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This City Has Been Named the Most Dangerous City to Live in Virginia



Virginia is known for its breathtaking scenery, rich history, and diverse culture, yet it also faces serious issues including poverty, inequality, and crime. Certain cities in the state are more severely affected than others by these issues; FBI crime statistics and the health portal PlushCare rank Portsmouth as Virginia’s most dangerous city.

The Situation in Portsmouth

With a population of about 98,000, Portsmouth is the ninth-largest city in Virginia and was founded in 1752. Renowned for its nautical and naval history, centered around the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the city also has a thriving arts and culture sector. Elevated crime rates, however, reveal its gloomy side.

According to FBI crime data from 2020, Portsmouth had Virginia’s highest rate of violent crime, with 875 incidents per 100,000 residents—more than thrice the state average. The rates of property crime were also concerning, more than twice as high as the state average. Portsmouth has the tenth worst total crime rate in the country, according to PlushCare.

Contributing Factors

Portsmouth’s high rates of crime are caused by a number of intricate interactions:

  1. High Poverty Rate: Afflicting 18% of the population, well above the state average of 10%, poverty breeds desperation and limits opportunities.
  2. Low Educational Attainment: Approximately 20% lack a high school diploma, compared to the state average of 12%, influencing employability and income.
  3. Racial and Social Disparities: With a predominantly African American population (54%), compared to the state average of 20%, social class and race dynamics contribute to crime.
  4. Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Above-average rates of substance use disorders in the population correlate with higher crime rates.

Implications Beyond Portsmouth

Portsmouth’s high crime rates have an effect on the environment, society, and economy as a whole in addition to local issues:

  1. Economic Impact: Crime diminishes productivity, discourages business investment, and raises transaction costs, impairing the city and state s competitiveness.
  2. Security Concerns: Public safety is compromised, leading to increased fear and distrust, straining law enforcement, and challenging the justice system.
  3. Health and Well-being: Crime adversely affects the physical and mental health of victims, offenders, and the community, fostering stress and trauma.
  4. Environmental Consequences: Crime contributes to pollution and environmental degradation, exacerbating climate change and natural disasters.

Addressing the Challenges

To overcome Portsmouth’s obstacles, cooperation is required:

  1. Root Causes: Tackling poverty, education gaps, racial disparities, and substance abuse requires policies and programs to reduce inequality and injustice.
  2. Prevention and Intervention: Strengthening surveillance, providing alternatives for potential offenders, and reforming rehabilitation contribute to crime prevention.
  3. Public Involvement: Increasing public awareness and engagement through education, facilitating reporting, and encouraging civic participation is vital.


Portsmouth’s ranking as Virginia’s most hazardous city emphasizes how urgently its many problems need to be addressed. Collaborative initiatives that prioritize prevention, public involvement, and root causes can improve safety and quality of life not only for Portsmouth but also for the entire state and country. Portsmouth has potential, but in order to realize it and promote constructive change, coordinated actions are needed.

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