Top 10 Most Violent Cities in the World

Riots due to economic inequality are not uncommon for Cape Town.

The world can be a very dangerous place. In some parts of the world murder, assault, and willful acts of destruction are far too common. Here, we take a look at the most violent cities of the world, as reported by U.N. reports, Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal (a Mexican NGO dedicated to reducing violent crimes worldwide) and official statistics reports from several countries. Do keep in mind that only reported crimes can be counted, and zones that are active military sites (such as cities within Syria and Iraq) will be disqualified due to the blurred line between crime and war.

10. Most Violent City: Cali, Colombia

Members of paramilitary groups such as ELN and FARC make this Colombian city a high risk area.
Members of paramilitary groups such as ELN and FARC make this Colombian city a high risk area.

Formally known as Santiago de Cali, some may find it surprising that the Salsa (music and dancing, not sauce) Capital of the World is also among the hardest cities to survive. Despite having a very high Human Development Index score, there is still an average of around 64 murders per every 100,000 inhabitants of the city. This has gone down from 83 per 100,000 from 2013, and according to most accounts will likely continue to be reduced as city wide security measures are installed and police continue to increase their training. The major perpetrators of these crimes appear to have FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, a communist militant group) affiliation, and have a force in the city around 1,000 strong. There is a spark of hope however, as of the 23rd of June 2016, Colombian Government Officials and FARC representatives have successfully negotiated a peace deal in Havana, Cuba. This could very well mean that Cali will not be on this list next year.

9. Most Violent City: Cape Town, South Africa

Riots due to economic inequality are not uncommon for Cape Town.
Riots due to economic inequality are not uncommon for Cape Town.

Being rated by magazines such as the New York Times as the best place in the world to visit in 2014, Cape Town is also a bit on the dangerous side. Unfortunately, being one of the biggest port cities on the African continent has made this city prone to drug trafficking related violence, and a recent surge in gang violence, often attributed to the influence of American “Gangsta” culture. This has resulted in a multi-year spike in violent crimes, with an associated murder rate of 66 per 100,000 inhabitants. Somewhat surprising is the fact that Cape Town is one of the few remaining cities where knife violence and stabbings greatly outnumber the events of gun violence.

8. Most Violent City: Palmira, Colombia

A colombian soldier standing guard in confiscated explosive supplies in Palmira.
A colombian soldier standing guard in confiscated explosive supplies in Palmira.

Resting only 20 miles away from Cali, Palmira suffers many of the same issues. Being more often known as the City of Education within Colombia, this city has also been the staging ground for many FARC attacks. Unfortunately, cartels continue to have some influence in the region, often using money or violence to get their way, and given the murder rate of 71 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, it appears violence tends to be an all too common option. The rural areas within the city boundaries, while the breadbasket for the rest of the nation, also tends to be the site of bloodbaths as a result of anti-government or gang violence.


7. Most Violent City: Valencia, Venezuela

President Maduro explains in front of press that the murder of a former Miss Venezuela in Valencia was due to her appearances in telenovelas (soap operas).
President Maduro explains in front of press that the murder of a former Miss Venezuela in Valencia was due to her appearances in telenovelas (soap operas).

The hub of Venezuelan commerce, it is sad to say that Valencia is living up to the nickname “La pequeña Detroit” (The little Detroit) in more ways than one. Widespread corruption and violence in the city are both common, with the murder rate here being near 73 per 100,000 inhabitants. The most notable of these murders in recent years which shines light on the situation was the shooting death of Miss Venezuela 2014 Génesis Carmona in 2014. Carmona was quite vocal in criticism of both the local governor Francisco Ameliach and President Nicolás Maduro Moros ( a protege of Hugo Rafael Chávez, a more household name) and announced her participation in an upcoming protest. In response to news of the protests, the governor had called out in a tweet for Chavistas to mount a counter attack to fend off protesters, and that political coverage would come from the head of his party. As a result of this, individuals dressed in red shirts (a common symbol of support for the party) approached the protest and opened fire, killing Carmona and fellow protester Geraldin Moreno. Whether these individuals were instruments of the government or overzealous supporters of the current president has yet to be seen, and an official investigation puts the blame on the killings to the rank and file of protesters she had been marching with.

6. Most Violent City: Distrito Central, Honduras

While gang violence is down as a whole, rural sectors still suffer from "Maras" elements.
While gang violence is down as a whole, rural sectors still suffer from “Maras” elements.

In truth, Distrito Central is in fact a part of sister cities (Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela) that make up the heart of Honduras, and both are in such close proximity to each other they are often referred to in this common term. Beside the name they share they also share quite a bit of catastrophe, with a heavy influx of drug cartels and assorted gangs from other Central and South American countries, which has led to the need for a highly militarized police force. This has also led to a high murder rate of 74 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is actually a considerable improvement given it was 101 per 100,000 individuals in 2012. With both a regional and international crackdown on the organizations causing such calamity, one can hope that this trend continues for the pair of cities within this district.

5. Most Violent City: Maturin, Venezuela

Bomb squads and riot police have become too common a sight in Maturin.
Bomb squads and riot police have become too common a sight in Maturin.

With the motto “La Ciudad más limpia de Venezuela” (The cleanest city in Venezuela) it may be shocking to see it with such dirty hands. Only a stones throw from the Atlantic and situated near multiple rivers, it has long been a transport and shipping hub for the nation, which naturally means in recent years drugs and weapons have found their way through the city by these paths. Anti-government protests and subsequent retaliations from supposedly government funded militias have also increased the death toll.  With a murder average of 86 per 100,000 people, this city has suffered more than most in violent crime.

4. Most Violent City: Acapulco, Mexico

The stark contrast between appearances and reality.
The stark contrast between appearances and reality.

Once known mostly for its lovely beaches and as a wonderful tourist town, Acapulco has seen better days. Cartel violence has been remarkably strong and focused towards police and politics primarily, with a murder count of over 104 per 100,000 residents, as countless acts of extortion, blackmail and assault. To make matters worse, local police have been known to take actions above the law, making even those perceived to be protectors as potential threats to locals and visitors alike.

3. Most Violent City: San Salvador, El Salvador

Weapons trafficking in recent decades have made any peace process with gangs a delicate process.
Weapons trafficking in recent years have made for crime spikes in San Salvador.

Last year, San Salvador would not have even made it to the number 10 position on this list at a murder rate of around 66 per 100,000. However, extreme changes in the peace process between rival gangs, the Black Shadow vigilante group and the national government has made the death count stack up to 109 per 100,000 inhabitants. For residents, what was already a somewhat delicate situation has broken completely as MS-13, Calle 18 and other narco gang groups have been fighting on their home turf and for access to drug transport routes both further north and south.

2. Most Violent City: San Pedro Sula, Honduras

Riots and gang violence are all too common in San Pedro Sula.
Riots and gang violence are all too common in San Pedro Sula.

Previously known as the “Murder Capital of the World”, the city of San Pedro Sula has seen some improvements in terms of removing violent criminals, but only marginally. Dropping from 169 murders per 100,000 residents to 112 per 100,000, while this place has avoided all out war, it certainly hasn’t run far from it. This murder rate has mostly been attributed to the gangs of El Salvador jumping borders, trafficking cocaine and weapons into the area, where it is estimated over 70% of the firearms that are owned in the country are in fact owned illegally. With any luck, in the coming years aggressive military and police interventions as well as a slowly growing economy will turn the tides further against this decades long plague of crime in Honduras, but it is still far too early to be sure.

1. Most Violent City: Caracas, Venezuela

Food shortages have fueled protests and unfortunate violence in Caracas.
Food shortages have fueled protests and unfortunate violence in Caracas.

Topping our list of the most violent cities in the world is the capital of Venezuela, Caracas. Given the extreme political instability (to the point the Venezuelan military have been training in civil war scenarios), the high rate of poverty and severe lack of proper resources, it is a sad reality that violence is a certain result. The murder rate has jumped to 120 per 100,000 inhabitants, which still pales in comparison to Medillin, Colombia during the Escobar cartel years (where it was in the 300’s), but is still absolutely shocking. The fates of the inhabitants are worsened in that reports have come out that most medical facilities are running low or are out of supplies to treat the wounded, whether they are hurt by heavily armed gangs or forces trying to quell protests. Drugs remain a large problem in the city, as is true for all who came before in this list, and corruption has been rampant like in other Venezuelan cities. Whether Caracas will divert disaster, or run headlong into a civil war is yet to be seen, but we can hope that for not only the Venezuelan people but the world, that 2016 will result in much more peaceful years to come.


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Cody Carmichael
University graduate in Psychology, and health worker. On my off time I'm usually tinkering with tech or traveling to the ends of the globe.

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