Pennsylvania, the venerable third oldest state in the U.S., has had centuries to iron out its wrinkles. Yet, like a stubborn old shirt, some creases persist.
The Keystone State, despite its rich history and cultural significance, isn’t without its share of risky locales.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We’re not talking about the kind of danger where you jaywalk before the pedestrian light turns green. No, we’re talking about the sort of peril that lands you a prime-time spot on WTAE at six.
The cities we’re about to discuss have seen their fair share of daylight robberies, carjackings, and daily shootings. Some neighborhoods are so dicey, you’d be better off taking a detour around them, day or night.
You might be thinking, “Oh, it must be Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, right?” Well, hold your horses. Pennsylvania, in its infinite wisdom, has managed to distribute its share of chaos quite evenly.
It’s like a potluck of pandemonium, with every city bringing something to the table.
Now, before you start packing your bags, let me assure you, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are pockets of peace and prosperity in these cities, with neighborhoods and shopping centers striving to make life better.
And let’s not forget, Pennsylvania is the 6th most densely populated state. With so many people, especially Pennsylvanians, in one place, a bit of trouble is bound to stir up.
So, if you’re curious to know which Pennsylvania cities have more drama than an episode of “The Office” featuring Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute, buckle up. We’re about to take a tour of the top ten most dangerous cities in Quaker State for 2024.
This isn’t just a list—it’s a guide to help you make an informed decision about where to hang your hat in Pennsylvania.
10 Riskiest Places 2024
|Violent Crimes Per 100k
|Property Crimes Per 100k
Finally, we arrive at Allentown, Pennsylvania’s third-largest city and the tenth most dangerous place to live in the state. Despite the high crime rate, residents can distract themselves with baseball games at Coca Cola Park and events at the PPL Center.
Allentown had the seventh-highest burglary rate in Pennsylvania, and residents had a 1 in 43 chance of being a victim of property crime in 2020. However, it is among the least violent places on this list, with the lowest murder rate.
- Population: 121,855
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 386
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,283 .
9. Darby Township
Located southwest of downtown Philadelphia, Darby Township ranks as the ninth most dangerous place in Pennsylvania.
The township had the seventh highest murder rate and the 46th highest rate of rape cases in the state for 2020. Despite being the smallest place on this list, it’s the seventh most violent place in the state.
- Population: 9,256
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 734
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 1,901
8. Swatara Township
Swatara Township may be the least violent place on this list, but its property crime rate is nothing to scoff at. The township had the fifth highest rate of property crime in Pennsylvania in 2020, with more than two property crimes occurring each day on average.
Most of these were cases of larceny, so keep a close eye on your belongings here.
- Population: 26,643
- Crimes Per 100k: 285
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,950
Just a half-hour drive southwest of Scranton, we find Wilkes-Barre, the seventh most dangerous city in Pennsylvania. With 616 cases of larceny in 2020, it’s wise to keep your winnings from Mohegan Sun Pocono under wraps.
The city also has the fourth highest burglary rate in the state, making home security a worthy investment here.
Wilkes-Barre also has the unfortunate distinction of having the tenth highest rate of rape cases in the state.
- Population: 40,722
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 594
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,092
Our next stop is Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. While it may not be as crime-ridden as Philadelphia overall, its alarming rate of violent crime earns it a spot on this list.
Harrisburg had the eighth highest rate of rape cases in the state in 2020, and a murder nearly every month.
This gives the city the fifth highest murder rate in Pennsylvania, making Riverfront Park a place you’d want to vacate as dusk falls.
Harrisburg also has a high rate of property crime, with the sixth highest burglary rate statewide.
- Population: 49,195
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 900
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,172
5. New Kensington
Our tour concludes in New Kensington, a city perched on the Allegheny River northeast of Pittsburgh. Here, residents had a 1 in 37 chance of falling victim to property crime in 2020, making porch pirates a real concern.
With 65 reported violent crimes, it seems like every week, someone in New Kensington finds themselves on the wrong side of an unfortunate incident.
- Population: 12,273
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 529
- PropertyCrimes Per 100k: 2,648
Next up is Wilkinsburg, a borough where the police department has its hands full. With the highest murder rate in the state and 11 murders in 2020, it’s a tough place for its 15,389 residents.
Add to that a daily dose of property crime and the third highest burglary rate in the state, and you’ve got a locale that ranks in the top ten for both violent and property crime rates.
- Population: 15,389
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 779
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,618
Our third stop is Pottstown, a borough with a troubling distinction. Despite having the least violent crime per capita among the top five, it has the second highest rate of rape cases in the state.
That’s about three cases per month in a borough of just 22,705.
Pottstown also ranks third in property crime. Perhaps the local Steel River Playhouse should consider staging Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” to shed light on the consequences of criminal behavior.
- Population: 22,705
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 717
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,105
Next, we head southeast of Pittsburgh to McKeesport, the second most dangerous city in Pennsylvania. The crime rate here is a whopping 150% higher than the national average and over 250% higher than the state average.
With seven murders in 2020, it’s enough to make anyone seek solace in the serene Renziehausen Park Rose Garden.
And don’t even think about leaving your door unlocked here. McKeesport has the highest burglary rate in the state, making it a hotbed for property crime.
- Population: 20,765
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,531
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,759
Our journey begins in Chester, the oldest city in Pennsylvania, nestled in the greater Philadelphia area. You’d think with age comes wisdom, but alas, Chester seems to have missed that memo.
The city holds the dubious honor of having the second highest burglary rate in the state, with a break-in happening almost daily. It’s almost as if the local thieves are trying to recoup their losses from the casino and racetrack.
But the dicey stats don’t stop there. Chester also ranks second in murders per capita and is the third most violent city in the state. Quite a rap sheet for a city of just 33,905, don’t you think?
- Population: 33,905
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,383
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,005
Most Horrific Crime Ever In Pennsylvania
One of the most chilling crimes in the annals of Pennsylvania’s history is the infamous “Baker’s Dozen Murders” committed by the serial killer, Gary Heidnik. This gruesome tale unfolded in Philadelphia during the mid-1980s, casting a long, dark shadow over the city’s history.
Heidnik, a seemingly ordinary man with a high IQ and a history of mental illness, turned his house into a chamber of horrors. He kidnapped, tortured, and murdered six women, holding them captive in a pit in his basement.
Heidnik’s crimes were so horrific that they inspired elements of the character Buffalo Bill in the movie “The Silence of the Lambs.”
The victims were subjected to unspeakable acts of violence and degradation, creating a chilling narrative of sadism and control.
The discovery of Heidnik’s house of horrors in March 1987 sent shockwaves through the city and the nation. The case brought attention to issues of mental health, the treatment of women, and the failures of the criminal justice system.
Heidnik was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988. He was executed in 1999, but the memory of his crimes continues to haunt Pennsylvania, a grim reminder of the darkness that can lurk beneath the surface of ordinary life.
5 Safety Tips
While countless Pennsylvania destinations are safe to visit, it’s essential to follow these tips when visiting any location:
One: Check-in with the Ranger’s Station
Suppose you’re visiting Pennsylvania to camp in one of the many mountain ranges and enjoy the natural beauty.
In that case, checking in with the ranger’s station before venturing into the wilderness is critical.
The ranger will ask you where you plan to go and the length of time of your stay and ensure you have the proper gear for the trek.
It’s also good practice to check in with the station at the end of the trip so they don’t think you’ve gone missing.
Two: Do Not Venture into Secluded Areas
If you plan to go out in one of the many Pennsylvania cities at night, never wander into secluded or poorly lit areas.
Since you will not be familiar with the surroundings, you don’t want to end up in a dangerous neighborhood since areas flip quickly in cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
If you end up in a dark area, turn around and go back to the main area you were just in.
Three: Don’t Carry a lot of Cash
With almost every business, restaurant, bar, and souvenir shop taking contactless payments now, this is rarely an issue.
However, if you prefer to pay for goods in cash, only bring the amount you need for the day.
Plenty of ATMs are scattered around the state, so if you need more money, take a modest amount out for the rest of the day.
Four: Conduct Research
Before booking a hotel, consider the best areas in major cities.
In addition to providing a central location to access local attractions, it will ensure your safety day or night.
Also, while visiting, understand the neighborhoods to avoid by performing a simple online search.
If you are still looking for information, ask the hotel concierge about places not to go.
Five: Don’t Leave your Drink Unattended
If you plan to go to a local bar at night, never leave your drink unattended, especially if you’re a solo female traveler.
Plenty of people may try to drug you at a bar or nightclub.
Also, never accept any food or drinks for strangers unless you can watch the bartender pour the drink.
Furthermore, don’t draw attention when wearing revealing clothing; this is asking for unwanted attention and could lead to drink-drugging.
Are these crime rates improving or getting worse over time?
Crime rates can fluctuate over time due to a variety of factors, including changes in law enforcement strategies, economic conditions, and social issues.
It’s important to research current and up-to-date crime statistics for the most accurate picture. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, I don’t have the most recent data, but local police departments or city websites often provide this information.
How do these cities compare to other cities in the U.S. in terms of crime rates?
Crime rates can vary significantly from city to city and state to state. Some cities in Pennsylvania may have higher crime rates compared to national averages, while others may be lower.
It’s important to look at both violent crime rates (which include crimes like murder, rape, and assault) and property crime rates (which include crimes like burglary, theft, and car theft) to get a comprehensive understanding of crime in a particular area.
What is being done to reduce crime in these cities?
Various strategies are being implemented to reduce crime in these cities. This can include increased police presence in high-crime areas, community outreach programs, and initiatives to address underlying issues like poverty and education.
Additionally, many cities are investing in technology like surveillance cameras and data-driven policing strategies to prevent and solve crimes.
What resources are available for residents in these cities to stay informed about crime?
Many cities have online crime maps or dashboards where residents can view reported crimes in their area. Local news outlets also often report on crime. For more detailed or specific information, residents can contact their local police department.
Some neighborhoods also have watch groups or online forums where residents can share information and stay informed about safety issues.
Are certain types of crime more common in these cities than others?
The type of crime can vary from city to city. Some cities may have higher rates of violent crime, while others may have higher rates of property crime.
The cities listed in this article have been identified as having high rates of both violent and property crimes. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, it’s best to refer to local law enforcement agencies or crime reporting resources.
In conclusion, while Pennsylvania is a state rich in history and cultural significance, it also has its share of cities with high crime rates. From Chester to Allentown, these cities have seen their fair share of violent and property crimes.
However, it’s important to remember that these statistics don’t define these cities entirely. Each city has its own unique character, with communities working tirelessly to improve their safety and quality of life.