings in unknown areas. For crime victims, you are unlikely to return for trial which makes out-of-state visitors favored targets.

6. Drug Store-Doctor’s Office-Hospitals

Hospitals are becoming places of risk as doctors and nurses attend to people victimized by violent crime and are under the influence and the probability that some victims contributed to their injuries. When I was a police officer, I went to an emergency ward one evening and staff begged me to stay because rival gang members were in attendance. There are increasing media reports of hospitals being places of concern for violence.

7. Restaurants

Same issues as hotels-motels. You’re interacting with lots of strangers. Most violent crime happens when you’re alone. Go together. Leave together. Many restaurants serve alcohol, a known contributor to violent crime.

8. Bars-Nightclubs

What happens when you put a ton of people in close contact when alcohol is being served? Learn how to interact in a bar; quick apologies are often necessary even when you’re not at fault. There are people who offend easily, especially after several drinks. I’m a big guy and a former cop yet when I bumped into someone, I was quick to apologize.

9. Convenience Stores

From my police days, we called these stop and robs. Never go into a convenience store without taking a hard look at who’s inside and outside. If suspicious, go elsewhere.

10. Commercial Office Buildings

The more people you have, the greater the chances for incidents.


There are a ton of places where you would expect more crime like stadiums, amusement parks, religious locations, shopping malls, department stores, colleges, and others where you would expect crime problems but they often come with their own security. The lowest crime numbers posted are military installations and nothing is more secure than a military base.


I did not include correctional facilities in my analysis. Anytime you have the vast majority of occupants with violent backgrounds living in close proximity or jails importing people fresh from the streets while being under the influence, the results are preordained.

Note: The Bureau Of Justice Statistics used to publish more “household” data and what I’m quoting is a tad dated but National Crime Victimization Survey numbers are still relevant due to the huge numbers analyzed.

Low-income communities have always been the places where most violent crime happens. This is criminology 101. Please recognize that there are “low-income” communities throughout the US that remain low-crime communities. Appalachia has always had income inequities (and substance abuse issues) but remains low as to stranger-to-stranger violent crime.

Urban areas have traditionally had more crime than suburbs and rural areas but there are exceptions.

Multi-family housing has always had more crime than single-family homes. More people can mean more crime. Apartments often have more crime than a community of single-family homes.

Larger households ( six or more people) have the same issue.


 See More

See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.

Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.

US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.

National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

The Crime in America.Net RSS feed ( provides subscribers with a means to stay informed about the latest news, publications, and other announcements from the site.

For corrections or revisions, click here.
The opinions reflected in this article are not necessarily the opinions of LET
Sign in to comment



Oftentimes you can't avoid the 'bad part of town'. Think about your larger hospitals... seems like most of them are in the 'bad part of town'. Many potential victims that are there are distracted thinking about why they are there. Stay aware!

Powered by StructureCMS™ Comments

Get latest news delivered daily!

We will send you breaking news right to your inbox

© 2024 Law Enforcement Today, Privacy Policy