Crime isn’t a new thing. People have been stealing from one another since cavemen evolved enough to understand the concept of “want.” The same can be said about murder and assault if you really want to get into it, and although you’d think we as humans would have come a long way since the violent habits of neanderthals, it seems like the opposite has happened. There’s over 2 million reported home burglaries each year in America. That’s over 5,000 each day. Add that to the 15,000 yearly murders, 120,000 forcible r*pes, and 763,000 aggravated assaults and you have a pretty unappealing nation in terms of safety. However, despite what these numbers say, crime rates in the United States are, in a whole, on a downward slope (at least if you compare them to twenty years ago). In fact, when you stack us up against other bullet-slinging cities from around the globe we pale in comparison. Even our deadliest downtown neighborhood barely cracked into this list. So the next time you’re planning a vacation to get away from it all, I caution you to do some thorough research before cashing in that travel Groupon. It’s a gruesome world out there, and to prove it here are the 15 most dangerous cities in the world right now.
15. Baltimore, Maryland
Have you ever seen, The Wire? The HBO series about cops vs. politics vs. drug lords is a gritty depiction of Maryland’s largest city, and apparently, it’s pretty damn accurate. While burglaries and drug activity, which have always been present in Baltimore, have dropped significantly in the past twenty years, the city can’t seem to shake one major problem – homicide. In the past 40 years, the lowest amount of reported murders in Baltimore has been 197, and in 2015 they brought that number all the way up to 344. And after the riots of April 2015, the city averaged 30-40 homicides a month, which (with some quick division) averages out to AT LEAST one killing or more a day. Now, Baltimore isn’t anywhere close to America’s largest city. New York City has a population of 8.5 million while Baltimore has barely over 600,000 residents, but still steadily has a murder rate 14 times higher than that of the Big Apple. In short, the next time you’re thinking of going to a Raven’s game, just keep your head on a swivel.
14. Salvador, Brazil
Brazil’s third-largest city and the capital of the state of Bahia is also one of its most dangerous. With an influx of crack cocaine distribution over the past ten years, the city has witnessed all the violence that attaches itself to the trade. Salvador has a murder rate of 1,800 yearly homicides, that’s double the rate of Rio de Janeiro and four times higher than that of Sao Paulo and surprisingly, vastly lower than the 1990s when it was over 3,000. Two rival gangs are primarily at fault for all the bloodshed, Grupo de Perna, and the ironically named Comando de Paz or “Peace Command.” Both were birthed out of Bahia’s crowded prisons and both are willing to let the blood fly if it means control over another block. Match that with a 300% population increase in ten years plus insanely corrupt politicians and you’re left with a booming drug market with no one making arrests.
13. Natal, Brazil
Natal used to be a booming tourist city and for good reason. Its breathtaking nature and culture is enough to attract any world traveler. Hell, they even hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup. However, in the past several years Natal has become less of a destination and more of a final resting place. With a population close to 1.5 million, the murder rate is a staggering 931 while the chances of getting robbed at gunpoint or just good ol’ fashioned assault are close to 65%. Natal’s problem is mainly corruption. The government is really only on the lookout for crooks who have money, so they can get a taste of the action themselves. It’s a shame when a once majestic, tropical location turns into a hotbed of criminal activity, but when there’s money to be made the wrong people will come calling, and they’ll do anything they can to their paws on it.
12. Fortaleza, Brazil
If you get a chance, look up more pictures of Fortaleza because it is downright gorgeous. I’m talking sandy white beaches as far as the eye can see, complete with architecture that will make your jaw hit the floor. It’s also one of the wealthiest cities in Brazil with 49 billion reais which roughly translates to $21 billion. Still, beauty and wealth don’t mean jack when you’re talking about the northeastern region of Brazil (which we are). The lovely city of Fortaleza boasts of murder rate of 60.77 per 100,000 residents, meaning if you’re on the streets with 100k people, about 60 of you aren’t making it back home. The drug trade has led to an influx of roadside robberies, and travel advisors warn tourists not to travel at night. At all. The city also has a nasty epidemic of something known as “quicknapping” which is basically kidnapping but with a faster turnover. They’ll snatch you up off the street, get the ransom, and have you back sipping pina coladas on the beach by the next day. Criminal or not, it’s hard to shake a stick at that business model.
11. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela
At a quick glance, Ciudad could easily be confused for an American city. Back in the 1960s U.S. Steel was mining in the region and set up neighborhoods of quaint suburban homes for their workers to live in until Venezuelan Steel got together and kicked everybody out. What’s left is a South American city that looks like none other. A very North Americanized looking inner city surrounded by cookie-cutter houses, the only thing separating it from its U.S. counterparts is the crime rate. With a population of just over 850,000, Ciudad has a murder rate of 62.33 per 100,000 residents. That’s almost double than that of America’s most downtrodden and frequently avoided city, Detroit. Since the steel workers hit the road, Ciudad has seen a rapid increase of r*pe, burglary, and drugs over the second half of the 20th century, and those numbers are quickly bleeding into the 21st (no pun intended).
10. Cali, Colombia
Columbia’s “salsa capital” may bring thousands of tourists a year for its famous culture and nightlife, but according to the statistics, they’re not all leaving. The drug trade in Cali has become… well, let’s call it a serious safety issue… for its residents, leading to over 65 murders per 100,000 people. A few years ago the city was under a new mayor who, with his new approach to putting a stop to crime, actually saw murder rates drop below 85/100k residents, which I guess if you’re one of the deadliest cities on earth is an accomplishment. Problem is, it didn’t last too long, and in 2015 a massive turf war erupted between rival drug traffickers and bodies began rolling into the morgue by the dozens. Bottom line is, don’t go to South America unless you’re ready to defend yourself against spontaneously angry drug cartels, because, well basically they’ll kill you out of principle.
9. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is no joke when it comes to serious crime. We’re not only talking frequent murders (with a rate of 65+ per 100,000 people), we’re talking muggings, carjackings, home invasion, r*pe, and the list goes on. Fortunately, police response has increased by almost 2%, which would be something to brag about if murder hadn’t increased by over 4% and carjackings hadn’t increased by 14%. A major issue seems to be that Cape Town locals have an ongoing adoration for home invasion, and homeowners have an ongoing adoration for defending their property. This may seem admirable, but according to the numbers, it always results in one of the two parties bleeding out on the floor. I will say, it seems the most violent crimes primarily occur in nastier areas that any tourist with common sense would typically avoid, but hey who knows what type of thrill-seekers are out there venturing into dark alleys. Let’s just hope you’re not one of them, and if you are be sure to carry a piece.
8. Palmira, Colombia
We’re not out of Colombia just yet. When people generally think of the South American country and its crime, they think of Pablo Escobar, Medellin and that Narcos show on Netflix (which is quite good). But the reality is Medellin ain’t half as bad as it was in the 1980s and many of Colombia’s cities have filled that void, Palmira being one of the frontrunners. The city has a murder rate of over 70 killings per 100,000 residents, and with a population of only 300,000, that’s pretty damn high. You actually have a better chance of surviving a shark attack than surviving a trip in Palmira. The reason for all the blood covered streets? Drug trafficking of course. The pacific coast is ripe for importing and exporting addictive goods, and the local authorities plus guerrilla militias have waged an ongoing war with cartels and street gangs that love to not only haphazardly spray bullets, but also kidnap, r*pe, and of course the always profitable fit of extortion.
7. Valencia, Venezuela
And just like that, we travel back to Venezuela for the country’s first city to crack our top ten. You know a nation’s crime rate is bad when the government refuses to release the stats, which Venezuela hasn’t for the past six years. Murder has risen four times higher than it was two decades ago. Two of the most notable killings being that of Miss Venezuela and another beauty queen who were shot right in the face. You thought America had a gun epidemic? Let me lay some stats on you. While the U.S.A. does boast 270 million firearms locked and loaded within its borders, only 3% of the population is actually in possession of them. In Valencia, 50% of the population is packing heat. That’s half of the population. That means if you’re at a bar having a pleasant interaction with two kind souls over some drinks, one or more likely both of them have guns tucked into their waist bands, and to make matters worse… they’re getting good and drunk and they know you have money for drinks.
6. Distrito Central, Honduras
Remember a second ago when I told you how Miss Venezuela got a bullet to the head in Valencia? Well, apparently it’s not just a local trend because Miss Honduras and her sister were murdered in Distrito Central in 2014, so don’t go traipsing around Central America in a sash anytime soon. These guys in Distrito Central are especially deadly, with a murder rate of 73.51 per 100,000 residents, they’re not waiting for you to put your hands up before they pull the trigger. Now, a major contributor to the murder rate is, of course, the drug trade, but the crime is also responsible for something not many other countries have to deal with, and that’s piracy. I’m not talking about illegally downloading the latest One Direction album, I’m talking about full-blown, skull and cross bones, murder on the high seas piracy. Think about that the next time you’re sailing through one of the most territorial drug routes in the world.
5. Maturin, Venezuela
With a population of 400,000 in the main metropolitan area and another 100,000 in the surrounding area, Maturin is the capital of Monagas and compared to most of the other cities on this list, it actually has a relatively low murder rate with only 505 a year. But what they lack in homicides they make up for in drug trafficking and crimes related to the dangerous trade. You see, Maturin is what the suits in the import/export biz call a “regional transport hub.” Through Maturin, you can get right to the Caribbean Sea and you know what’s on the other side of that… the wealthy, white nation known as The United States of America. Needless to say, the cartels and street gangs will do whatever needs to be done in order to secure the drug route. Even if that means robbing, kidnapping, or bribing. Funny to think that they must be pretty good at all three if they’re able to avoid killing as much as they do.
4. Acapulco, Mexico
Okay, top four is where these exotic locales start to get really, really seedy, so let’s start with Acapulco, a city of 862,000 and a murder rate of over 900 a year. There was a time the city of Acapulco meant fun filled getaway where the biggest threat to human life was getting loaded and going night swimming, however, these days the city is known as the bloodiest metropolitan area in all of Mexico, a nation already renowned for its drug violence. For quite some time, Acapulco managed to avoid the wars of the cartels but over time the violence has certainly spread within its borders resulting in an average of twelve, count them TWELVE murders a day. There has even been stories of cartel hitmen doing coastal drive-bys on jet skis. So, while Acapulco is extremely dangerous, it is also the closest a city will ever come to a Jean Claude Van Damme movie.
3. San Salvador, El Salvador
Let’s just start out with some blunt numbers – 1,918. That’s the yearly murder rate in San Salvador, a city of less than 2 million. No, let’s get into a brief history lesson. A few decades ago during a civil war in El Salvador, a bunch of residents fled to the sun-soaked city of Los Angeles, where they formed violent street gangs, most notably MS13, which you may remember from such mid-day History Channel programming like Gangland, Gangland Undercover and Outlaw Chronicles (the History Channel needs to step it up). Once the civil war ended, some people went back to El Salvador and some stayed in the U.S. What that lead to was a booming drug route for criminals to ship from manufacturers in San Salvador up to their connections in Baja, California. The route is so booming, every gang wants a piece of the action and kill anyone in their way. To make matters worse, the corrupt police force doesn’t want to lift a finger so citizens have formed deadly militias to protect their homeland, which means everyone wants to kill everyone.
2. San Pedro Sula, Honduras
When I Googled “Honduras” these were the top headlines that came up from the past four hours, “Kidnapped Teens’ Bodies Found,” “Five Killed in Second Attack on Honduras Family,” and, “The Deadliest Place to be an Environmental Activist.” That last one is bizarre, I know, but apparently, over 120 activists have been killed since 2010. Regardless, it’s obvious to tell San Pedro Sula is no luxury getaway. The city has a population of less than a million (that’s less than half of the borough of Manhattan alone) and a murder rate of 885 a year. The cause? Psh, where to start? Gun laws – forget about them. Police force – what police force. And let’s not forget the aforementioned drug cartels that rule San Pedro Sula’s surrounding cities. This place is pretty much lawless, and the locals, assuming there are some that aren’t involved in criminal activity, are forced to deal with the backlash.
1. Caracas, Venezuela
We’ve made it. The murder capital of the world. Check this out, last year there were a little over 20,000 homicides in Venezuela and 4,000 of them were in the city of Caracas. The city, which has a population of just under 4 million, has a yearly murder rate of 120 per 100,000 residents. To put that into perspective, let’s take the Dallas Cowboys football stadium which seats exactly 100,000. Assuming the cowboys don’t make it to the playoffs they’ll play 16 games and eight at home. Assuming all eight of those games are sold out, and that each game lasts three hours, then there’s a 100% chance over the course of a twenty-four hour period, 120 people are kicking the bucket within AT&T stadium.
Why all the crime? No one really knows, to be honest. The main culprit seems to be the government. Crime raised immensely under Hugo Chavez and keeps spiking under President Maduro. The officials haven’t made fighting crime a top priority and out of all of those who do get arrested, only 8% get convicted.