The city of St. Louis occasionally registers the highest murder rate in the United States. Sometimes the distinction goes to Detroit, New Orleans or Baltimore. But St. Louis is always in the top five. In fact, St. Louis always makes the world’s 50 most dangerous cities too, a list dominated by Latin America.
People who live in the St. Louis area will often point out, in person and online, that those statistics only apply to the city. They don’t apply to the suburbs. In fact, one of the arguments for a plan to merge the city and suburbs was that the newly created city would not be in the world’s most dangerous cities.
That plan, Better Together, failed a miserable death. The opposition was fierce, judging by the comments on the now-defunct Facebook page. The ballot measure never stood a chance, despite being a statewide referendum. The rural Missourians hate St. Louis more than the suburbanites.
The opposition wasn’t so much politics as it was about race. St. Louis County isn’t much less Democratic-leaning than the city. But it’s much whiter. People in the suburbs see the city as a cesspool of violent, inner-city blacks, and their suburbs a paragon of safety. In fact, the opposition was just as fierce among the black political leaders of the city. They feared the black vote would be diluted.
There is a serious debt issue in the city, but most neutral observers would look at the administrative scheme in St. Louis and conclude it’s bonkers. And that’s part of why the metro area has suffered a long decline, from the second largest in the United States at the turn of the 20th century to a shrinking medium-sized city, which is still shrinking.
I concluded that the fate of the merger didn’t matter, because you can’t change the people. There are idiots on both sides. That’s why people call the state, “Misery.”
But I wondered, are the suburbanites right? Is it just St. Louis city that’s the problem when it comes to crime? Most people would assume so, but what does the data say?
Curious, I looked up a ranking of U.S. states, sorted by murder rate. I was surprised to see it’s not just St. Louis. Missouri as a whole has the second highest murder rate, second only to to Louisiana.
Then I looked up Peru. Missouri has a higher murder rate than Peru. Missouri’s murder rate is comparable to Nigeria or Iraq. It’s a touch safer than Russia.
Then I smelled a blog post, and I mapped out all of the United States and Latin America. I threw in European nation-states and notable countries around the world. See how your home country compares to your adopted country. You might be surprised.
Note: This is not scholarly research. There are different years, different data sources. This is a five-minute Wikipedia job.
State / Country & Murders per 100,000 people
El Salvador 61.8
South Africa 35.9
Puerto Rico 18.5
DR Congo 13.55
Costa Rica 12.3
Dominican Republic 11.3
New Mexico 8
South Carolina 7.7
Georgia (U.S.) 6.1
North Carolina 6
West Virginia 3.7
New Jersey 3.2
New York 2.9
North Dakota 2.4
New Hampshire 1.5
Rhode Island 1.5
South Dakota 1.4
Saudi Arabia 1.3
United Kingdom 1.2
South Korea 0.6
Czech Republic 0.6