- San Bernardino
The most dangerous city in California is Emeryville, with a violent crime rate of 2,356 per 100,000 residents. Although Emeryville only has a population of 12,905, there is a lot of crime. Common crimes involve property theft and vehicle theft. In 2022, there was a surge of reported incidents of theft and a total of over 300 reported incidents of violent crime.
Due to Emeryville’s small population, each citizen has about a 1 in 43 chance of falling victim to a violent crime, making it the most dangerous place to live in California.
Oakland is one of the worst cities in California due to its extraordinarily high crime rates. It's also one of the most dangerous cities in the USA. Oakland’s crime rate may have decreased since the 1990s, but its crime statistics are still well above the US average, with the violent crime rate in the city being 392% higher than the national average. In 2022, the violent crime rate was at 1,547 per 100,000 residents, which was 8% higher than the previous year.
Located in Alameda County, Oakland is a major commerce hub in the East Bay Area. With a population of 440,646, Oakland is the third-largest city in the Bay Area and the eighth-largest city in California.
Vehicle theft, property theft, burglary, and assault are the most common types of crime reported in the city. In particular, gun violence is a significant problem in many areas of the city. Much of the gun violence in Oakland can be attributed to gang activity.
3. San Bernardino
San Bernardino is another one of the most violent cities in California. San Bernardino has a population of 222,101, and a violent crime rate of 1,310 per 100,000 people, which is 331% higher than the national average. Violent crimes such as robbery and murder have risen by as much as 39% from 2017 to 2022. While property crime has decreased since 2017, crimes like aggravated assault have risen by as much as 145% since that year, making San Bernadino one of the worst cities to live in California.
Stockton is one of the most dangerous cities in California’s Central Valley region. The city is located in San Joaquin County and has a population of 320,804. Stockton has a crime rate well above the US and state average. In 2022, violent crime was reported to be 1,260 per 100,000 people, making the likelihood of becoming a victim 1 in 79. Stocktons high violent crime rate is 319% higher than the national average.
Property crime is also much higher than in other cities of its size, having over 9,300 reported incidents of property crime in 2022.
Compton is also one of the worst cities in California for crime. Compton is located in the South Los Angeles region of California and has a population of 97,740. The violent crime rate in Compton was 1,105 per 100,000 people in 2022, which is 279% higher than the national average. The city has a high rate of homicides, robberies, and aggravated assaults. Despite successful efforts to reduce crime, Compton continues to be a dangerous place to live in 2023.
Vallejo is another California city that has been struggling with high crime rates for many years. Vallejo has a population of 124,886, and a violent crime rate of 966 per 100,000 people, which is 244% higher than the national average. Vallejo residents have a 1 in 100 chance of falling victim to a violent crime each yea. The most common types of violent crimes in Vallejo are aggravated assault and robbery, while common property crimes include burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft.
Crime in Vallejo is a pervasive issue that affects the safety and well-being of its residents. Although the city has made some progress in reducing crime, it still one of the most dangerous cities in California.
Richmond is also one of the most dangerous places to live in California. It has a population of 110,567 and is located in the San Francisco Bay area. While Richmond may be a more affordable option near San Francisco, the city has a reputation for violent crime. In 2022, the violent crime rate for the city was 921 per 100,000 people, a whopping 233% higher than the national average. In the same year, reported vehicle and property theft incidents numbered in the thousands.
While Richmond may be safer than neighboring Oakland, the city is still one of the most dangerous places in California and the Bay Area. Residents generally consider the northeastern part of the city to be safer, with a major concentration of crime occurring in the “Iron Triangle,” or the central part of the city. With so much crime, Richmond is one of the worst areas to live in California if safety is a concern.
Located North of Merced, Modesto is also one of the most dangerous cities in California. It has a population of around 219,000 and a violent crime rate of 742 per 100,000 people, which is 188% higher than the national average. The most common crimes in Modesto includes property crime and theft. According to FBI statistics from 2021, Modesto experienced over 5,000 reported incidents of property crime and over 1,600 incidents of violent crime. Modesto is known for having one of the highest rates of car theft in California. In 2020, there were 2,091 car thefts, or 389 per 1,000 people- far exceeding the national average.
Merced is another one of the worst cities in California when it comes to crime. Located in the Central Valley, Merced has a population of 86,333 and a violent crime rate of 599 per 100,000 residents.
Even since the 1990s, crime rates in Merced have stayed consistently high, keeping the city historically ranked among the country’s most violent metro areas. While property crime in Merced has decreased by as much as 20% by the year 2020, violent crimes have been sharply increasing. From 2019 to 2020, murders in Merced nearly doubled based on FBI statistics for that year.
Bakersfield is another one of the most dangerous cities in California. It has a population of around 405,000 and is located near California’s San Joaquin valley. The violent crime rate in Bakersfield was 498 per 100,000 in 2022, which is 27% higher than the national average.
In 2022, there were over 15,500 incidents of property crime in Bakersfield. However, according to Bakersfield Now, a local news agency, the city saw a 30% decrease in homicides in 2022 from 2020. Much of the violence in Bakersfield can be attributed to gang activity which has been a growing problem for many years. With an overall crime rate of 94% above the national average, Bakersfield certainly has a reputation for being one of California’s more dangerous cities.
To determine the most dangerous cities in California in 2023, we looked at crime rates throughout each city, including theft, burglary, and murder rates per capita. While large cities like Los Angeles may have more reported crime, some smaller cities have a greater proportion of criminal incidents, making them statistically more violent.
This data has been compiled from the most recent statistics of cities and towns from the FBI Uniform Crime Report and data released from city and county governments.
While many of the most violent cities in California might seem attractive at first glance due to lower real estate prices, you must also consider safety. You don’t want to move somewhere because it’s cheap, only to realize you’re living in one of the worst cities in California when it comes to violent crime.
It’s also important to remember that even some of the most dangerous cities can have safe areas. In contrast, cities that didn’t make our list, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, can have extremely dangerous neighborhoods. For example, Richmond has pockets of safe neighborhoods, with crime concentrated in other areas.