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Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in America

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    The recent economic recession hit cities hard. According to the Justice Department, by the end of 2011 nearly 12,000 police officers lost their jobs making it harder to keep peace and order in cities already struggling to fight high crime rates. The highly publicized shooting of Trayvon Martin recently brought to light Florida's controversial “stand your ground” law which allows people to shoot first and ask questions later when defending their home turf, which makes you wonder at Florida's heavy appearance on our worst cities for safety:

    1. Wilmington, Delaware
    A short drive from South Philly and Camden and midway between New York and Washington, Wilmington managed to snag the number one spot on our list for highest rate of violent crimes per 100,000 people. And while the overall state of Delaware ranked moderately well in the peace index (which looked at factors such as police per capita, percentage of population behind bars and access to small arms), Wilmington came in the top spot for sex offenders per capita.


    2. St. Louis, Missouri
    It's tough to label a city as 'dangerous' because many factors go into creating crime rates, including how a city defines a crime and the population included in the calculations. But when we looked specifically at the number of violent crimes per 100,000 people, the city of St. Louis city ranked near the top of our list. Unfortunately, it didn't fare much better when it comes to sex offenders per capita.

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    3. Orlando, Florida
    It may be shocking that the home to Disney and Universal Studios also holds the distinction of having the highest crime rate among Florida's 10 biggest cities. The city also witnessed a 4.8 percent increase in crime since 2010. One possible reason? Crime rates are measured per capita and Orlando sees millions of visitors every year but the resident population is less than 250,000—which means a large influx of non-residents could be adding to the number of crimes without balancing out the per capita math.

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    4. St. Petersburg, Florida
    The second of three Florida cities to make it to this list, St. Pete has its fair share of violent crime and sex offenders per capita. Unfortunately, the overall state of Florida ranks poorly according to the Institute for Economics & Peace, which looks at several factors including the availability of small arms and police officers per capita.

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    5. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    While Baton Rouge's violent crime rate took a slight dip since 2010, the rate is still comparatively high. Unfortunately, Baton Rouge shares the burden with New Orleans of belonging to the one of the least peaceful states on our list for the Institute for Economics & Peace's index measuring access to weapons and percentage of incarcerated citizens.

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    6. Baltimore, Maryland
    Baltimore has the unlucky distinction of ranking sixth when it comes to violent crime and sixth place on the list overall. It also has a relatively high number of sex offenders per capita. Adding to their woes, Baltimore witnessed a terrifying year when a spate of makeshift firebombs randomly hit the city, creating a sense of fear and paranoia among residents.

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    7. Kansas City, Missouri
    The Associated Press recently reported that Kansas City police have been averaging two or three arrests per week related to the drug PCP, a hallucinogen that makes users violent and unpredictable. This disturbing trend is likely one of the reasons that KC ranked as one of the worst cities for violent crime.

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    8. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
    The good news about Fort Lauderdale is the city's strict sex offender residency law, which prevents offenders from moving within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, day care centers and public school bus stops. The bad news is that sex offenders have so few housing options (only about 10 percent of the city is open to them) that they have clustered together, or worse, disappear off the grid making it hard for families to know what their risk truly is. Fort Lauderdale ranked fairly poorly when it came to both sex offenders per capita and violent crime. 

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    9. New Orleans, Louisiana
    Referred to by the press as the ‘murder capital’ of the U.S., New Orleans is still fighting to restore a sense of safety post-Katrina. According to the police superintendent, it could take 7 to 10 years to reform the police department and restore order to the city. Additionally, the state of Louisiana ranked as the one of the very worst on our list for the Institute for Economics & Peace's index.

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    10. Memphis, Tennessee
    According to the Memphis police department, the rise in homicides in the city may be linked to gang violence. Out of 147 homicides in 2011, 36 were gang affiliated and 68 percent of the murders involved people related or acquainted to one another. The police director recently acknowledged that youth crime and gang violence is a big problem in Memphis. In addition to a high violent crime rate, the entire state of Tennessee scored poorly on the Peace Index from the Institute for Economics & Peace, which measured access to weapons and percentage of citizens who are behind bars.

    Now that you've seen the most dangerous, check out the 10 Best Cities for Families.