This Town in Virginia State Takes the Crown for Most Violent

Virginia is known for its rich history, natural beauty, and diverse culture. But not all places in the Old Dominion are safe and peaceful. Some towns and cities in Virginia have higher crime rates than the national average, making them dangerous places to live or visit. In this article, we will look at the most violent town in Virginia, based on the latest FBI crime data, and explore some of the possible reasons and solutions for its crime problem.

The Most Violent Town in Virginia: Portsmouth

According to the FBI crime data for 2022, the most violent town in Virginia is Portsmouth. Portsmouth is a port city located in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, with a population of about 98,000 people. It has a long and proud naval history, being home to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the oldest and largest industrial facility of the U.S. Navy.

However, Portsmouth also has a dark side. It ranked #1 in both violent and property crime in Virginia for 2022, with an overall crime rate three times higher than the statewide average. Residents faced a 1 in 114 chance of being the victim of an attack, murder, or rape reported in 2022, so it’s not a bad idea to keep your guard up on the streets of Portsmouth. You also want to keep your doors locked in Portsmouth because the city had the third highest burglary rate in Virginia, with 421 cases recorded over the year.

Portsmouth’s crime problem is not new. The city has consistently ranked among the most dangerous places in Virginia for the past decade, according to various sources. In fact, Portsmouth was once dubbed “the murder capital of Virginia” by a local newspaper in 2011, after it recorded 25 homicides in a single year.

Why is Portsmouth So Violent?

There is no simple answer to why Portsmouth is so violent. Crime is a complex phenomenon that is influenced by many factors, such as poverty, unemployment, education, drugs, gangs, policing, and social norms. However, some of the possible reasons for Portsmouth’s high crime rate are:

Poverty: Portsmouth has a high poverty rate of 18.4%, compared to the state average of 9.9%. Poverty is often associated with crime, as it creates stress, desperation, and inequality among people. People who live in poverty may resort to crime as a way of survival, or as a way of expressing their frustration and anger.

Unemployment: Portsmouth has a high unemployment rate of 8.6%, compared to the state average of 4.5%. Unemployment is another factor that can lead to crime, as it reduces the opportunities and incentives for people to engage in legitimate work. People who are unemployed may turn to crime as a source of income, or as a way of coping with boredom and hopelessness.

Education: Portsmouth has a low educational attainment level, with only 21.4% of adults having a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the state average of 38.1%. Education is a key factor that can prevent crime, as it provides people with the skills, knowledge, and values that can help them succeed in life. People who are educated are more likely to have better jobs, higher incomes, and stronger social ties, which can reduce their involvement in crime.

Drugs: Portsmouth has a serious drug problem, especially with opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl. According to the Virginia Department of Health, Portsmouth had the highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in the state in 2019, with 71 deaths per 100,000 people. Drugs can fuel crime, as they impair the judgment, impulse control, and moral reasoning of users. Drugs can also create a demand for illegal markets, which can lead to violence and corruption among dealers and users.

Gangs: Portsmouth has a significant gang presence, with several local and national gangs operating in the city. According to the Portsmouth Police Department, there are about 30 gangs in the city, with about 600 members. Gangs can contribute to crime, as they engage in turf wars, drug trafficking, robbery, extortion, and other illegal activities. Gangs can also recruit and influence young people, who may see them as a source of identity, protection, and belonging.

How Can Portsmouth Reduce Its Crime Rate?

There is no easy solution to Portsmouth’s crime problem. Crime reduction requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach that involves multiple stakeholders, such as law enforcement, government, community, education, health, and social services. However, some of the possible strategies that can help Portsmouth reduce its crime rate are:

Strengthening the police force: Portsmouth needs to invest more in its police force, which is understaffed, underfunded, and undertrained. According to the Portsmouth Police Department, the city has only 237 sworn officers, which is below the national average of 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents. Portsmouth also has a low clearance rate of 38.9% for violent crimes and 12.8% for property crimes, which means that most crimes go unsolved and unpunished. Portsmouth needs to hire more officers, provide them with better equipment, training, and incentives, and improve their relationship and trust with the community.

Improving the economy: Portsmouth needs to create more economic opportunities for its residents, especially for the poor and unemployed. Portsmouth needs to attract more businesses, industries, and investments to the city, and provide them with tax incentives, infrastructure, and security. Portsmouth also needs to improve its workforce development, and provide more education, training, and job placement programs for its residents, especially for the youth and ex-offenders.

Enhancing the education system: Portsmouth needs to improve its education system, which is underperforming, underfunded, and unequal. According to the Virginia Department of Education, Portsmouth has a low graduation rate of 82.9%, compared to the state average of 92.3%. Portsmouth also has a high dropout rate of 10.9%, compared to the state average of 5.1%. Portsmouth needs to increase its funding, resources, and standards for its schools, and provide more support, guidance, and enrichment for its students, especially for those who are at risk of dropping out or failing.

Preventing and treating drug abuse: Portsmouth needs to address its drug problem, which is a major public health and safety issue. Portsmouth needs to implement more prevention and education programs, especially for the youth, and raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of drug abuse. Portsmouth also needs to provide more treatment and recovery services, such as counseling, medication, and rehabilitation, for those who are addicted to drugs, and reduce the stigma and barriers to accessing them.

Combating gang violence: Portsmouth needs to tackle its gang problem, which is a major source of violence and crime in the city. Portsmouth needs to disrupt and dismantle the gangs, and prosecute and punish their leaders and members. Portsmouth also needs to prevent and intervene in the recruitment and involvement of young people in gangs, and provide them with positive alternatives, such as mentoring, sports, arts, and community service.


Portsmouth is the most violent town in Virginia, according to the latest FBI crime data. Portsmouth has high rates of violent and property crime, which are influenced by factors such as poverty, unemployment, education, drugs, and gangs. Portsmouth needs to implement a comprehensive and coordinated approach to reduce its crime rate, which involves strengthening the police force, improving the economy, enhancing the education system, preventing and treating drug abuse, and combating gang violence. Portsmouth has the potential to become a safer and more prosperous place, if it can overcome its crime problem.

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