Known as the “Old Dominion,” Virginia is a state located in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., with its population surpassing 8.6 million in 2022.
Over a third of Virginians reside within the extensive metropolitan area of northern Virginia, encompassing both Washington and Baltimore.
While Richmond serves as the state’s capital, Virginia Beach holds the title of the most populated city.
With its varied landscape ranging from sandy beaches to the fertile Shenandoah Valley and up to the Blue Ridge/Appalachian mountains, Virginia is geographically diverse.
As one of the original thirteen U.S. colonies, the Commonwealth of Virginia is deeply steeped in history.
Dating back to 1619, Virginia’s state legislature is the oldest of its kind in North America.
10 High-Risk Cities
|City||Population||Total Crime Rate per 100,000||Chance of Being a Victim|
|Roanoke||97,915||22,800||1 in 19|
|Waynesboro||6,720||3,768||1 in 27|
|Lynchburg||7,588||3,587||1 in 28|
|Winchester||Not specified||3,129||1 in 33|
|Alexandria||33,458||–||1 in 34|
Roanoke tops the list as Virginia’s most perilous city. Positioned across from Norfolk on the Elizabeth River, this city of 97,915 people sees a crime rate that is 228% greater than the Virginia average. Residents face a 1 in 19 chance of falling victim to any crime, with 36 homicides, 138 thefts, 529 assaults, and 3,007 larcenies reported in 2022.
- Population: 97,915
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: 22,800
- Chance of Being a Victim: 1 in 19
Martinsville is another Virginia city notorious for its high crime rates. Located in Greensville County and home to 5,766 residents, the crime rate stands at 4,203 per 100,000 residents, 61% higher than the national average. There were 166 total crimes in 2022, including 22 violent incidents and 144 property crimes.
- Population: 5,766
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: 4,203
- Number of Violent Crimes: 22
The southwestern Virginia town of Waynesboro, situated near the Appalachian Foothills, carries a high crime rate. Its 6,720 residents experience a crime rate of 3,768 per 100,000, giving individuals a 1 in 27 chance of becoming crime victims. 2022 saw nine assaults, 25 burglaries, 187 larcenies, and 22 auto thefts.
- Population: 6,720
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: 3,768
- Chance of Being a Victim: 1 in 27
Lynchburg, in Halifax County, struggles with a weak economy and poverty, leading to a declining population. With a current crime rate of 3,587 per 100,000 for its 7,588 residents, the odds of being a victim of any crime are 1 in 28.
- Population: 7,588
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: 3,587
- Chance of Being a Victim: 1 in 28
Hampton, home to the world’s largest naval base, is also one of Virginia’s most unsafe cities. With a crime rate of 3,354 per 100,000, 43% above the U.S. average, Hampton reported 9,850 crimes, including 63 homicides and 1,364 assaults, in the previous year.
- Population: Not specified
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: 3,354
- Number of Murders: 63
Charlottesville, Virginia’s capital, is also among its most violent cities. The crime rate of 3,270 per 100,000 is 39% higher than the U.S. average. In 2022, Charlottesville recorded 7,703 property and violent crimes, including 90 homicides, 267 robberies, 534 assaults, and 711 break-ins.
- Population: Not specified
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: 3,270
- Number of Murders: 90
Despite being a historic town, Winchester ranks as one of Virginia’s most unsafe places. The crime rate is 3,129 per 100,000, and residents have a 1 in 33 chance of becoming victims. Winchester reported 947 crimes in 2022, with 153 being violent and 794 property-related.
- Population: Not specified
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: 3,129
- Chance of Being a Victim: 1 in 33
Hopewell, rich in Civil War history, has a population of 42,590. The crime rate is 3,118 per 100,000, which is 37% above the national average. In 2022, 1,406 crimes were reported, including 6 murders, 30 robberies, and 107 assaults. Property crimes, especially burglaries, are the most frequent.
- Population: 42,590
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: 3,118
- Number of Murders: 6
Historic city Alexandria, with a population of 33,458, has a crime rate 37% above the U.S. average. Residents face a 1 in 34 chance of being victimized. In 2022, there were 978 reported crimes, including 18 homicides, 20 robberies, 191 assaults, 71 burglaries, and 81 auto thefts.
- Population: 33,458
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: Not specified
- Chance of Being a Victim: 1 in 34
Despite being the fifth-largest city in Virginia, Harrisonburg’s crime rates make it one of the worst cities in Virginia. The crime rate of 2,665 per 100,000 is 30% higher than the Virginia average. In 2022, the city reported 29 homicides, 130 robberies, and 955 assaults. Although Harrisonburg houses numerous companies, the high crime rate makes it less desirable as a home.
- Population: Not specified
- Total Crime Rate per 100,000: 2,665
- Number of Murders: 29
5 Safety Tips
1. Be alert and mindful of scammers during your Virginia travels
In this digital age, scams have become more widespread than ever. Vacationers or those preoccupied with their travel logistics are often targeted by scammers. To ensure your safety, stay aware of your surroundings, keep your belongings close, and minimize unnecessary interactions with unfamiliar people. Consider checking the state or local authorities’ online platforms for any scam warnings.
2. The tap water in Virginia’s city areas is safe to consume
Urban regions such as Richmond and Virginia Beach provide safe tap water for drinking and usage. While this generally isn’t a concern, it’s worth mentioning that certain remote areas in Virginia’s Appalachian region might struggle with providing clean tap water.
3. Be prepared for extreme weather conditions depending on the season
While Virginia typically experiences moderate to mild weather year-round, summers and falls may bring hurricanes or tornadoes. Keeping an eye on the weather forecast and heeding any warnings is key to staying safe during such times.
4. Avoid making yourself an attractive target
In tourist hotspots like Virginia Beach, ensure your belongings are always within sight. Tourists are often viewed as easy targets for opportunistic criminals.
5. Invest time in comprehensive research before heading to your Virginia destination
Thankfully, there are numerous public and governmental online resources providing regular updates to travelers about potential scams, traffic situations, and other hazards.
As you prioritize your safety, it’s also important to be aware of potential hazards beyond just crime. For example, the Southwest Journal recently published an article titled Virginia’s Venomous Snakes, which highlights the presence of venomous snakes in the region.
Are there any specific neighborhoods within these cities that are considered more dangerous?
While crime rates can fluctuate across different neighborhoods, there are certain areas in some cities that have experienced higher crime rates. Here are some examples:
- In Roanoke, neighborhoods such as Melrose-Rugby, Hurt Park, and West End have had higher crime rates in the past.
- Martinsville, being a smaller city, does not have distinct neighborhoods known for higher crime rates.
- Waynesboro, being a smaller town, does not have specific neighborhoods with significantly higher crime rates.
- Lynchburg has neighborhoods like the Downtown area, Diamond Hill, and Blue Ridge that have experienced higher crime rates in the past.
- In Hampton, neighborhoods such as Wythe, Old North Hampton, and Aberdeen Gardens have had higher crime rates historically.
- Charlottesville’s neighborhoods like 10th and Page, 5th Street, and Fifeville have seen higher crime rates in certain periods.
- Winchester’s neighborhoods like Kernstown, Old Town Winchester, and Shawnee have experienced higher crime rates at times.
- Hopewell’s neighborhoods like Woodlawn, City Point, and Kippax have had higher crime rates in the past.
- In Alexandria, neighborhoods such as Arlandria, Landmark/Van Dorn, and Old Town have experienced higher crime rates in certain periods.
- Harrisonburg does not have specific neighborhoods known for significantly higher crime rates.
It’s important to remember that crime rates can change, and it’s advisable to check with local authorities or crime mapping resources for up-to-date information on specific neighborhoods.
What are some safety tips to keep in mind when visiting or living in Virginia?
Here are some safety tips to consider:
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings, especially in unfamiliar areas.
- Keep your personal belongings secure and within sight, especially in crowded tourist areas.
- Stay informed about any potential scams or warnings by checking state or local authorities’ online platforms.
- Be prepared for extreme weather conditions depending on the season, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, by monitoring weather forecasts and heeding warnings.
- Conduct comprehensive research before visiting a specific Virginia destination, checking for potential hazards, traffic situations, and safety tips provided by public and governmental online resources.
Is tap water safe to drink in Virginia?
Generally, tap water in Virginia’s city areas, such as Richmond and Virginia Beach, is safe to consume. These urban regions follow water quality regulations to ensure safe drinking water. However, in some remote areas of Virginia, particularly in the Appalachian region, there may be challenges in providing clean tap water. It’s always a good idea to inquire about the water quality at your specific destination or consult local authorities for any concerns.
What should I do if I become a victim of a crime in Virginia?
If you become a victim of a crime in Virginia, it’s important to take the following steps:
- Ensure your immediate safety and seek medical attention if necessary.
- Report the incident to the local authorities by calling the emergency hotline (911).
- Cooperate fully with law enforcement and provide them with accurate and detailed information about the incident.
- Keep a record of any documents, evidence, or photographs related to the crime.
- Seek support from victim advocacy organizations or local resources that can provide assistance and guidance throughout the legal process.
In conclusion, Virginia is a geographically diverse state with a rich historical background. While it offers a range of attractions and destinations for visitors and residents alike, it’s important to be aware of safety considerations, particularly in cities with higher crime rates.
Some cities, such as Roanoke, Martinsville, Waynesboro, Lynchburg, Hampton, Charlottesville, Winchester, Hopewell, Alexandria, and Harrisonburg, have experienced higher crime rates in recent years. It’s recommended to stay informed, practice vigilance, and take necessary precautions to ensure personal safety.
Additionally, conducting thorough research, following safety tips, and seeking assistance from local resources can contribute to a safer experience while in Virginia.