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The 5 most dangerous (and 5 safest) states in America

24/7 Wall St. Logo By Alexander Kent and Thomas C. Frohlich of 24/7 Wall St. | Slide 1 of 11: File photo of a man in handcuffs.    Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images

Despite a large drop in the national crime rate, many areas remain dangerous

The number of violent crimes dropped across the United States by 4.4% in 2013 compared to the year before, according to estimates released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the last decade, the number of violent crimes declined by nearly 15%.

In a previous interview with 24/7 Wall St., John Roman, senior fellow at public policy research organization The Urban Institute said, “A 4.4% reduction in violent crime is astonishing. If you saw a similar increase in GDP, or a similar decrease in unemployment, it would be huge national news.”

Despite the national improvement in crime rates — as well as significant improvements in some of the most dangerous states — a number of states were much more dangerous than the rest of the nation. In fact, South Carolina and Delaware had among the largest decreases in violent crime and still had some of the highest violent crime rates in 2013.

Nationwide, 368 violent crimes were reported for every 100,000 people in 2013. Such crimes include murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. In America’s 10 most dangerous states, there were well more than 400 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents. Based on violent crime rates published by the FBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report, these are America’s most dangerous states.

Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter were especially common in the most dangerous states. All but one of the states reported a higher murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate than the national rate of 4.5 incidents per 100,000 people. In Louisiana, nearly 11 murders were reported per 100,000 people, the highest in the nation.

Aggravated assault accounted for a large portion of violent crimes reported in these states. While 229 incidents of assault were reported per 100,000 Americans across the nation in 2013, at least 300 were reported per 100,000 residents in all but one of the most dangerous states. New Mexico led the nation with an estimated 450 aggravated assaults per 100,000 state residents.

In addition to violent crimes, other sorts of crimes were also more common in these states compared to national figures. For example, there were more than 3,000 property crimes reported per 100,000 residents in eight of the most dangerous states. The national rate, by contrast, was 2,730 per 100,000 Americans.

While violent crimes are committed for a variety of reasons, socioeconomic indicators are powerful predictors of crime. Just as in large U.S. cities, income plays a major role at the state level. A typical household earned less than the national median household income of $52,250 in seven of the 10 states in 2013. Households in Alaska and Maryland were the exceptions, with nation-leading median incomes of more than $72,000.

Crime rates tend to be higher in large urban areas. Several of the 10 most dangerous states were home to cities that had relatively high violent crime rates. Nine of the 50 most dangerous large U.S. cities were located in one or more of the 10 most dangerous states. Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Baltimore, Maryland in particular had nearly the highest violent crime rates among U.S. cities and likely contributed substantially to their states’ overall crime problems.

People living in the nation’s most dangerous states were also far more likely than other Americans to live in poverty. The poverty rate in six of the 10 states was higher than the national rate of 15.8% in 2013. Nearly 22% of New Mexico residents lived below the poverty line, the second-highest nationwide and the highest on this list.

Educational attainment rates are yet another factor contributing to violent crime. Lower levels of education result in lower incomes later in life, which in turn can contribute to higher crime rates. In addition, as Roman explained in a previous discussion at the city level, poor education is part of several structural disadvantages that make crime very difficult to address. According to Roman, addressing these underlying economic and social issues is critical to reducing crime. For example, cities that “have been successful [at reducing crime] have promoted immigration, they’ve reduced economic segregation, and they’ve encouraged gentrification.” He added, “I think all three of those things are controversial. But I think the data suggests the results are overwhelming.”

To identify the most dangerous states in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates from the FBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report. Property crime rates also came from the FBI’s report. The data were broken into eight types of crime. Violent crime was comprised of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault; and, property crime was comprised of burglary, arson, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. In addition to crime data, we also reviewed median household income, poverty rates, and educational attainment rates from the 2013 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Click ahead for the five most dangerous (and the five safest) states in America, and then visit 24/7 Wall St. for the complete report.

© Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images

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