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10 Most Dangerous Cities In West Virginia 2024: Risky Business

west virginia cities

If you’ve ever tuned into Morgantown’s News 12 at the stroke of six or caught Parkersburg’s crimestoppers at the witching hour of ten, then you’re already clued in on what many West Virginians have come to accept: the Mountain State harbors some rather perilous locales.

Could it be the hefty tolls that are pushing people to the edge? Or perhaps the scarcity of jobs? The meager wages? Indeed, all three and then some.

So, it’s a wise move to peruse RoadSnacks’ compilation of the most treacherous spots in West Virginia for 2024 before you take any life-altering leaps.

How did we arrive at this? We delved into the data. All in all, we scrutinized 21 cities. We pored over the FBI’s most recent crime dossier for violent crime and property crime stats for every locale with more than 5,000 inhabitants.

We unearthed that West Virginia has some rather intriguing figures when juxtaposed with the national average. West Virginia is leading the pack in the arson department, but trailing in murder and aggravated assault.

And, astonishingly, the city with the highest tally of assaults and murders in the state has fewer than 30,000 denizens.

But let’s not paint West Virginia with a broad brush. The state’s guardian angel is certainly keeping a watchful eye on the state’s safest cities.

The flip side of that coin, however, is that West Virginia has its own collection of hazardous cities too; and let me tell you, they’re quite menacing.

And if you wagered that most of West Virginia’s issues are concentrated around the state’s most populous cities, you hit the nail on the head. Cities like Huntington are losing their battle against crime.

10 Riskiest Places 2024

1. Beckley

becklez wv

Beckley, with its roots deeply embedded in the coal industry of the early 20th century, is a town that wears its history on its sleeve, evident in the nearby Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.

The coal boom led to a population explosion, from a humble 400 residents in 1900 to a bustling 20,000 by mid-century.

However, the recent decades have been less kind to this southern West Virginia community, with economic hardships fueling a rising crime wave, including rampant burglary and larceny. Violence is also a significant concern, with Beckley suffering the 4th highest rate of violent crimes in the state.

  • Population: 15,762
  • Rank Last Year: –
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 869 P
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,741

2. Charleston

Charleston WV

Charleston, despite its modest population of 46,038, stands as the beating heart of West Virginia, serving as the state capital and its largest city, nestled in the southwestern part of the state.

As you might expect, this comes with a hefty crime rate. Charleston grapples with high burglary rates and a staggering 424 violent crimes, including 11 murders.

However, Charleston also has its charms, including riverfront parks, museums, and the State Capitol.

  • Population: 46,038
  • Rank Last Year: –
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 920
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,609

3. South Charleston

South Charleston, West Virginia

South Charleston, true to its name, is situated just south of Charleston, the state’s capital and largest city.

Being part of the urban sprawl comes with its challenges, including relatively high crime rates. As a result, South Charleston ranks as the 3rd most dangerous spot in West Virginia, with residents facing high rates of car theft and larceny.

However, South Charleston also boasts historical attractions like the Criel Mound, a Native American burial ground dating back over 2,000 years.

  • Population: 11,89
  • 8 Rank Last Year: –
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 437
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,782

4. Huntington

Huntington, the second-largest city in West Virginia, also holds the dubious honor of being its fourth most dangerous.

Huntington is grappling with a significant crime problem. It’s the fifth most violent place in West Virginia and has the unfortunate title of having the fifth highest rate of rape cases in the state.

Moreover, homes in Huntington are not safe havens, with the city having the fourth-highest burglary rate statewide, averaging more than one break-in per day.

Let’s hope the Huntington Museum of Art remains untouched.

  • Population: 44,684
  • Rank Last Year: 2
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 823
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,674

5. Wheeling

Wheeling WV

Wheeling, the original capital of West Virginia during the Civil War era, saw its population peak above 60,000 in the 1930s, thanks to industrial growth. However, recent decades have seen a steady decline, leaving less than half that number today.

Alongside this economic downturn, the community has been plagued by a high crime rate, including a disturbing number of sexual assaults. With 26,222 residents, Wheeling reported 31 rapes and 330 total violent crimes. Residents also face high rates of burglaries and robberies.

  • Population: 26,222
  • Rank Last Year: –
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,258
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,219

6. Clarksburg

Clarksburg, once a contender for the state capital of West Virginia, lost out to Charleston in a 1877 vote. Today, this city of 15,092 residents, nestled in the north-central part of the state, has other concerns. It holds the 6th spot on the list of most dangerous places in West Virginia, grappling with high rates of larceny and arson.

In Clarksburg, a city that was once in the running to become the state capital of West Virginia, crime rates have been a concern. One of the most shocking crimes in recent history involved a series of suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.

The case gained national attention, leading to a thorough investigation and the eventual arrest and conviction of a nursing assistant for the murder of seven veterans under her care.

  • Population: 15,092
  • Rank Last Year: –
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 437
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,843

7. Parkersburg

parkersburg WV

Parkersburg, located in the northwest part of the state along the Ohio River, was once an important commercial hub and later an industrial center, thanks to railroad construction and nearby oil fields. The population soared from less than 9,000 in 1890 to around 45,000 by the 1960s.

However, the population has since dwindled to around 29,096. This economic shift has led to a significant crime problem, with residents facing alarming rates of sexual assaults and arson, along with common occurrences of burglary and car thefts.

  • Population: 29,096
  • Rank Last Year: –
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 364
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,361

8. Dunbar

Situated along the Kanawha River, just outside of Charleston, Dunbar is grappling with a severe robbery problem, reporting the highest rate of this crime in West Virginia.

Despite this, Dunbar has a rich history. The land was once owned by George Washington, granted to him for his military service. The town itself was established in the early 20th century as a thriving center for the glass manufacturing industry, though its economic boom has since faded.

In Dunbar, a city built along the Kanawha River, crime rates have been a significant concern. One of the most shocking crimes in recent history was a brutal home invasion that resulted in the murder of a couple.

The crime shook the community and led to increased calls for stronger law enforcement in the area.

  • Population: 7,010
  • Rank Last Year: –
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 798
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,781

9. St. Albans

St Albans

A short trip west from Charleston brings us to St. Albans, the ninth most dangerous place in West Virginia. In 2020, residents had a 1 in 43 chance of being a victim of property crime. If you’re visiting the St. Albans City Park, keep a close eye on your belongings.

Moreover, St. Albans had the 14th-highest rate of rape cases and the sixth highest murder rate in West Virginia.

  • Population: 9,802
  • Rank Last Year: 5
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 336
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,285

10. Fairmont

If you’re a fan of pepperoni roll snacks, Fairmont might be your favorite spot, as the local Country Club Bakery invented the product. However, beyond its claim to the “pepperoni roll capital of the world,” Fairmont faces significant challenges.

It ranks as the 10th most dangerous place in West Virginia, with 85 reported violent crimes, including murder and sexual assault, among its 18,352 residents.

Fairmont, known as the “pepperoni roll capital of the world,” has also had its share of crime. One of the most shocking crimes in the city’s history was a mass shooting at a local bar in the 1990s.

The crime resulted in multiple deaths and injuries and remains one of the most horrific events in the city’s history.

  • Population: 18,352
  • Rank Last Year: –
  • Violent Crimes Per 100k: 463
  • Property Crimes Per 100k: 1,482

Most Horrific Crime In West Virginia

One of the most horrific crimes in West Virginia’s history is the infamous case of the “Rainbow Murders.” In 1980, two women, Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero, were hitchhiking to a Rainbow Family Gathering in Pocahontas County when they were brutally murdered.

The case remained unsolved for years, casting a dark shadow over the state. Eventually, a local farmer named Jacob Beard was convicted for the murders in 1993.

However, in a shocking twist, another man, Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer and white supremacist, confessed to the murders in 1997. Despite his confession, Beard spent another decade in prison before his conviction was overturned in 2000.

The Rainbow Murders case is a chilling reminder of the capacity for evil and the quest for justice in the face of horrific crimes.

5 Safety Tips For Traveling To West Virginia

  1. Be mindful of ride-sharing apps and taxis. They are not as common in West Virginia as in other states. So take care to confirm you are not being scammed or worse. Drive your own car or rent one if you can.
  2. If you’re vacationing in a cabin, camping, etc. let someone back home know where you are staying. Remote areas do not always get cell service or WiFi.
  3. Carry some spare money in your shoe, sock, bra, etc. If you are robbed, you don’t want to be stranded as well.
  4. If you need to pull over, make sure to do so in a well-lit, well-populated area.
  5. As a general rule, don’t wear anything you want to lose.

FAQ

What are some safety measures to take when visiting West Virginia?

While West Virginia is generally a safe place to visit, it’s always important to take precautions. Be aware of your surroundings, especially in larger cities or areas known for higher crime rates.

If you’re camping or staying in a remote cabin, let someone know where you’ll be, as cell service can be spotty in remote areas. If you need to pull over while driving, try to do so in a well-lit, populated area.

It’s also a good idea to carry some spare cash in a secure place in case of emergencies.

What is being done to address the crime rates in West Virginia?

Law enforcement agencies across West Virginia are working hard to combat crime and improve safety. This includes increasing police presence in high-crime areas, implementing community policing strategies, and investing in crime prevention programs.

Additionally, there are efforts at the state and local level to address underlying issues that contribute to crime, such as poverty and lack of access to quality education and job opportunities.

How does West Virginia’s crime rate compare to other states?

Crime rates can vary greatly from state to state, and even within different regions of the same state. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, West Virginia’s crime rates were generally lower than the national average, but certain types of crime, such as arson, were higher.

However, it’s important to note that crime rates can fluctuate over time and can be influenced by a variety of factors.

Are certain areas of West Virginia safer than others?

Yes, crime rates can vary greatly within the state. Generally, rural areas tend to have lower crime rates than urban areas. However, even within cities, crime rates can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. It’s always a good idea to research the specific areas you plan to visit.

Final Words

West Virginia, with its rich history and natural beauty, is a state that has much to offer. However, like any place, it has its challenges, including crime in certain areas. It’s important to remember that while these statistics can be alarming, they don’t define the state or its people.

Many communities in West Virginia are safe, welcoming, and full of hardworking individuals who are committed to improving their neighborhoods and cities.

Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, staying informed and taking precautions can go a long way in ensuring your safety. And despite the issues, there’s no denying the unique charm and appeal of West Virginia.

From its scenic landscapes to its cultural heritage, there’s much to appreciate and explore in the Mountain State. Stay safe, stay informed, and enjoy all that West Virginia has to offer.

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