Detroit is the Most Dangerous City in America, Irvine the Safest

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For the second year in a row, Detroit, Michigan and Irvine, California are the Most Dangerous and Safest cities in the America, respectively. Law Street’s comprehensive analysis of the FBI’s latest Uniform Crime Report allowed us to rank the safest and the most dangerous big cities in the United States.

Click here to see the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities with populations over 200,000.
Click here to see the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities with populations under 200,000.
Click here to see the Top 10 Safest Cities with populations over 200,000.

Detroit has a violent crime rate of 2,072 per 100,000 people; Irvine has a violent crime rate of 48 per 100,000 people. Looking at those statistics alone begs the question: how could two sizable cities in the same country be so radically different?

At the end of the day it comes down to pretty much one thing: the economy. While there are significantly more factors that need to be taken into consideration when trying to figure out why one city is so crime-ridden and another so relatively safe, a lot of it boils down to the economy.

Detroit currently has an unemployment rate of 14.9 percent; Irvine’s is about 4 percent. Keep in mind that the national unemployment rate has dropped to 5.8 percent, which means that while Irvine is doing pretty well, Detroit is doing very, very poorly. In Detroit, 38.1 percent of the population is below the poverty line, in Irvine it’s just 11.4 percent.

In some ways, it seems that the two cities are from two different times in American history. Detroit was once a booming manufacturing city, home of the auto industry. But the problem is that it was really only the home of the auto industry. And when it first took on that characteristic, the process required way more people to make a car than it does now. There’s also the issue of foreign automakers surpassing American brands, and the 2008 financial collapse. Long, sad story short, Detroit has not been able to subsist on just one industry for a very long time, and it shows.

Compare that to Irvine, which in many ways is the epitome of the way our economy looks now. It’s smack dab in the middle of Southern California’s answer to Silicon Valley, with a heavy concentration on technology and startup culture. Irvine is a city that has taken advantage of the new industries providing jobs in the American market, much like Detroit did, but half a century later.

Detroit’s downfall is more troubling than just the economic woes–when the city started to decline and see mass unemployment, many of those who had the resources to do so got out. Over the last decade, Detroit’s population has fallen by approximately a quarter. It’s turned into a vicious cycle–people who have the resources to leave Detroit do so because of its poor economic condition and crime. Those with financial resources leaving make the city’s economy and budget problems worse, and they can’t pay for the kind of revitalization Detroit would need, or a police force to get the crime under control. So more people leave, and the cycle continues.

Put very simply,  Irvine is safer because it has the money coming in to be that way. In addition to its regular police force, the multiple universities located within city limits have their own police forces, leading to even more of a focus on safety. There are a lot of things that separate Detroit and Irvine, and makes one clock in as the most dangerous city in the country and the other the safest. At the end of the day one of the most convincing is the economy.


Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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