What US City's Bad Neighborhoods are the Least Bad?

Every large (define “large” however you will, but for this thread let’s say 100,000+) city in the US has its bad neighborhoods; neighborhoods blighted by crime, urban decay, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, etc.

But one person’s bad neighborhood is another person’s “meh.” Springfield has its share of bad neighborhoods, but they don’t compare to, say, Chicago’s or Detroit’s.

So what US city has the least-bad bad neighborhoods? Does, say, Anchorage, have a “ghetto” that consists of a few square blocks?

Let’s limit this thread to stand-alone cities and not suburbs of other cities.

Houston has a couple “bad” districts but I don’t think they compare to the worst of the worst in the country. I can at least drive through them and stop at the red lights without fear (which, evidently according to some stories I’ve heard, is simply not a safe or prudent thing to do in parts of Chicago).

Quick edit: I have a cite here that completely contradicts what I just wrote. Evidently The Third Ward is one of the absolute worst in the country, and 2nd worst in Houston. Sunnyside is evidently the 6th most dangerous in the country. Yikes.

The first thing that springs to my mind is income inequality, which might serve as a proxy for how “bad” a city’s worst neighborhoods are relative to its “best” neighborhoods. In 2011 the U.S. Census Bureau released a report discussing income inequality in U.S. cities. The most unequal metro areas (with populations over one million) were New York, Miami, LA, Houston, and Memphis; the least unequal were Salt Lake City, Virginia Beach, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and Riverside (CA). If we look at “cities proper” with populations over 100,000, the most unequal places are Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington DC, Miami, and Gainesville (FL); the least were West Jordan, UT, Thornton, CO, Norwalk, CA, Elk Grove, CA, and North Las Vegas, NV.

It is, of course, problematic to use income inequality as a proxy for the question you’re asking — the correlation between average income levels and crime, decay, etc. isn’t a perfect one — but it’s an interesting data point nonetheless.

Here is the full list of the 25 worst neighborhoods from cities over 100,000 people.

Now let’s look at the US’ largest cities and how they rank:

  1. New York City doesn’t have a single bad neighborhood on that list. Somewhat surprising to me.
  2. Los Angeles isn’t on the list either. Wow.
  3. Chicago has FOUR bad neighborhoods on the list. Ouch
  4. Houston has 2, as I previously mentioned. I had no idea how bad they were.
  5. Philadelphia is no where to be seen.
  6. Phoenix is also conspicuously absent

And so on down the list, if you want to keep going. So New York City might be the winner considering how enormously huge it is, and not even one of its many districts is one of the 25 worst in the country.

Might start with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate US cities by crime rate.

Virginia Beach looks like a fairly good candidate?


Virginia Beach is basically just a giant military town. I was there a couple of months ago. I can’t say I saw any really bad areas but many of the people that live there aren’t exactly affluent either. There is a large semi-transient population because of the military but it probably isn’t a good choice if you want to settle down into a nice life of gang banging or violent crime. The large military and law enforcement presence in that area would tend to make would-be thugs look elsewhere.

I’m betting the 5th Ward is the very worst in Houston. I’ve been in the 3rd Ward and Sunnyside as part of a flower delivery job, and other than being the only white guy in the whole area, I didn’t feel unduly threatened or unsafe.

You couldn’t pay me to go to the 5th Ward after dark though.

Totally anecdotal, but when I lived in Dubuque, I was eight blocks from work in downtown Dubuque (which is only about three blocks across). People freaked out when they found out where I lived, saying that that was a bad part of town, and I should move closer to work where it’s safer, which confused me… moving five or six blocks gets me out of the danger zone???

I lived there for a year and a half and had absolutely no problems with late-night urban activity.

For the large cities I know best - Philly, Baltimore and DC - five or six blocks can make a tremendous difference in violent and non-violent crime, as well as general aesthetics such as vandalism and graffiti. Heck, in Baltimore you can go from pretty nice to horrible in that distance.

There are some rather upscale parts of Miami within 4 blocks of some very “Kids, you noticing all this plight?” areas.

Oh, there are places in Chicago where you can go from multi-million-dollar condos to straight ghettos over the course of a block.

However, I’m sure Baltimore’s ghettos extend beyond just a few square blocks.

Lincoln Nebraska is pretty safe.

I was going to say Beverly Hills, but its not big enough. If the cutoff population is 100,000, I would suspect t would be an affluent suburb of a major city. Pasadena, maybe? According to Wikopedia Miami Beach (87,779) and Boca Raton (84,382) are only slightly below the threshold.

I suggest Fremont, California, population just over 200,000. Large suburb in the Bay Area with very little crime. I don’t think it has any bad neighborhoods at all.

OP would like to limit discussion to cities that are not simply suburbs. Thus, no West Jordan, no Pasadena, no Boca Raton, etc, etc, etc.

I can’t think of a neighborhood in Chicago where I would not stop for a red light, btw, and I have been in some pretty unpleasant ones. Same with Philadelphia.

Ulf, that particular line came from an English Professor I had once, who when visiting chicago was pulled over after stopping at a red light. According to him, the police officer told him not to stop at red lights during the night in that part of town, and that it was much safer to slow down a bit and run them.

I don’t think my English professor was telling a tall tale, but there you have it. Maybe things have changed since then or maybe that police officer was just full of it.

Well, I live in San Francisco on the edge of the Tenderloin, which has a pretty seedy reputation locally, and I’ve lived in Baltimore. Some places in Baltimore I’d make an effort to be vigilant driving through, while I’ve walked through the Tenderloin many times late at night without much concern. So, meh to the Tenderloin.

I’ve lived inside the Capital Beltway, too, and you almost expect the lead local news story in Baltimore or D.C. every night to be a shooting or stabbing somewhere. In the Bay Area, it seems like maybe it’s weekly.

A lot of people think of Pasadena as a suburb of Los Angeles, but I would say it’s actually a distinct city unto itself, with it’s own characteristics and issues that can’t really be lumped together with those of Los Angeles, including crime.

In keeping with it’s reputation as “less a city and more just an agglomeration of people”, I’d have to vote San Jose. If you take a look at the crime map, even the worst parts of San Jose clock in at or below the national median for crime.