This Town in Virginia State Takes the Crown for Most Violent


Virginia is renowned for its varied cultures, stunning scenery, and lengthy history. However, not every location in the Old Dominion is tranquil and safe. Living or visiting some towns and localities in Virginia can be risky due to their higher crime rates compared to the national average. Based on the most recent FBI crime data, we will examine the most violent town in Virginia in this post and discuss some potential causes and remedies for its crime issue.

The Most Violent Town in Virginia: Portsmouth

The FBI’s 2022 crime report indicates that Portsmouth is the most dangerous town in Virginia. Approximately 98,000 people live in Portsmouth, a port city in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. Being the location of the oldest and largest industrial facility in the U.S. Navy, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, it has a long and illustrious naval history.

But Portsmouth is not without its sinister side. With an overall crime rate three times greater than the state norm, it rated #1 in Virginia for 2022 in both violent and property crime. It is advisable to remain vigilant when walking the streets of Portsmouth, as there was a 1 in 114 possibility that a resident will become a victim of an attack, murder, or rape in 2022. With 421 recorded burglaries in a year, Portsmouth has the third-highest rate of burglaries in Virginia. This is another reason to keep your doors secured.

The issue of crime in Portsmouth is not new. For the previous ten years, the city has continuously been included among Virginia’s most dangerous locations, according to a number of publications. In fact, a local newspaper in 2011 named Portsmouth the “murder capital of Virginia” after the city reported 25 homicides in a single year.

Why is Portsmouth So Violent?

The question of why Portsmouth is so violent cannot be easily answered. Crime is a complicated issue that is impacted by a wide range of variables, including gangs, narcotics, education, unemployment, poverty, and societal standards. Nonetheless, a few potential explanations for Portsmouth’s high crime rate include:

Poverty: Compared to the state average of 9.9%, Portsmouth has a high poverty rate of 18.4%. Due to the stress, despair, and inequity that poverty causes in people, it is frequently linked to criminal activity. Poverty-stricken individuals may turn to crime as a means of expressing their resentment and frustration or as a means of surviving.

Jobless rate: Portsmouth’s high rate of 8.6% is higher than the state average of 4.5%. Another element that may contribute to crime is unemployment, since it lessens the chances and incentives for people to work lawfully. Jobless people may turn to crime as a method to make ends meet or as a way to deal with their boredom and depression.

Education: Compared to the state average of 38.1%, Portsmouth has a low level of educational attainment, with only 21.4% of adults holding a bachelor’s degree or above. Since education equips people with the abilities, information, and morals necessary to thrive in life, it is a critical component in the prevention of crime. Education can help people avoid crime because it increases their chances of having better jobs, higher earnings, and stronger social ties.

Drugs: Opioids like heroin and fentanyl are the main source of drug abuse in Portsmouth. Portsmouth had the highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in the state in 2019, with 71 deaths per 100,000 persons, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Because they weaken users’ judgment, impulse control, and moral reasoning, drugs can encourage criminality. Additionally, drugs may increase demand for black markets, which may encourage violence and corruption among users and dealers.

Gangs: A number of regional and national gangs are active in Portsmouth, making it a city with a sizable gang population. The Portsmouth Police Department estimates that there are roughly 30 gangs in the city, totaling 600 members. Due to their involvement in turf conflicts, drug trafficking, robberies, extortions, and other criminal acts, gangs can be a contributing factor to crime. Young people, who might view gangs as a source of identity, safety, and belonging, are susceptible to being recruited by and influenced by gangs.

How Can Portsmouth Reduce Its Crime Rate?

The issue of crime in Portsmouth cannot be solved easily. A comprehensive and coordinated strategy including several stakeholders, including the government, community, education, health, and social services, is needed to reduce crime. Nonetheless, the following are a few potential tactics that Portsmouth may use to lower its crime rate:

bolstering the police force: Portsmouth’s police department, which is undertrained, underfunded, and understaffed, needs more funding. The city has fewer sworn police officers than the national average of 2.4 policemen per 1,000 population, according to the Portsmouth Police Department, with only 237 in the city. In Portsmouth, the majority of crimes go undiscovered and unpunished due to the poor clearance rates of 12.8% for property crimes and 38.9% for violent crimes. Portsmouth must increase the number of officers on staff, give them better tools, instruction, and rewards, and strengthen their bonds and confidence within the community.

Boosting the economy: Portsmouth must provide its citizens, particularly the underprivileged and jobless, with additional economic opportunities. Portsmouth must offer tax breaks, infrastructure, and security to entice additional companies, industries, and investments to the city. Additionally, Portsmouth must enhance its workforce development and offer more job placement, training, and educational opportunities to its citizens, particularly to young people and ex-offenders.

Improving the educational system: Portsmouth’s underfunded, underperforming, and unfair educational system has to be improved. Portsmouth’s graduation rate is low—82.9%—in comparison to the state average of 92.3%, according to the Virginia Department of Education. In addition, Portsmouth’s dropout rate is higher than the state average, which is 5.1%, at 10.9%. In addition to raising standards, money, and resources for its schools, Portsmouth must also give its pupils greater support, direction, and enrichment opportunities, particularly for those who are failing or at risk of dropping out.

Preventing and treating drug abuse: Portsmouth’s drug problem is a serious public health and safety concern that needs to be addressed. Portsmouth has to put more prevention and education initiatives into place, especially for young people, and increase public understanding of the risks and repercussions associated with drug misuse. Portsmouth must also lessen stigma and barriers to drug addiction treatment by offering more treatment and recovery options, including medication, counseling, and rehabilitation, to individuals who are addicted to drugs.

Fighting gang violence: Portsmouth must address its gang issue, which is a significant contributor to crime and violence in the community. Portsmouth must dismantle and disrupt the gangs, as well as bring legal action against and penalize the members and leaders. Portsmouth must also stop young people from joining gangs, intervene when they do, and offer them constructive alternatives like community service, athletics, mentoring, and the arts.


Based on the most recent FBI crime statistics, Portsmouth is the most dangerous town in Virginia. Portsmouth has high rates of both property and violent crime, which are impacted by gangs, narcotics, unemployment, education, and poverty. In order to lower its crime rate, Portsmouth must adopt a comprehensive and well-coordinated strategy that includes bolstering the police force, boosting the economy, increasing the educational system, preventing and treating drug misuse, and opposing gang violence. If Portsmouth can get past its crime issue, it might develop into a more prosperous and safe city.

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