A number of unfortunate factors come together to create crime epidemics in any city. The most crime-ridden cities in the world all share significant political instability, which perpetuates crime and poverty. In the United States, cities with a large degree of economic polarization tend to have higher crime rates; using the number of violent crimes per 1,000 people as the criteria, Detroit, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri are among the most dangerous cities in the United States.
Looking at crime rates on a global scale is more complex. The United States has plenty of problems, but it also has the privilege of a relatively stable government as well as social services such as healthcare and welfare. While these government resources leave much to be desired, other cities across the world lack the immediate promise of even these securities. Conflict in both Iraq and Afghanistan stems from political violence that was exacerbated by international war in recent years. Meanwhile, some argue that certain cities, such as Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, have high rates of crime due in part to mere location – its placement on the border of the United States facilitates drug-related crime and the violence with which cartels are often associated.
Overall, the following ten cities has endured incredible violence and suffering, each with a unique set of circumstances that contributed to its place on this list. As we look at the five most criminal cities in the world, we can only hope that efforts to improve conditions will be neither ignored nor in vain.
5. Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Abidjan is the Ivory Coast’s commercial capital. Though the Ivory Coast has earned a reputation for being dangerous, incidents of political violence that characterized the region’s unrest have declined since former leader Laurent Gbagbo was arrested and ceded power and President Ouattara assumed office in May of 2011. (Gbagbo had formerly refused to accept electoral defeat in 2010, which set off a bloody civil war). Despite the shift in power, this city remains high in conflict and crime. Many fighters who supported the country’s former president still remain, and Ivorian soldiers and militias have reportedly been torturing and killing supporters of the former leader. Until the new government can successfully quell this political unrest, it is unlikely the violence will subside entirely.
4. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Ciudad Juarez is considered one of the most violent places in the world outside of major war zones. It is the largest point of entry on the US/ Mexico border. The city is known for its significant criminal activity: drug cartels, police corruption, and human trafficking are among the central issues. Visitors, especially females, are advised to be extremely cautious since there is a high incidence of sexual violence – since 1993 hundreds of women have been found killed by unknown perpetrators. In 2010, the city saw homicides daily and it was unsafe to even walk down the street. More recently, however, conditions seem to be improving. The New York Times reported that 2013 marked a period of change wherein many of the notorious drug dealers had either disappeared or relocated, and new schools and homes began to emerge in some neighbourhoods. Though there is certainly more work to be done, there is now hope that conditions will continue to improve.
3. Baghdad, Iraq
The 2011 departure of American troops from Iraq marked what the world hoped would be a new era for the country. Iraq has become an American ‘partner’ in that America strives to aid the nation in reestablishing infrastructure and governance. After the US were instrumental in overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, Baghdad was the most dangerous place in the world for many years. Though conditions improved after the formation of a post-war government, Baghdad has remained politically unstable, making the risk of terrorist attacks or kidnapping much higher than it would be in other cities. This has recently worsened since the militant group ISIS has further destabilized the area. The Iraqi government has responded by having its Prime Minister al-Maliki step down, replacing him with someone who will hopefully be better able to rally the country against the threat of ISIS.
2. Mogadishu, Somalia
Mogadishu is the official capital of Somalia, a country that has been troubled by intense civil war since 1991. Most recently, violence is attributed to the urban warfare between the government/African Union troops and an Islamic extremist faction called al-Shabaab (which once controlled the city). The city is currently under the control of an internationally recognized Transitional Government and AU peacekeepers. However, in 2012 al-Shabaab announced its allegiance with terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. In past years, the threat of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks has been high. In 2014, considerable violence continues to permeate the city. Also this year, United States officials have announced they will soon appoint an ambassador to Somalia for the first time since closing its embassy in Mogadishu 23 years ago.
1. Kabul, Afghanistan
Kabul is the capital and largest city in Afghanistan. Even following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan has remained the site of deadly bombings and other similar attacks. The Taliban have remained a force within the country, as power struggles continue to plague the government. While US troops began to leave Afghanistan in 2014, there is still a significant degree of political instability, and the future of the country and its government remains unclear.