Most Dangerous Cities in Virginia: A Comprehensive Overview

Williamsburg, Virginia
Tinseltown /

Virginia is known for its beautiful landscapes, historical sites, and overall safety. However, some cities and towns within the state can pose potential risks for visitors and residents alike. In this article, we will explore the most dangerous cities in Virginia based on crime rates and other factors, shedding light on areas that may require increased vigilance when visiting or considering a move.

The cities highlighted in this article have been identified through an analysis of FBI crime statistics, focusing on the violent crime rate and property crime rate per 1,000 residents. While it is essential to consider these statistics when examining the safety of a city, it is also crucial not to let them paint the entire picture. The context, local efforts to address crime, and individual circumstances all contribute to one’s experiences in any city.

In the upcoming sections, we will delve deeper into each city’s crime rates, factors contributing to their overall danger, and any preventive measures being taken by local authorities. This information can help inform decisions about visiting or relocating to these areas, ensuring that residents and tourists alike can take appropriate precautions and enjoy Virginia’s many offerings safely and responsibly.

Crime Rate Statistics in Virginia

Virginia, like any other state, has cities with varying crime rates. In recent years, some cities in the state have experienced an increase in crime rates. According to recent data:

  • Virginia’s violent crime rate saw a 10% increase over the previous year, moving from 2.1 incidents per 1,000 people to 2.3.
  • The property crime rate had a smaller increase, rising from 14.6 incidents per 1,000 people to 14.8.

FBI crime statistics suggest that the most dangerous cities in Virginia, in no particular order, include:

  • Portsmouth
  • South Boston
  • Roanoke
  • Galax
  • Colonial Heights
  • Marion
  • Petersburg
  • Norfolk
  • Richmond
  • Newport News

It’s important to note that some cities in Virginia, such as Portsmouth and Norfolk, experience higher crime rates than others. For example, Portsmouth has a violent crime rate of 9.2 incidents per 1,000 people and a property crime rate of 50.8 per 1,000, whereas Norfolk has a violent crime rate of 5.6 and a property crime rate of 40.5. The crime rates in Richmond are 5.2 (violent) and 39.1 (property) per 1,000 residents.

However, Virginia also has safe cities with low crime rates, making it a diverse state when it comes to crime and safety. Always exercise caution and stay informed about the crime rates in the cities you plan to visit or settle in.

Top 5 Most Dangerous Cities in Virginia

City 1: Norfolk

Norfolk, with a population of over 244,000, is considered one of the most dangerous cities in Virginia. In 2018, the city reported 1,134 crimes, including 321 robberies, and 660 aggravated assaults. Norfolk also had 8,463 property crimes in the same year. Despite these statistics, Norfolk has an array of attractions and continues to be a significant city in the state.

City 2: Portsmouth

Portsmouth, a historic town dating back to 1836, tops the list of most dangerous cities in Virginia. The city is renowned for its historical sites, attracting visitors interested in exploring its three centuries of history. Unfortunately, it is also plagued by crime, making it a concerning location for residents and visitors alike.

City 3: Roanoke

Roanoke, best known for its picturesque surroundings and easy access to the Appalachian Trail, holds the title of most dangerous city in the state among some sources. This seemingly quaint city has a surprisingly high rate of crime, with 11,773 total crimes per 100,000 people and a violent crime rate of 386 per 100,000 people.

City 4: Petersburg

Additional crime data reveal that Petersburg is another dangerous city in Virginia. The city’s prevalence in crime lists highlights the need for increased safety measures and crime prevention initiatives to improve the lives of Petersburg residents.

City 5: Newport News

Newport News, a large coastal city in southeastern Virginia, has a population of 184,587 as of 2021. The city experiences a violent crime rate of 6.38 per 1,000 residents and a property crime rate of 19.48 per 1,000 residents. Newport News is located along the Virginia Peninsula and the James River, making it an essential hub for the state, yet it also struggles with crime rates.

Factors Contributing to Dangerous Cities

There are several factors that contribute to making certain cities in Virginia more dangerous than others. Understanding these factors can help in identifying potential solutions for improving safety in these areas.

One of the primary factors to consider is the crime rate. Cities with higher violent crime rates, such as Portsmouth, South Boston, and Roanoke, tend to be more dangerous for residents and visitors alike. According to FBI crime statistics, these cities have higher rates of assaults, robberies, and homicides than other cities in Virginia.

Economic factors also play a role in the safety of a city. When cities face high unemployment rates, poverty levels, and a lack of access to quality education and resources, criminal activities may increase. Cities such as Petersburg and Norfolk struggle with these economic challenges, which can contribute to their high crime rates.

Another important factor is the population density of a city. Cities with lower population densities may face higher rates of dangerous incidents, as there may be fewer resources and law enforcement officials available to handle criminal activities. For example, Suffolk is the most dangerous city in terms of population density in Virginia, making it more challenging for authorities to manage safety effectively.

Additionally, drug and substance abuse issues are often prevalent in dangerous cities. The opioid crisis and the use of illegal drugs can lead to an increase in drug-related crimes, including theft and violence. Cities like Richmond and Newport News struggle with drug and substance abuse problems, directly impacting the safety of their residents.

In summary, it is crucial to understand the various factors contributing to the dangerous conditions in some of Virginia’s cities, such as high crime rates, economic challenges, population density, and substance abuse issues. By addressing these factors, we can work towards making these cities safer for everyone.

Prevalent Crimes in Dangerous Cities

In Virginia, some of the most dangerous cities include Portsmouth, South Boston, Roanoke, Galax, Colonial Heights, Marion, Petersburg, Norfolk, Richmond, and Newport News. The types of crimes typically prevalent in these cities can be categorized into violent crimes and property crimes.

Violent Crimes include offenses such as:

  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Robbery
  • Sexual assault

In Portsmouth, which tops the list of most dangerous cities in Virginia, there is a high rate of violent crimes. This is also true for other cities on the list like Norfolk, where the violent crime rate is 7.81 per 1,000 residents.

Property Crimes generally consist of:

  • Burglary
  • Larceny-theft
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Arson

The property crime rate in Norfolk is 34.09 per 1,000 residents, which contributes to its rank among the most dangerous cities. Roanoke, another city on the list, has a total crime rate of 11,773 per 100,000 people, with 386 of them being violent crimes.

It is important to consider that these crime rates can fluctuate over time and may not necessarily be representative of the entire city or its residents. Factors such as population size, economic conditions, and local law enforcement efforts can also impact the prevalence of different crimes in these cities. Staying informed about the latest crime statistics and trends can be helpful for individuals living and working in these areas.

Law Enforcement and Crime Prevention

Virginia’s law enforcement agencies constantly work towards improving the safety and security of the state’s communities, including the most dangerous cities such as Portsmouth, Roanoke, Marion, Norfolk, and Petersburg.

In areas with high crime rates, like Portsmouth and Roanoke, the focus is redirected towards collaborative efforts between law enforcement and local communities. Through these partnerships, they aim to implement effective strategies for crime prevention and community safety.

Some of Virginia’s programs, like the Certified Crime Prevention Community Program, were established to recognize and support localities that have made significant strides in implementing comprehensive community safety and crime prevention efforts. The program’s basis is a 1993 Virginia State Crime Commission study, setting the groundwork for these policies.

In some places like Richmond, joint initiatives involving federal, state, and local law enforcement have shown positive results. Violent crime decreased by 26% in 2018, homicides were down by 64%, aggravated assaults using firearms saw a drop of 53%, and robberies using firearms witnessed a reduction of 31%.

These statistics indicate the effectiveness of targeted and collaborative strategies employed by Virginia’s law enforcement and local communities in curbing crime and creating safer environments. However, constant vigilance and continuous efforts are necessary for maintaining and improving these results in the most dangerous cities.

Comparing Virginia Crime Rates to National Averages

In order to provide a clear comparison between Virginia’s crime rates and the national averages, we’ll examine both property and violent crime rates. Data from different sources, such as FBI Crime Data and Virginia State Police reports, will be utilized for accuracy.

When comparing the property crime rates, it’s worth noting that Virginia has a relatively lower rate than the national median. According to NeighborhoodScout, Virginia’s property crime rate is 14.78 per 1,000 residents. On the other hand, the national median stands at 19 per 1,000 residents. This indicates a safer environment in terms of property crimes in Virginia compared to the average across the United States.

For violent crimes, the most dangerous city in Virginia appears to be Roanoke. The CostGuys report states that the city has a total crime rate of 11,773 per 100,000 people, with 386 violent crimes per 100,000 people. While this may paint a concerning picture for Roanoke, it is important to understand the context within the state of Virginia as a whole.

When we look at other cities across the state, the numbers reveal varying degrees of crime rates. However, it’s difficult to make a definitive comparison with national averages for violent crime, as the FBI Crime Data and Virginia State Police reports present data in different formats. Therefore, it’s essential to focus on individual city and locality data for a more precise understanding.

In conclusion, when comparing Virginia’s crime rates to national averages, it becomes clear that the state has a lower property crime rate than the national median. While making a direct comparison for violent crime rates is more challenging due to varying data formats, it’s important to examine locality-level data to gain a clearer understanding of the situation in Virginia.


In summary, it is essential for both residents and visitors to be aware of the crime rates in different cities across Virginia. As we have seen, some cities in Virginia have higher crime rates than others. Portsmouth, South Boston, Roanoke, Galax, Colonial Heights, Marion, Petersburg, Norfolk, Richmond, and Newport News are a few of the most dangerous cities in the state, based on FBI crime statistics.

While it is important to acknowledge the existence of crime in these cities, we must also recognize the efforts made by local law enforcement and community organizations to improve conditions and reduce criminal activity. It is crucial for community members, tourists, and local governments to continue working together to ensure the safety and well-being of all residents and visitors in Virginia.

By staying informed and taking the necessary precautions, residents and tourists alike can confidently navigate Virginia’s diverse cities and explore everything the state has to offer. Keep in mind that a city’s safety can change over time, so be sure to stay updated on the latest crime statistics and news.