3. St. Louis
This handsome riverfront city has plenty to recommend it, including several major sports teams and art museums. But violent crime, particularly gunplay, has exacted a grim toll. St. Louis has the country’s second-highest citywide gunshot rate for residents between the ages of 10 and 19 — a sorry statistic, indeed. It also recorded 41 murders per 100,000 people, five times the national average. Still, the city is seeing measurable overall declines in violent crime, with a 9 percent fall in 2010. It’s also one of 24 cities that have earned a grant from IBM’s Smarter City Challenge, with a mandate of making public safety a priority and creating a coordinated approach to tackling crime.
4. New Haven, Conn.
The home of prestigious Yale University, New Haven has long wrestled with inner-city crime and poverty, and the result is a high ranking on the list of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. It had nearly 628 robberies per 100,000 people — nearly triple the number found in comparable urban areas. The good news is that violent crime dropped by 11 percent in the first six months of 2011, a regional trend. What’s more, award-winning urban renewal developments have revitalized the once-blighted downtown area. A proposed Downtown Crossing project, if approved, will convert an elevated 1950s-era expressway into urban boulevards, swaths of green spaces and bike paths, and a pedestrian-oriented street plan.
5. Memphis, Tenn.
The blues were born on Beale Street in this atmospheric Southern city, where the cultural scene and barbecue are legendary. Indeed, early each May, the Beale Street Music Festival celebrates the rich musical heritage. But Memphis has struggled with poverty and gang activity for years, and the city’s 2010 robbery statistics were double that of the national average, earning it a spot on the list of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. The bigger picture is rosier: Violent crime has dropped 23 percent in the last five years, and efforts to stem youth involvement in crime have become shining examples for similarly afflicted urban areas.