Travelers planning to visit the United States have many exciting destinations to choose from. However, for as many historical landmarks, amazing nightlife scenes, and striking landscapes there are to take in—oftentimes that also means major urban centers can have their share of crime, poverty, and traffic dangers, which have earned the following American cities a bad rap that are not really justified.
For example, New York City is celebrated by some tourists for its Big Apple hustle and bustle; while others steer clear due to fear of crime rates, smog, and traffic. You have to understand that in many cases these bad raps are due to outdated information or stories of unfortunate events that happened to a friend who visited the city.
While we urge you to travel with caution, let’s explore why these cities have a bad rap for being the ten worst cities in the United States…
1. Detroit, Michigan
Detroit probably has the worst reputation of any American city, and many tourists steer clear from the once formidable “Motor City” due to rumor of high crime rates (only surpassed by nearby Flint, Michigan) and abandoned downtown buildings. This once celebrated center of the American automobile industry did experience an influx of poverty, crime, and exodus of city residents from 2008 to 2010. However, the Detroit of today is experiencing a million dollar revitalization, with abandoned buildings undergoing commercial real estate developments, young couples, community gardens, and new businesses breathing new life into the area.
2. St. Louis, Missouri
This Midwestern city has one of the highest homicide rates of American cities, with the risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime at approximately 1 in 53 and a property crime 1 in 10. The high crime rate is most blamed on the shrinking economy with many of the 318,069 long-time residents leaving the city for greener pastures. However, what’s often overlooked is the revitalization that’s occurring over the past decade in efforts to revitalize historic neighborhoods throughout St. Louis (particularly the gorgeous Old North area) and attract new investment to this once metropolitan area and nearby famous wine country.
3. Reno, Nevada
Often referred to as Las Vegas’ poorer cousin, the “biggest little city in the world” suffers some BIG issues when it comes to violent crime and unemployment. With a populous of 227,509, despite the luck, lights, and glamour promised to gambling tourists, Reno residents have suffered drops in housing prices, drastic cuts in public services, and layoffs. However, despite the setbacks, Reno is attempting to reinvent itself with revitalization projects like The River Walk, a water and sculpture path built in the middle of this once, seedy run-down city center.
4. Cleveland, Ohio
This city was ranked by Forbes as one of the most miserable cities in the U.S., earning it the name “Mistake by the Lake”. It’s true that Cleveland is plagued by high crime, brutally frigid and unpredictable winters, and a mass exodus of residents that has equaled 71,000 migrating out of the city over the past 5 years. However, one can’t overlook that despite being one of the poorest cities in the U.S. as it shifts from a rust belt city, C-Town is culturally diverse as a rap/hip hop Mecca, along with boasting some stellar cultural attractions—including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Orchestra, Progressive Field and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!
5. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago, America’s largest and most populated city in the Midwest is celebrated for its vibrant music and nightlife scene stretching over 29 stunning miles of lakefront and a gorgeous 15-mile public beach. Sadly, Chicago of late suffers from high crime rates, high unemployment, a series of private home foreclosures, and a loss of the 2016 Summer Olympic bid—partly due to suffering the highest sales tax (a rate of 10.25-percent) in the entire nation.
6. Camden, New Jersey
Camden, New Jersey scares away much of the tourism it would enjoy due to an extremely dangerous crime rate (a 1 in 36 chance of falling victim to a violent crime and a 1 in 11 risk of falling victim to a property related crime) and driven by poverty and gang violence. In fact, the crime rate in Camden is about 8 times the national average and the city was dubbed “the poorest city in the Nation” by the U.S. Census bureau in 2011.
7. Memphis, Tennessee
Not only is this Southern U.S. city murder on the spring allergies, its ranks second highest among U.S. cities when it comes to violent crime, gang activity, widespread poverty, and corruption by city officials. But regardless of the tragedy, tourists still flock to the birthplace of the blues, home to Elvis’ Graceland, the East Coast Music Festival, and the clubs and shops of Beale Street. Not to mention the languid and lush banks of the Mississippi River offer a 5-mile stretch of parks and outdoor recreation.
8. New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven is best known for being home to Yale University, one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. However, the surrounding area suffers from a dark reality, and one of the highest crime rates on the East Coast—with approximately 16 in 1000 incidents of crime, 22 murders (a rate that has doubled in the last year), and rapid unemployment (9.6% unemployment rate). Unfortunately much of the city is impoverished and crime-ridden, leaving New Haven with the eighth highest rate of robbery and the fourth highest rate of assault in all of America.
9. Stockton, California
With jarring unemployment and violent crime rates, the Western U.S. city of Stockton, California suffers an unemployment average of 18.5% in the metro area this year. This explains why much of the city is in foreclosure (1 in 14 homes). Tragically, this led to the city Stockton proceeding with Chapter 9 bankruptcy in April of this year, making Stockton the most densely inhabited city in U.S. to go bankrupt.
10. Oakland, California
Sadly, Oakland is yet another California city that has gone downhill due to difficult economic times and high crime rates. And even though this city enjoys Mediterranean climes with an average of 260 sunny days per year and stunning vistas of San Francisco Bay, on the flipside it suffers from horrible traffic congestion, poor air (the pollution index is 190-percent worse than the national average), and escalating crime, making it one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. The national crime rate in Oakland is a whopping 469-percent higher than the U.S. national average with gun-related crime at the top of the list.