The Most Dangerous Cities In The World

By Krista Conrad on April 15 2020 in Society

Carjacking is a common theft in many of the world's most dangerous cities.
Carjacking is a common theft in many of the world's most dangerous cities.
  • According to a 2020 study, Detroit, MI is the most dangerous city in America with a violent crime rate of 20 per 1,000 citizens.
  • In 2012, Mexico had a murder rate of 21.5 per 100,000 people.
  • About 150,000 intentional homicides in Mexico since 2006 were related to organized crime.

Before planning your next vacation, it may be worth doing some research into the cities you plan to visit - especially if the itinerary involves locales in Mexico and South America, where the top 10 most dangerous places in the world are located. According to a report by the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, these cities have documented the highest homicide rates per capita.

Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela

Ciudad Bolívar. Image credit: Venecon/Wikimedia.org

Cuidad Bolívar gets a lot of press, but not a lot of positive exposure. In the city's most poverty-stricken district - which has been referred to as one of the world's biggest mega-slums - drugs, gangs, and violence run rampant. Crime flourishes in the city, located on the Orinoco River, with 69 homicides per 100,000 people. In 2018, that equated to 264 murders in its population of 382,095.

Fortaleza, Brazil

 Seashore of Fortaleza. Image credit: ME/Portal da Copa/Wikimedia.org

There are also 69 murders per 100,000 people in Fortaleza, which is infamous for pristine white beaches and its proximity to wildly popular tourist attractions like Jericoacoara Beach and Lençois Maranhenses National Park. But the beauty of Fortaleza is overshadowed by the number of homicides (2,724 in 2018) so being aware of personal safety is paramount when visiting.

Natal, Brazil

Port of Natal. Image credit: Portal da Copa/Wikimedia.org

The city is known for high rates of all crimes, including theft, physical and sexual assault, and carjackings - but its murder rate is what lands Natal on the top 10 list. With 75 homicides per 100,000 people, the city remains a popular tourist destination for the beautiful natural sites surrounding its boundary. The reasons for its high crime and murder rates are presumed to be poverty and violence between prisoners and gangs.

Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela

Ciudad Guayana. Image credit: La Mesa/Public domain

Violent crime and murder are a prevalent concern in Venezuela, and the city of Ciudad Guayana is no exception. Visitors are cautioned to exercise extreme caution when exploring the city because crimes like rape and murder are very common. In its population of one million people, the homicide rate is 78 in 100,000, largely due to economic hardships and organized gangs.

Irapuato, Mexico

Irapuato, Mexico. Image credit: Davelapo555/Public domain

A mid-sized Mexican city, Irapuato (population less than 400,000) has added to recent surges in Mexican security issues with a murder rate of 81 in 100,000 people, which stems primarily from turf wars between the Jalisco Cartel New Generation and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. Videos released by the latter have promised to remove outsiders from the area and shown mass shootings in bars, as well as men with assault rifles. Local police declared two years ago they would no longer handle organized crime and would leave it in the hands of the federal government, leaving no front-line response to violent crime related to the cartels.

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

Ciudad Juárez skyline. Image credit: ONEOKROCKmx/Wikimedia.org

Cuidad Juárez is widely known as a city to avoid. It once served residents of El Paso, TX, which shares the same border, with nightclubs and loud musical entertainment, but its tourism has since been snuffed out due to high rates of crime. There are 86 murders per 100,000 people, and the city is also known as the worst city for women in Mexico. Though U.S. residents are not specifically targeted by the violence, travelers are reminded to be vigilant in case of robbery, carjacking, theft, burglary, and murder.

Cuidad Victoria, Mexico

Ciudad Victoria. Image credit: Armando Aguayo Rivera from Cd. Victoria Tamaulipas, México/Wikimedia.org

With 86 murders per 100,000 residents, Cuidad Victoria is one of the world's most dangerous cities. Many of those homicides are the result of shootouts between rival drug cartels, as well as criminal groups clashing with police and military in the city. There is even marked violence in prisons, where there are noted shootings, smuggled weapons, riots, and escapes.

Caracas, Venezuela

Caracas. Image credit: Paulino Moran/Wikimedia.org

In 2017, Caracas was named the most dangerous capital city in the world, and is still in the top three most crime-ridden cities on the planet with 100 murders in 100,000 people. Many residents of the city - and Venezuela in general - have been forced into a life of crime in order to support poor and often starving families.

Acapulco, Mexico

Acapulco. Image credit: Microstar/Wikimedia.org

Once a playground for the Hollywood set, there is more than a drug war happening on the streets of Acapulco. In its hillside neighborhoods, where tourists do not tend to wander, gangs like 221 or Los Locos include extortionists, kidnappers, car thieves, assassins, and killers. The result is 111 homicides per 100,000 people, and the devastation of a once-booming tourism industry. Though not tied directly to the cartel (the main drug cartel in Acapulco split years ago), the number of neighborhood gangs involved in turf wars and other violence is just as concerning, and terrifying for residents and tourists alike. Some poorer business owners, who cannot afford elaborate security systems, have resorted to paying for protection.

Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana. Image credit: IFCM/Wikimedia.org

Named the most dangerous city in the world with 138 murders per 100,000 residents (about seven killings per day), Tijuana is known for violent crime and poverty. Not long ago, it was a party spot for American college students during spring break, until its seedy underbelly of crime surfaced. Most of the violence comes from human trafficking and drug trades (largely crystal meth), each run by different gangs, as well as a rivalry between the Sinaloa (El Chapo) and Tijuana cartels.

The Most Dangerous Cities In The World

RankCityCountryHomicidesHomicide Rate (Per 100,000)
1Tijuana Mexico2,640138
2Acapulco Mexico948111
3Caracas Venezuela2,980100
4Ciudad Victoria Mexico31486
5Ciudad Juárez Mexico1,25186
6Irapuato Mexico47381
7Ciudad Guayana Venezuela64578
8Natal Brazil1,18575
9Fortaleza Brazil2,72469
10Ciudad Bolívar Venezuela26469
11Cape Town South Africa2,86866
12Belém Brazil1,62765
13Cancun Mexico54764
14Feira de Santana Brazil38663
15St. Louis United States18761
16Culiacán Mexico58561
17Barquisimeto Venezuela68357
18Uruapan Mexico18955
19Kingston Jamaica63954
20Obregón Mexico17952
21Maceió Brazil52151
22Vitória da Conquista Brazil17251
23Baltimore United States30951
24San Salvador El Salvador90650
25Aracaju Brazil46349
26Coatzacoalcos Mexico16248
27Palmira Colombia14948
28Maturín Venezuela25747
29Salvador Brazil1,84947
30Macapá Brazil23347
31Cali Colombia1,20947
32Celaya Mexico24047
33San Pedro Sula Honduras36347
34Ensenada Mexico25347
35Campos dos Goytacazes Brazil23346
36Tepic Mexico23045
37Manaus Brazil94444
38Recife Brazil1,73844
39Distrito Central (Tegucigalpa) Honduras53843
40San Juan United States14342
41Valencia Venezuela67842
42Reynosa Mexico29541
43Guatemala City Guatemala1,41144
44João Pessoa Brazil46041
45Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) South Africa47839
46Detroit United States26139
47Durban South Africa1,56239
48Teresina Brazil32438
49Chihuahua Mexico35238
50New Orleans United States14537

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