Murder Capitals: These Are the World's Most Violent Cities

With 17 cities on the list, Brazil has the lion’s share of violent places. Mexico comes in second with 12 cities on the list. Newsweek

It’s a list that no country wants to top. But Mexico's Citizens' Council for Public Security's annual ranking of the world's most violent cities shows that some nations are far more affected than others by violent crime.

Of the top 50 most violent cities, 42 were in Latin America, a region that struggles with political instability—sometimes due to U.S. interference—as well corruption, illegal drug trade and gang violence.

With 17 cities on the list, Brazil has the lion’s share of violent places. The country’s most violent city is Natal, located in the country’s poor northeastern region, where drug lords fight for dominance. Some 38 percent of Brazilians name violence as the country’s top problem, according to a 2018 survey.

Mexico comes in second with 12 cities on the list, including Acapulco, the beach town once popular with U.S. tourists before the Narco wars spilled over into the area. The CIA says the violence levels there are comparable with Iraq and Syria, and warns citizens not to go.

But sandwiched on the list between two other Mexican cities is an entry closer to home—St. Louis, Missouri. The local homicide rate, fuelled by gun violence, has been acknowledged locally: "The level of violence in our city is at a crisis level," St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said at a press conference in its City Hall last year. Three other U.S. cities also appear on the list.

Only cities with more than 300,000 people are counted, and the figures don’t include deaths in combat zones. Cities with unavailable data are also missed out.

As well as impacting the lives of citizens now, a city’s violence has repercussions that echo down generations. Poor children growing up in violent places are less likely to escape poverty than their peers in stable, peaceful cities.

This list reveals the places that have the most work to do in regards to tackling this serious problem.

01 Cucuta Colombia
50. Cúcuta, Colombia: 34.78 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 833,743. Homicides: 290.)
Colombia civil defense check people as they cross the Colombian-Venezuelan border in Cúcuta, on July 16, 2016.
Carlos Eduardo Ramirez/Reuters
02 Vitoria Brazil
49. Vitória, Brazil: 36.07 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 1,960,213. Homicides: 707.)
Police officers carry a body during a military police strike in Vitoria, Espirito Santo, Brazil February 10, 2017.
Paulo Whitaker/Reuters
03 Teresina Brazil
48. Teresina, Brazil: 37.05 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 850,198. Homicides: 315.)
Military police officers undergo training in Teresina in June 2015.
Military police of Piauí
04 Campina Grande Brazil
47. Campina Grande, Brazil: 37.29 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 410,332. Homicides: 153.)
Suspected gang members are arrested in January 2015.
Brazilian Police
05 Nelson Mandela Bay South Africa
=45. Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa: 37.53 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 1,263,051. Homicides: 474.)
Police confiscate 21 large bags of marijuana found in a van in Ibayi, Nelson Mandela Bay, on September 20, 2017.
South African Police Service
06 Campos dos Goytacazes Brazil
=45. Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil: 37.53 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 490,288. Homicides: 184.)
Approximately 2 kg of marijuana, a replica rifle and a sum of money seized from a 27-year-old woman during a routine traffic operation in Campos dos Goytacazes in May 2016.
Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro
07 Durban South Africa
44. Durban, South Africa: 38.12 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 3,661,911. Homicides: 1,396.)
A group of foreign nationals threaten to defend themselves after a peace march held amid xenophobic violence in Durban on April 16, 2015.
Rogan Ward/Reuters
08 Mazatlan Mexico
43. Mazatlán, Mexico: 39.32 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 488,281. Homicides: 192.)
A Mexican federal police officer burns three and a half tons of cocaine which smugglers were transporting in a shark fishing boat off the Pacific coast.
Heriberto Rodriguez/Reuters
09 Detroit
42. Detroit, Michigan, United States: 39.69 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 672,795. Homicides: 267.)
A derelict house is seen in an east side neighborhood once full of homes in Detroit, on January 27, 2013.
Rebecca Cook/Reuters
10 New Orleans
41. New Orleans, Louisiana, United States: 40.10 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 391,495. Homicides: 157.)
Orleans Parish mounted police officers ride down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter at the end of Mardi Gras on March 1, 2006.
Sean Gardner/Reuters
11 Macapa brazil Brazil
40. Macapá, Brazil: 40.24 homicides per 100,000 residents. (Population: 474,706. Homicides: 191.)
The coffin carrying New Zealand yachting legend Peter Blake is loaded onto a Brazilian Air Force plane in Macapá on December 9, 2001. Blake, 53, was killed by pirates while on an expedition up the Amazon river.