This City Has Been Named the Most Dangerous City to Live in Virginia

Virginia is recognized for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and diverse culture, yet it grapples with significant challenges such as poverty, inequality, and crime. Some cities within the state face these challenges more acutely than others, with Portsmouth emerging as the most perilous city in Virginia, according to sources like FBI crime data and the health portal PlushCare.

The Situation in Portsmouth

Portsmouth, with a population of approximately 98,000, ranks as the ninth-largest city in Virginia, tracing its roots back to 1752. Noteworthy for its naval and maritime legacy, anchored by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the city also boasts a vibrant cultural scene. However, its dark side is evident in elevated crime levels.

In 2020, FBI crime data revealed Portsmouth to have the highest violent crime rate in Virginia, reaching 875 incidents per 100,000 residents—more than triple the state average. Property crime rates were similarly alarming, exceeding the state average by over twofold. PlushCare ranked Portsmouth’s overall crime rate as the 10th worst in the nation.

Contributing Factors

Portsmouth’s high crime rates are rooted in a complex interplay of factors:

  1. High Poverty Rate: Afflicting 18% of the population, well above the state average of 10%, poverty breeds desperation and limits opportunities.
  2. Low Educational Attainment: Approximately 20% lack a high school diploma, compared to the state average of 12%, influencing employability and income.
  3. Racial and Social Disparities: With a predominantly African American population (54%), compared to the state average of 20%, social class and race dynamics contribute to crime.
  4. Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Above-average rates of substance use disorders in the population correlate with higher crime rates.

Implications Beyond Portsmouth

Portsmouth’s high crime rates extend beyond local repercussions, impacting the broader economy, society, and environment:

  1. Economic Impact: Crime diminishes productivity, discourages business investment, and raises transaction costs, impairing the city and state’s competitiveness.
  2. Security Concerns: Public safety is compromised, leading to increased fear and distrust, straining law enforcement, and challenging the justice system.
  3. Health and Well-being: Crime adversely affects the physical and mental health of victims, offenders, and the community, fostering stress and trauma.
  4. Environmental Consequences: Crime contributes to pollution and environmental degradation, exacerbating climate change and natural disasters.

Addressing the Challenges

Addressing Portsmouth’s challenges necessitates collaborative efforts:

  1. Root Causes: Tackling poverty, education gaps, racial disparities, and substance abuse requires policies and programs to reduce inequality and injustice.
  2. Prevention and Intervention: Strengthening surveillance, providing alternatives for potential offenders, and reforming rehabilitation contribute to crime prevention.
  3. Public Involvement: Increasing public awareness and engagement through education, facilitating reporting, and encouraging civic participation is vital.


Portsmouth’s designation as the most dangerous city in Virginia underscores the urgency of addressing its multifaceted challenges. With a focus on root causes, prevention, and public involvement, collaborative strategies can enhance safety and the quality of life, not just for Portsmouth but for the broader state and nation. While Portsmouth holds promise, concerted efforts are required to unlock its potential and foster positive change.

Leave a Comment