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10 Most Dangerous Cities in Kentucky 2024: Avoiding Trouble

Most Dangerous Cities in Kentucky

If you hail from Kentucky, you know there’s more to watch out for than just enthusiastic Wildcats followers in Lexington and disgruntled illicit distillers in Louisville. The Bluegrass State, it turns out, has its own share of hazardous locales as well.

And it’s not just about the high-brow Kentucky Derby enthusiasts. The state, often overlooked by coast-to-coast flyers, has its fair share of intimidating criminals, hailing from the most dangerous cities of Kentucky. Fortunately for you, RoadSnacks has compiled a list of these precarious spots for 2022 that you should definitely review before making any significant relocation plans.

So how did we determine these risk-prone regions in the land of horses? We delved into the data. In total, we scrutinized 74 cities, examining the FBI’s latest crime report for violent crime and property crime statistics for every locale with a population exceeding 5,000.

Our analysis revealed an alarming rise in both categories of crimes over the national average in the past four years, with Louisville claiming the dubious title of the most violent city in Kentucky. Poor Louisville also made it to the list of the most dangerous cities nationwide. Yet, it’s not the most perilous spot in this Midwestern state.

In a recent, heart-wrenching episode, the city was shaken by a devastating shooting incident in its downtown area, underscoring the urgent need for effective measures to curb such violent outbreaks.

If you’re fortunate enough to reside in Kentucky’s safest city, count your blessings. However, if you’re contemplating a move, we advise you to tune into some Bluegrass music and take a good look at our list below before hitting the road. We wouldn’t want you to end up in a dangerous situation.

10 Riskiest Places To Reside

City Population Rank Last Year Violent Crimes Per 100k Property Crimes Per 100k
Bowling Green 71,861 5 (Up 4) 343 (Seventh most dangerous) 4,446 (Fourth most dangerous)
Oak Grove 7,299 4 (Up 2) 575 (Most dangerous) 3,219 (11th most dangerous)
Mayfield 9,791 1 (Down 2) 377 (Fourth most dangerous) 3,748 (Eighth most dangerous)
Shively 15,735 8 (Up 4) 495 (Second most dangerous) 3,234 (Tenth most dangerous)
Paducah 24,850 6 (Up 1) 342 (Eighth most dangerous) 3,995 (Sixth most dangerous)
Newport 14,874 17 (Up 11) 349 (Fifth most dangerous) 3,052 (16th most dangerous)
Owensboro 60,430 16 (Up 9) 266 (15th most dangerous) 3,849 (Seventh most dangerous)
Maysville 8,695 24 (Up 16) 299 (11th most dangerous) 3,197 (13th most dangerous)
Winchester 18,570 9 (No Change) 231 (19th most dangerous) 4,254 (Fifth most dangerous)
Middlesboro 8,968 10 (No Change) 323 (Ninth most dangerous) 3,044 (19th most dangerous)

 

1. Bowling Green

Bowling Green

When it comes to the perilous realities of Bowling Green, the figures don’t deceive — it takes the top spot as the most hazardous city in Kentucky for 2022. Proceed with caution in this southern Kentucky town, lest you become one of the 247 victims of violent crimes reported in 2020. It’s not just your personal safety that’s at stake here; 71 of these incidents were robberies, putting your belongings at risk as well.

Famed for its production of Corvettes, this city hosts criminals who won’t hesitate to claim any vehicle, including yours. The unfortunate 317 individuals who reported car thefts in Bowling Green in 2020 learned this the hard way.

  • Population: 71,861
  • Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 4)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 343 (Seventh most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,446 (Fourth most dangerous)

2. Oak Grove

The modest population of 7,299 might suggest a safe and tranquil life in Oak Grove, but that’s far from the reality. Despite smaller crime numbers compared to other parts of the state, they’re far from insignificant, leaving the Oak Grove Police Department with their hands full.

The majority of their efforts in 2020 were directed towards apprehending those responsible for property crimes. Oak Grove residents reported 169 larcenies, 38 burglaries, and 28 stolen vehicles that year.

  • Population: 7,299
  • Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 2)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 575 (Most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,219 (11th most dangerous)

3. Mayfield

Mayfield

As of 2024, Mayfield holds the unenviable title of the third most dangerous city in Kentucky. While Mayfield boasts the unique attraction of Cartwright Grove, a replica of a late 19th-century western town, you might feel as though you’ve stumbled into the actual Wild West here.

With a population of 9,791, Mayfield is not without its challenges. Its rank as the 50th highest in the state for murder and ninth highest for rape suggests a community grappling with crime, and it’s not just the fictional outlaws in Cartwright Grove that pose a threat.

The city’s bleak reputation is further highlighted by its high poverty rate and ranking as one of the worst places to live in Kentucky.

Mayfield, Kentucky, was the site of a horrifying crime in 1994 when Jessica Currin, a 18-year-old high school student, was found murdered and burned in the yard of Mayfield Middle School. The case remained unsolved for years, leading to public outcry and frustration with local law enforcement.

In 2006, Quincy Cross, a local man, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. The case was notable for the use of DNA evidence, which was still relatively new at the time, and for the involvement of a private investigator hired by Currin’s mother. The crime shocked the small town and left a lasting impact on the community.

  • Population: 9,791
  • Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 2)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 377 (Fourth most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,748 (Eighth most dangerous)

4. Shively

Shively Kentucky

The fact that Shively is a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail might offer residents some comfort, as they may need a stiff drink from the Stitzel-Weller Distillery to forget that their city tops the state for murder rates.

The reported 30 aggravated assaults, 35 robberies, and 8 rapes in 2020 probably don’t inspire much confidence in personal safety. It’s important to stay vigilant to survive in this community.

  • Population: 15,735
  • Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 4)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 495 (Second most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,234 (Tenth most dangerous)

5. Paducah

When William Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark duo founded Paducah in 1827, it’s unlikely he envisioned it becoming one of Kentucky’s most dangerous cities.

This unfortunate title can be credited to the city’s contemporary criminals. In fact, Paducah’s lawlessness is so stark that it ranks sixth in the state for total crime, a status heavily influenced by the 993 property crimes reported in 2020.

Paducah, Kentucky, was the site of a tragic school shooting in 1997 that shocked the nation. On December 1, 1997, a 14-year-old student named Michael Carneal opened fire on a group of praying students at Heath High School. Carneal killed three students and injured five others.

The incident was one of a series of school shootings in the United States in the late 1990s that sparked a national debate on gun control and school safety. Carneal was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

  • Population: 24,850
  • Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 342 (Eighth most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,995 (Sixth most dangerous)

6. Newport

newport kentucky

Newport, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, is more or less a suburb to this major urban area, despite being in a different state. Considering this proximity to a bustling city, its elevated crime rate isn’t surprising. With a population of just 14,874, Newport experienced 12 sexual assaults and has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of arsons.

  • Population: 14,874
  • Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 11)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 349 (Fifth most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,052 (16th most dangerous)

7. Owensboro

owensboro

Owensboro is a paradise for music lovers, housing the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. Also known as the “Barbecue Capital of the World,” this town on the Ohio River in western Kentucky hosts a renowned food festival. However, alongside these attractions, Owensboro is also the 7th most dangerous city in Kentucky, due to its high rate of property crime, including 284 car thefts and 1,638 larcenies.

In 2019, a quadruple homicide shocked the city when four people were found dead in a home. The suspect, Cylar Shemwell, was charged with four counts of murder.

  • Population: 60,430
  • Rank Last Year: 16 (Up 9)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 266 (15th most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,849 (Seventh most dangerous)

8. Maysville

Maysville

Maysville, another city along the Ohio River, also has a high crime rate. It is situated across the river from Ohio in the northeastern part of the state. With 8,695 residents, Maysville ranks as the 8th most dangerous place in Kentucky, with property crime being a particular issue.

  • Population: 8,695
  • Rank Last Year: 24 (Up 16)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 299 (11th most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,197 (13th most dangerous)

9. Winchester

Located a few miles east of Lexington, Winchester is a city where securing your belongings is of high importance. In 2020, the city witnessed 106 burglaries, alongside 8 reported incidents of robbery.

  • Population: 18,570
  • Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 231 (19th most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,254 (Fifth most dangerous)

10. Middlesboro

Finally, we come to Middlesboro, ranking as one of the most hazardous places to live in Kentucky. Despite violent crime not being a major issue, Middlesboro still witnessed 13 aggravated assaults and 9 rapes in 2020, adding to the city’s 29 violent crimes.

  • Population: 8,968
  • Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 323 (Ninth most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,044 (19th most dangerous)

Most Horrific Crime In Kentucky

The Bluegrass Conspiracy was a scandal in the 1980s that involved a number of prominent Kentucky figures, including police officers, lawyers, and politicians. The conspiracy revolved around a drug trafficking ring that smuggled millions of dollars worth of marijuana and cocaine into Kentucky from Colombia.

The scandal was exposed by a federal investigation, leading to a number of arrests and convictions. The case shocked the state and led to a widespread loss of faith in local law enforcement and government.

This case is infamous not only for the scale of the criminal operation but also for the involvement of so many high-ranking officials. It’s a dark chapter in Kentucky’s history that had a profound impact on the state and its residents.

5 Safety Tips for Traveling to Kentucky

Kentucky is a southern gem of a state, and despite the high crime rates in some areas, visitors and residents can enjoy the culture without incident.

When traveling to or living in Kentucky, you can remain as safe as possible by following these five tips:

1. Don’t Draw Attention

Those who look like they are from out of town are more vulnerable to crime everywhere.

That means you must try to blend with the local population by wearing inconspicuous clothing, being discrete when looking at maps, and carefully approaching others when asking for directions.

Also, if you’re planning to head to a crowded tourist area or event, like the Kentucky Derby, wear protective gear that makes pickpocketing more difficult.

2. Research the Area

If you’re planning to visit the highest crime city in the state, Louisville, know your destination before arriving.

This means reading traveler reviews regarding the safest areas to stay and checking the State Department’s website for updates.

Also, note the nearest police station and other local emergency departments once you have determined to lodge.

3. Be Aware of your Surroundings

Never drop your vigilance to get a nice photo for social media.

Be aware of your personal belongings and use good judgment when speaking with strangers.

A significant joy of travel is the chance to meet locals and learn more about their culture, but if someone is acting suspiciously or you have a bad feeling, leave the area.

4. Be Aware of Outdoor Dangers

Kentucky has a variety of wildlife in the mountains and flatland areas, some of which are dangerous.

If you’re visiting the state for hiking and camping opportunities, be aware that poisonous snakes and reptiles can be found in the forest with larger animals like bears.

Before heading into the woods, ensure you know what to do if you encounter these creatures to avoid becoming a victim.

5. Pack Accordingly

While Kentucky enjoys mild weather in the winter, summers can be brutally hot and humid.

This means insects will be prevalent in the forest, and you must pack plenty of water before a hike or camping outing.

FAQ

What are some general safety tips for living in or visiting high-crime areas?

It’s important to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times. Avoid walking alone at night, especially in unfamiliar areas. Lock your doors and windows, whether you’re at home or in your car. Don’t display valuable items openly. If you’re visiting, research the area beforehand and stay in well-populated areas.

How can I find out about the crime rates in specific areas?

You can check the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, which provides crime statistics for various regions in the United States. Local police departments may also provide crime reports. Websites like NeighborhoodScout and City-Data also provide crime data for specific cities and neighborhoods.

What should I do if I become a victim of a crime in Kentucky?

If you’re a victim of a crime, contact the local police immediately. If you’re injured, seek medical attention right away. It’s also important to contact your bank if any credit or debit cards were stolen. If you’re a visitor, contact your embassy or consulate for assistance.

What is being done to reduce crime rates?

Law enforcement agencies in Kentucky are continually working to reduce crime through various means, such as community policing, crime prevention programs, and partnerships with local organizations. The state also has numerous rehabilitation and reentry programs aimed at reducing recidivism.

What resources are available for crime victims in Kentucky?

The Kentucky Crime Victim Compensation Board provides financial compensation to crime victims for expenses like medical treatment, counseling, and lost wages. The Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs provide resources and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Final Words

In conclusion, while Kentucky is known for its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and cultural attractions, like any other state, it has its share of crime.

Certain cities in Kentucky have higher crime rates than others, and it’s important to be aware of these risks when planning a move or a visit. However, by staying vigilant, researching your destination, and taking appropriate safety precautions, you can enjoy all that the Bluegrass State has to offer while minimizing your risk.

Remember, every city has safe neighborhoods and dangerous ones, and crime rates can change over time. It’s always a good idea to stay updated on the latest crime statistics and to be aware of your surroundings. Stay safe, and enjoy your time in Kentucky!

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