The Worst Places to Live in Pennsylvania In Terms of Violence
Pennsylvania remains a popular destination for its rich history, scenic mountains, and bustling cities like Philadelphia. However, there’s another side to the Keystone State that often remains hidden behind its picturesque facade: the issue of violent crime. Today, you will discover the 10 most dangerous cities in Pennsylvania in 2023.
Various cities in PA, both large and small, have reported high levels of violent activity, painting a grim picture that contradicts the otherwise tranquil scenery of the state.
We are not saying that you shouldn’t live in Pennsylvania, but in these cities, it is better to choose your neighborhood carefully.
Before, we wrote some guide about violence with considerable repercussion (and a fair share of polemics):
- The 8 Safest Big Cities in the US and the Safest Metro Areas in 2023.
- The Most Dangerous Cities in Europe in 2023
- The Most Dangerous Cities in Mexico & Their Similarities
- The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in Michigan
So keep reading to discover the most violent cities and towns in Pennsylvania above 10.000 residents.
The Criteria Used to Define the Most Dangerous Cities in Pennsylvania
We’ll be covering both violent crimes per 100,000 people and homicide rates per 100,000 residents (when this information is available), helping you gauge the safety of a city.
First of all, we considered only cities with more than 10 thousand residents.
While this threshold may look random, there is a reason for it: very small towns may have very distorted crime rates from one year to another.
This happens because one rare event, like a hostage situation during a bank robbery that has fatalities, can make a once-peaceful small city look dangerous, even though it happened that particular year and is unlikely to happen again.
The violent crime rate per 100,000 residents is the measure we used. The rate is proportional to the number of people in the area. Violent crime is a set of offenses that includes murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The fact that all of the crime rates are calculated by 100,000 people guarantees a fair comparison between cities of distinct sizes.
All the data about Pennsylvania comes from the Uniform Crime Reporting Program and from the FBI (most specifically, from the UCR). Most of them come from the years 2021 or 2022 (we may update this when new data is available). The number of homicides from 2021.
The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in Pennsylvania
County: Lehigh County
Homicide Rate per 100,000 Residents: 8.2
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 386
The Violent crime rate in Allentown is similar to the US national average. Size: 18.02 square miles
Median Household Income: $39,884
Unemployment Rate: 6.8%
Allentown, the third-largest city in the state, is the first in our list of the most dangerous cities in Pennsylvania.
It is a run-down and impoverished place, with a high burglary rate.
Residents face a 1 in 43 chance of falling victim to property crime. Car thefts are on the rise, and arson is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue.
While the city has a relatively low murder rate compared to other cities on the list, it still recorded seven murders last year, a number that is expected to rise.
A particularly chilling incident involved a 15-year-old who shot and killed a man outside a pizza shop in broad daylight, seemingly without reason.
County: Erie County
Homicide Rate per 100,000 Residents: 9.4
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 496.7
The Violent crime rate in Erie is 25% higher than the US national average.
Erie is a city located in the upper northwest corner of Pennsylvania, right by the waters of Lake Erie, which is the source of its name. While the overall crime rate in Erie is about 3% lower than the national average, it’s worth noting that the city has a concerning murder rate.
Specifically, the murder rate is nearly double that of both the state of Pennsylvania and the United States as a whole. Additionally, Erie experiences higher levels of assault, burglary, and property crime when compared to the rest of the state.
County: Westmoreland County
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 529
The Violent crime rate in New Kensington is 33.6% higher than the US national average.
While violent crime is “only” 33.6% higher than the national US average, in New Kensington, the odds of experiencing property crime are quite high.
Specifically, residents had a 1 in 37 chance of becoming a victim, making the issue of “porch pirates” or package theft a genuine concern for the community.
On the violent crime front, the city reported 65 incidents in the same year. This means that nearly every week, someone in New Kensington faces a violent situation, adding to the sense of urgency to address crime in the area.
County: Luzerne County
Homicide Rate per 100,000 Residents: 7.4
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 594.3
The Violent crime rate in Wilkes-Barre is 50% higher than the US national average.
Wilkes-Barre, situated in northeastern Pennsylvania, grapples with a range of crime issues that exceed national averages.
The city has a notably high murder rate, along with elevated levels of burglary, property damage, assault, and violent crime. Adding to these challenges, much of Wilkes-Barre is aging and in a state of decay, making it tough to attract new businesses. The deteriorating condition of many buildings also complicates the search for quality housing.
County: Montgomery County
Homicide Rate per 100,000 Residents: 22
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 718
The Violent crime rate in Pottstown is 81% higher than the US national average.
Pottstown, located in Berks County, is another small city in Pennsylvania that faces high levels of violence and poverty.
Economic conditions in Pottstown are challenging, reflected by its lower average household income and depressed median home values.
County: Allegheny County
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 779
The Violent crime rate in Wilkinsburg is 96.8% higher than the US national average.
Wilkinsburg, a borough in Allegheny County, is a small town with significant social challenges. Despite its small population, Wilkinsburg has high crime rates, making it one of Pennsylvania’s most dangerous places to reside.
The crime rate in the city is among the top ten total crime rates in the state, with 779 violent crimes per 100,000 residents annually.
Economic hardships, evident through the town’s low median home value and average household income, contribute to its high levels of violent and property crimes. The lack of resources and economic opportunities means that the borough belongs higher on the list of Pennsylvania’s problem areas than its size would suggest.
County: Dauphin County
Homicide Rate per 100,000 Residents: 26.4
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 900.5
The Violent crime rate in Harrisburg is 128% higher than the US national average.
The capital city of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, is not exempt from the troubling trends of high violence and poverty rates. Unemployment in the city is another concern; the rate stands at 8.2%, higher than the state average.
The correlation between poverty and crime is evident. Harrisburg’s poverty rate is significantly higher than the national average, a factor contributing to the city’s high crime rates.
County: Philadelphia County
Homicide Rate per 100,000 Residents: 25.2
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 1011.1
The Violent crime rate in Philadelphia is 155% higher than the US national average.
The largest city in Pennsylvania, has pockets of extreme poverty and high levels of crime. North and West Philadelphia, in particular, are hotspots for criminal activity. The city has a crime rate among the highest in the nation. The property crime rate, too, is notably high.
Despite being a cultural and economic hub, Philadelphia faces severe inequality. The median home value and average household income vary dramatically between neighborhoods, often correlating with high crime rates. This discrepancy makes Philadelphia a city of contrasts and a dangerous place to live for many of its inhabitants.
County: Delaware County
Homicide Rate per 100,000 Residents: 53.1
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 1,383.3
The Violent crime rate in Chester is 249% higher than the US national average.
Chester is grappling with an unemployment rate of 9%, a median income that hovers just above the poverty line, and a crime rate among the highest in the state. The city’s woes don’t end there; it is also one of the most polluted areas in Pennsylvania.
Most of the data leads to one conclusion: Chester is a city in desperate need of revitalization.
County: Allegheny County
Homicide Rate per 100,000 Residents: 33.7
Violent Crime rate per 100,000 people: 1,531.4
The Violent crime rate in McKeesport is 287% higher than the US national average.
Closing our list of the most dangerous cities in Pennsylvania, this city has seen high levels of violence and poverty over the years. With a poverty rate that exceeds the national average, the city faces an uphill battle in addressing its social issues.
It is also considered maybe the worst place to live in Pennsylvania by some people.
Economic factors have contributed to its decline, including the closing of steel mills that once served as the backbone of the local economy. As jobs became scarce, average household income decreased substantially, leading to higher poverty rates.
The scarcity of economic opportunities has bred crime, making McKeesport one of the most dangerous places to live in the state. Property crime is also notably high. Reports indicate that the number of violent and property crimes is disproportionate for a city with such a small population.
As a result, residents face a higher likelihood of becoming a victim of a crime, including violent crime, compared to other places in Pennsylvania.
Not far from McKeesport is Mckees Rocks, which by many accounts has an even higher number of violent crimes proportionally, but it is not in our list since it has less than 10.000 residents.
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Levi Borba is the founder of The Expatriate Consultancy, creator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author. Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, meaning that the author will have a commission for any transaction.