8 Most Dangerous Cities in California

By PropertyClub Team
Nov 5th 2022
From the Hollywood sign to Lombard Street, California’s great cities have captured our imaginations. But some cities in the Golden State are quite dangerous. Read on for our list of the 8 most dangerous cities in California, starting with the most violent. 

hash-mark8 Most Dangerous Cities in California

  1. Emeryville
  2. Oakland
  3. Bakersfield
  4. Stockton
  5. San Bernadino
  6. Richmond
  7. Merced
  8. Modesto


Emeryville is the most dangerous city in California, with a violent crime rate of 6,284 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 2021, there were almost 12,000 reported incidents of theft, and nearly 800 reported incidents of violent crime. 

Due to Emeryville’s small population, each citizen has about a 1 in 15 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime. This makes Emeryville one of the most violent cities in America. 


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. 

Oakland’s crime rate may have decreased since the 1990s, but its crime statistics are still well above the US average. In 2021, the violent crime rate was at 1,453 per 100,000 residents.

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. 


Bakersfield is another one of the most violent cities in California. It has a population of around 405,000 and is located near California’s San Joaquin valley. 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. 

In 2021, there were over 15,000 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. 


Located in San Joaquin County, Stockton has a population of 320,804 and is one of the most dangerous cities in California’s Central Valley region. Stockton has a crime rate well above the US and state average. In 2021, violent crime was reported to be 12.62 per 1,000 people, making the likelihood of becoming a victim 1 in 79. Property crime is also much higher than in other cities of its size, having over 9,000 reported incidents of property crime in 2021. 

hash-markSan Bernadino

Located in Southern California’s Inland Empire, San Bernadino is often ranked as one of the state’s most dangerous cities.

San Bernadino has a population of 222,101, with a crime rate that is 79% higher than the national average. Violent crimes such as robbery and murder have risen by as much as 39% from 2017 to 2021. While property crime has decreased since 2017, crimes like aggravated assault have risen by as much as 145% since that year. 


Just East of San Francisco, Richmond is a city with a population of 110,567 and a crime rate that is 82% higher than the national average. 

While Richmond may be a more affordable option near San Francisco, the city has a reputation for violent crime. In 2020, the violent crime rate for the city was a whopping 149% 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. 


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 crime rate of 599 per 1,000 people.

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. 


Just North of Merced, Modesto is a city with a population of around 219,000 and a crime rate of 32.24 per 1,000 people. 

Modesto’s crime rate is 37% higher than the national average, with high incidents of 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. 

hash-markMost Dangerous Cities in California Bottom Line

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, while 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. 

hash-markMethodology For Determining the Most Dangerous Cities in California

To determine the most violent cities in California, 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 dangerous.

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.