Washington DC has started to get a reputation as a dangerous city due to the rising violent crime rates between 2020 and 2022. However, Washington DC is relatively safe, especially in the tourist areas and heart of the city. The violent crime rate in DC is similar to that in other large cities. However, there are some dangerous areas in Washington DC, and it’s not as safe as some other major cities like New York City.
Here are the areas you’ll want to avoid if you’re visiting or moving to DC.
- U Street Corridor
- Columbia Heights
- Ledroit Park
Brentwood is the most dangerous neighborhood in Washington DC, due to high violent crime rates. The neighborhood has a population of 28,660 people. In 2022 there were 1,715 violent crimes in Brentwood, while burglaries, theft, and car theft totaled 7,556 incidents. It is not advised to leave personal items like bikes or items in your car out of sight due to high amounts of petty theft. If you plan on taking public transportation, it is advised to keep your wallet, cash, and valuables hidden from view.
Anacostia is considered one of the worst neighborhoods in DC due to high violent and property crime rates. It is a historic neighborhood in southeastern DC with a population of 117,488, but the area is plagued by crime. The crime rate in this neighborhood is sporadic and has fluctuated since the early 2000s. Drug and gang activity is common in Anacostia, especially in the Ward 8 section and the River’s East Bank area. A study done in 2015 found that only 44 percent of inhabitants reported feeling safe walking on the street during daytime hours. Residents say that they don’t feel the police adequately protect them or patrol the area. Exercising caution on public transit and protecting valuable items is advised.
Deanwood is another one of the worst places to live in Washington DC due to the extremely high crime rate. Located in Northeast DC, Deanwood has a population of 29,798, and the violent crime rate is 600% higher than the national average. Most of the crime in this neighborhood stems from gang activity, including issues related to gun violence and the drug trade. Crime has steadily risen by 2% every year since 2018 despite having a moderate police presence. In the first half of 2021, DC police recorded 30 robberies, 34 assaults, 27 burglaries, and three murders in the area. The overall chance of becoming the victim of any type of crime is 1 in 12.
The U Street Corridor has long been one of the worst areas to live in Washington DC. It has a population of 10,104 and is located in Northwestern DC. Since the 1968 riots, this neighborhood has been one of the most dangerous places to live in Washington, DC. It was a hotbed of crime for much of the last half-century, mainly with narcotics and prostitution. However, by the early 2000s, following police interventions, crime had decreased, and the area is no longer the most dangerous in town. Still, gang-related crimes, including drive-by shootings, are relatively common to this day. You should be careful when visiting this neighborhood, especially at nighttime and if you're a female. The overall chance of being a victim of crime in the U Street Corridor neighborhood is approximately 1 in 10.
Another one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Washington DC is Columbia Heights. The neighborhood has a population of 34,875 and is known for having a heavy gang presence. In 2020 the crime rate in this neighborhood was 5,825 per 100,000 people. Most of the violence is gang-based, however, and violent crime like shootings doesn’t typically affect the local population. Walking or biking during the day is considered safe as long as common sense is used.
With a population of 11,886 people, Petworth is located in the Northwest in Ward 4. While Petworth isn't as dangerous as some other neighborhoods in Washington DC, it has some very bad areas. During the day, residents complain of panhandling and vagrancy, making walking in the area unpleasant. Petworth’s overall crime rates are 14% lower than the Washington DC average, while violent crimes are 143% higher than the national average. Walking at night is not advised, especially alone. Petty theft, pickpocketing, and muggings are constant problems, and it is advised to secure your cash and personal belongings.
Shaw is located in Northwest DC and has a population of 13,782 people. The total crime rate in this neighborhood is 6,696 per 100,000 people, with property crime being seven times higher than violent crime. Reports of gunshots are common in this area, particularly around Sixth Street. Pickpocketing and muggings are common, and it is advised to always keep personal items secured. Overall, residents have a 1 in 12 chance of becoming the victim of a crime.
This area was renowned as an open-air drug market in the early 1990s. There were also periods in the mid 2010s when robberies and murders increased and decreased considerably. In 2022, violent crimes were 184% more than the national average, while total crime rates were 161% higher. However, property crimes are high during all hours of the day and night. Taxis are preferable to public transit, but in any event, cash and valuables should be kept close to the body. A frequent police presence bolsters security in this area.
The population of Stadium is 21,142, with crime rates that are 24% higher than the city average. Violent crime, including gun violence, is common, but there is a solid police presence in the area, including around the metro station police. Property crime remains high, and it is advised to be aware of your belongings at all times and to not leave valuables in parked cars. Despite some safety concerns, there are several highly-rated hotels in the area.
Washington, DC remains one of the most culturally and economically significant countries in the United States. Being the center of our government hosting numerous international affairs, DC is a diverse city. While many of the neighborhoods on this list may be considered unsafe, many still play a significant role in the history of DC. Due to the significant flow of traffic and high cost of living, knowing which neighborhoods suit your needs if you are relocating will greatly affect your quality of life.
We’ve determined the most dangerous areas in Washington DC based on available city and FBI data on crime per capita, quality of life, and perceived safety by the residents living there. We used available reports from the early 2010s up to 2022.