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10 Most Dangerous Cities In South Carolina 2024: The Menace Within

South Carolina Dangerous Cities

As someone who’s spent a fair amount of time in South Carolina, I can tell you that it’s not all sweet tea and Southern hospitality. There’s a darker side to the Palmetto State that’s worth discussing. It’s been ranked as the sixth most dangerous state in the U.S., which might come as a shock to some.

I’ve spent countless hours poring over data, trying to understand the situation better. RoadSnacks, a public information platform, has compiled a list of the most dangerous places in South Carolina for 2024, and I’ve been digging into it.

To compile this list, they analyzed data from 53 cities across the state, focusing on places with a population of over 5,000. They used the FBI’s latest crime report as their source, looking at both violent and property crime statistics.

The reasons behind these high crime rates are complex and varied. Some argue that substance abuse is a major factor, while others believe that the state needs to provide more high-paying jobs. Regardless of the reasons, the fact remains that South Carolina’s crime rates are higher than the national average and seem to be on the rise.

And let’s be clear, we’re not talking about minor risks like boating without life jackets. The dangers in these areas are serious and life-threatening. I’ve seen news reports on Dillon’s WPDE about daylight robberies, carjackings, and daily shootings. There are certain neighborhoods in these cities that I wouldn’t recommend anyone to drive through.

So, if you’re curious about the parts of South Carolina where jobs are hard to come by, wages are low, and crime rates are high, stick with me. I’ll walk you through it. And trust me, your Southern Charm won’t get you far in these parts.

10 Riskiest Places In SC

Rank City Population Violent Crimes Per 100k Property Crimes Per 100k
1 Orangeburg 12,529 1,731 6,560
2 Darlington 5,895 1,594 6,344
3 Florence 38,597 1,456 6,192
4 Spartanburg 37,469 1,430 6,101
5 Myrtle Beach 35,658 1,379 8,716
6 Greenwood 23,422 1,272 5,324
7 Georgetown 8,697 1,241 5,634
8 Hartsville 7,519 1,170 5,984
9 Marion 6,268 1,260 5,009
10 West Columbia 18,143 777 8,014

10. West Columbia

Columbia is the state capital of South Carolina. Cross the Congaree River and you’ll find West Columbia, a community located about a 10 minute’s drive from either the State House or the University of South Carolina.

So, in some ways, West Columbia represents a nice spot, with plenty of interesting amenities a short trip away. However, this comes at a cost. The crime rate in the area is exceptionally higher. Violence doesn’t reach scary levels, but property crime represents a major problem. West Columbia suffers the number 2 highest level of property crime in South Carolina.

  • Population: 18,143
  • Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 3)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 777 (21st most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 8,014 (Second most dangerous)

9. Marion

marion SC

Marion, a town steeped in history and located about an hour inland from the coastal resort town of Myrtle Beach, is grappling with a significant crime problem. Despite its small-town charm, Marion ranks as the ninth most dangerous spot in South Carolina due to high rates of burglaries and robberies.

  • Population: 6,268
  • Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 8)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,260 (Seventh most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,009 (16th most dangerous)

8. Hartsville

Hartsville, South Carolina

Hartsville, maintaining its #8 position on our list, is a city where crime rates have remained steady. With the ninth highest property crime rate in the state and about two burglaries a week, it’s no surprise that Hartsville has held onto its rank. Despite not recording a single murder in 2020, it still had the 13th highest rate of violent crime in South Carolina.

  • Population: 7,519
  • Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 6)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,170 (13th most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,984 (Ninth most dangerous)

7. Georgetown

Georgetown, the third oldest city in South Carolina, has a rich history but a troubled present. Despite its picturesque harborwalk, the city saw 407 thefts in 2020. But crime isn’t the only issue plaguing Georgetown, as it also ranks high on the list of the worst places to live in South Carolina due to a host of other problems.

    • Population: 8,697
    • Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 1)
    • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,241 (Eighth most dangerous)

Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,634 (13th most dangerous)

6. Greenwood

Greenwood

Greenwood, a city that hosts the Festival of Discovery and the Festival of Flowers each year, has a less than festive side. The city’s violent crime rate ranks as the sixth highest in South Carolina, with the rate of rape cases being the fifth highest statewide. In Greenwood, a violent crime is almost a daily occurrence.

  • Population: 23,422
  • Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 3)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,272 (Sixth most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,324 (14th most dangerous)

 

5. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, a beloved destination for East Coast holidaymakers, has a less than idyllic side. While the city has seen a decline in violent crime, it’s the property crime rates that are a cause for concern. In 2020, residents had a 1 in 11 chance of being a victim of theft or damage, making Myrtle Beach the city with the highest overall crime rate in South Carolina, a staggering 365% above the national average.

One of the most chilling crimes in Myrtle Beach’s history occurred in 2016. A man named Anthony Bernard Williams was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a woman named Sylvia Gray. The incident took place at the Bermuda Sands Motel on Ocean Boulevard. Williams was found guilty of stabbing Gray multiple times, leading to her death. This brutal crime sent shockwaves through the community and remains one of the most horrific crimes in the city’s history.

  • Population: 35,658+
  • Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,379 (Fifth most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 8,716 (Most dangerous)

4. Spartanburg

Spartanburg, nestled in the northwest corner of South Carolina, may not be as formidable as its ancient namesake, but it’s still the fifth most dangerous place to live in the state for 2022. Despite its efforts to preserve nature at the Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve, the city struggles to preserve the safety of its residents, with more than one burglary occurring daily on average.

  • Population: 37,469
  • Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 3)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,430 (Fourth most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 6,101 (Eighth most dangerous)

3. Florence

Florence SC

Florence, the heart of the Pee Dee region in northeastern South Carolina, has a heartache of its own – crime. The city recorded the eighth-highest burglary rate statewide, averaging just over one break-in per day. With 562 violent crimes reported in 2020, it’s clear that Florence is grappling with a rising tide of crime.

In Florence, a local attorney turned himself in to authorities after a warrant was issued for him on a sex crime in 2013. The attorney, whose name was not disclosed, was arrested and charged with the crime. This case was a shock to the local community, given the attorney’s position and reputation in the city.

  • Population: 38,597
  • Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,456 (Third most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 6,192 (Seventh most

2. Darlington

Darlington SC

Darlington, a city known for its tobacco farms and thrilling NASCAR races, unfortunately, also races ahead in crime rates. The city has seen an uptick in property crime, contributing to its ranking as the third most dangerous city in South Carolina. With more than one car theft per month, it’s a good thing none of them were race cars from the Darlington Raceway!

  • Population: 5,895
  • Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 2)
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,594 (Second most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 6,344 (Sixth most dangerous)

 

1. Orangeburg

Orangeburg SC

Don’t let the charming nickname of “The Garden City” fool you. Orangeburg, a city that prides itself on being the home to South Carolina State University and Claflin University, has a darker side. Despite its academic prowess, it holds the dubious distinction of having the highest violent crime rate in the state, with 177 assaults reported among its 12,529 residents.

The most horrific crime in Orangeburg, South Carolina, is undoubtedly the Orangeburg Massacre that took place on February 8, 1968. During the height of the Civil Rights movement, racial tensions were high in the city, home to the predominantly African-American South Carolina State University.

A local bowling alley that refused entry to people of color became the focal point of protests. When students decided to challenge this segregation, tensions escalated, leading to marches and protests. In response, the state deployed troops from the South Carolina National Guard

  • Population: 12,529
  • Rank Last Year: –
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,731 (Most dangerous)
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 6,560 (Fourth most dangerous

To get a better understanding of the broader regional context of crime, it might be useful to compare South Carolina’s most dangerous cities with their counterparts in North Carolina, available here.

Most Horrific Crime Ever Happened in SC

One of the most horrific crimes in South Carolina’s history is the Charleston Church Shooting that occurred on June 17, 2015. A young white supremacist, Dylann Roof, opened fire during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, killing nine African Americans, including the senior pastor and state senator Clementa C. Pinckney.

This racially motivated mass shooting shocked the nation and led to a nationwide conversation about race relations, hate crimes, and gun control. Roof was convicted on 33 federal hate crime charges and sentenced to death in 2017.

Another chilling crime that has left a dark mark on South Carolina’s history is the series of murders committed by serial killer Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins. Gaskins, who operated in the state from the 1950s to the 1980s, was convicted of nine murders but claimed to have killed as many as 110 people. His victims ranged from young children to elderly adults, and his methods were shockingly brutal.

Gaskins was executed in September 1991, becoming the first person to be judicially executed by the state of South Carolina since 1962. His crimes, often referred to as the “Coastal Kills,” remain some of the most gruesome in the state’s history.

Methodology

Every year, I eagerly await the release of the FBI’s crime datasets. These datasets come in two parts: a preliminary one that focuses on the country’s largest cities, and a more comprehensive one that’s released at the end of the year. For this analysis, I’ve zeroed in on the most recent data available, the 2022 Crime In The United States Report. I’ll be sure to revisit and update the results when the new data rolls out in September 2024.

You might be wondering, how did I decide which cities to include in this analysis? Here’s a peek into my process:

  1. Violent Crimes Per Capita
  2. Property Crimes Per Capita

To ensure a fair comparison, I only considered cities in South Carolina with a population exceeding 5,000. This gave me a pool of 53 cities to work with.

Next, I ranked each city from 1 to 53 for both criteria, with a #1 ranking indicating the highest level of danger for that particular criterion.

I then combined the two rankings to create a single “Danger Index”. The lower the index, the higher the city ranked in terms of danger.

Finally, I ranked all the cities based on their “Danger Index”, with Orangeburg taking the top spot as the most dangerous city in South Carolina for 2024. In case of any ties, the city with the smaller population got the higher rank. If you’re interested in diving into the data yourself, you can download it here.

FAQ

Why is South Carolina considered a dangerous state?

South Carolina has been ranked as the sixth most dangerous state in the U.S. based on crime data. The state has a higher-than-average rate of both violent and property crimes. Factors contributing to these high crime rates are complex and varied, with some attributing it to substance abuse issues, while others believe that the state needs to provide more high-paying jobs. However, it’s important to note that not all areas of South Carolina are dangerous, and many communities are safe and welcoming.

What is being done to reduce crime rates?

Various initiatives are being taken to reduce crime rates in South Carolina. These include increased law enforcement presence in high-crime areas, community outreach programs, and efforts to address underlying issues such as poverty and substance abuse. The state is also investing in education and job creation to provide opportunities for residents and reduce the likelihood of criminal activity.

How can residents protect themselves from crime in South Carolina?

Residents can take several steps to protect themselves from crime. These include staying aware of their surroundings, especially in high-crime areas, securing their homes and vehicles, and reporting any suspicious activity to law enforcement. It’s also a good idea to get to know your neighbors and participate in local community watch programs.

Are tourists safe in SC?

While South Carolina does have higher than average crime rates, many tourists visit the state each year without incident. Tourist areas are generally well-patrolled, and most visitors enjoy their time in the state without experiencing any crime. However, as with any travel, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings, secure your belongings, and avoid high-crime areas.

What is the “Danger Index” and how is it calculated?

The “Danger Index” is a measure used to rank cities based on their crime rates. It’s calculated by ranking each city for both violent and property crimes per capita, with a #1 ranking indicating the highest level of danger for that particular criterion. These two rankings are then averaged to create a single “Danger Index”. The lower the index, the higher the city ranks in terms of danger.

Epilogue

Often known for its Southern charm and sweet tea, has a darker side that cannot be overlooked. Despite its natural beauty and rich history, the state has been ranked as the sixth most dangerous in the United States. The data analysis of various cities reveals a troubling pattern of high crime rates, particularly in terms of violent and property crimes.

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