The Most Dangerous Cities In California: 2021’s Ultimate List

Most Dangerous Cities In California

The most dangerous cities in California are Emeryville, Oakland, Commerce, Red Bluff, and Barstow. West Hollywood, San Bernadino, and Santa Monica have higher crime rates than the average California city. Cities such as Signal Hill and Eureka are more dangerous than most cities in California.

Though it has plenty of beautiful towns renowned for safety, California has a higher-than-average crime rate for both violent and nonviolent crimes. The national average for violent crimes is 389.1 for every 100,000 residents. In the Golden State, the average rate for violent crimes is 447 crimes per 100,000. This means that the average Cali person will have a 1 in 224 chance of experiencing violent crime every year.

Obviously, that chance can skyrocket depending on where you live.

Curious to see what cities made the cut? Wondering if your hometown is as scary as people say it is, or if it’s all hearsay? Let’s take a look at the 2020 list of the top 10 most dangerous cities in California…

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10. Eureka

If you’re a fan of sci-fi, you might get a little nostalgic for the super-sciencey town located in the Pacific Northwest by the same name. But, make no mistakes about it. Eureka, California is nowhere near as wacky as the Oregon town that the TV show Eureka was named after. Rather, it’s known for being one of the most dangerous cities in California due to its violent crime.

You would never guess it from the town’s oceanside or from the overall mellow appearance Eureka has, but people in this town have a shocking 1 in 14 chance of being a crime victim. The property crime rate here is sky-high, despite it being a relatively small town of only 30,000.

Though the town also has a serious assault problem, what Eureka is most known for is its high car theft rate. If you ask us, it’s best not to leave your car unattended if you decide to go within city limits. Should you choose to move here, make sure that you know which areas are particularly high in crime. (You can check the Eureka crime map for stats!)

  • Total Crime Rate: 6,534 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 733 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate: 5,800 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 11 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 389 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 96 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 237 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 3,985 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 956 per 100,000

9. Signal Hill

Only a stone’s throw away from Long Beach is the small town of Signal Hill. Despite housing only 11,000 people within its boundaries, this petite town quickly became known as one of the most dangerous towns in California. If you feel intimidated driving through these city streets, you’re not alone. Even the majority of locals tend to feel unsafe in their own homes here.

Signal Hill’s violent crime rate is very similar to Eureka’s, leading it only by a hair. Like with many of the more dangerous cities on this list, the real danger here might not be violent crime. Rather, it’s the high property damage and theft crime rates that are reported. If you live here, you have a 1 in 134 chance of being a victim of violent crime, but a 1 in 17 chance of being involved in property crimes.

Burglaries are the major issue here. A typical renter or homeowner in Signal Hill is three times more likely to experience a burglary than the national average. Needless to say, homeowners’ insurance here costs a pretty penny.

  • Total Crime Rate: 6,534 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 744 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate: 5,800 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 0 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 338 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 87 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 320 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 4,085 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 978 per 100,000

8. Santa Monica

santa monica california

Most of us have heard of Santa Monica, usually related to something that happened with a celebrity or a major party. This city is a major tourist spot thanks to the boardwalk as well as its place in pop culture. In fact, it’s the go-to destination people visit after sightseeing Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Despite it bringing in as many as 8.4 million tourists each year, Santa Monica remains one of the most dangerous cities in California.

Perhaps it’s due to its sprawling size, or due to the crowds of naiive tourists flocking to see the beaches, but whatever it is, this town attracts serious crime. While you might not be as likely to get your car stolen here, you are more likely to get assaulted or raped than in other cities on this list. The city is also known for having lots of gang activity, too.

A typical person who lives here has a 1 in 114 chance of being a victim of violent crime every year that they live here. Our advice? Don’t get into fights here and avoid the bad parts of town.

  • Total Crime Rate: 6,065 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 874 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate: 5,191 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 8 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 496 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 66 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 305 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 4,201 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 261 per 100,000

7. San Bernardino

If you’re watched movies like The Changeling, then you probably have spotted San Bernardino in the background. This massive college town has been used as a movie backdrop for decades and also helped bring us some of the brightest stars of Hollywood. Most people recognize this town for the San Bernardino Gazette, their local TV station, as well as the town’s California State University branch.

Though this town houses a plethora of college students, journalists, and finance workers, it still remains one of the most dangerous cities in California. 12,700 crimes are reported to the police every year here, and well over 3,000 of those reports are considered to be violent crimes. If you live here, you have a 1 in 65 chance of being a violent crime victim. It also is the murder capital of California. Yikes, right?

Of course, there’s an assumption that some of the violent crimes are just fights that break out at college parties. It is a college town, and that means parties can happen. Even so, that doesn’t explain why the violent crime rate is over five times the national average. Maybe it’s better to stay home at night here.

  • Total Crime Rate: 5,885 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 1,536 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate: 4,349 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 23 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 970 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 74 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 470 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 2,232 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 1,032 per 100,000

It’s pretty clear that assaults are a major problem here, but that’s not all that seems to plague San Bernardino. The average family is three times as likely to have a burglary occur living here than if they lived in an average town. Getting a home alarm here is just a smart move, if you ask us.

6. West Hollywood

west hollywood ca

When people hear “Hollywood,” their minds immediately rush to the rich, carefree lives of celebrities. What they may not be aware of is that most of Hollywood really isn’t that great. Though there are plenty of tourist spots like the Walk of Fame, there’s a reason why many celebrities choose to avoid Hollywood real estate.

West Hollywood, in particular, has a bad homelessness problem as well as a terrible drug problem. Those two reasons are why most major celebrities choose to avoid this 36,000-person section of Los Angeles in favor of safer places like Beverly Hills. When you factor in that it’s considered to be one of the more hardcore “gang cities” in California, it’s pretty clear why you should avoid this place at night.

If you live here, you have a 1 in 122 chance of being a violent crime victim. Property crime, on the other hand, is a serious pain point. It’s over double the national average across all boards.

  • Total Crime Rate: 6,529 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 817 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate: 5,712 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 8 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 355 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 109 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 345 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 4,786 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 271 per 100,000

Theft is the real thorn in locals’ side, and rightfully so. Police have noted that break-ins, pickpocketing, and identity theft are all on the rise here. The increase in drug addiction among locals doesn’t seem to help the matter, either. It’s one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in LA, for sure.

5. Barstow

barstow ca
credit to Science Source for the image

If you’re from out of state, then you might not have heard of Barstow. This small town only holds 24,000 people, and it’s located just miles north of San Bernardino. Tiny as it is, it seems to be fraught with peril at every corner. Its reputation among locals is foul, simply because it seems like almost every type of crime imaginable happens here on a regular basis.

Recent studies noted that Barstow locals believe the crime is “out of control,”‘ and who could really blame them? You’re four times as likely to get burglarized here than if you lived in an average town, and also would carry a 1 in 84 chance of becoming a violent crime victim. Much like in San Bernardino, Barstow’s big problem happens to be assaults.

  • Total Crime Rate: 5,793 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 1,183 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate: 4,610 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 8 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 722 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 58 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 400 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 2,445 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 713 per 100,000

Moving here means that you are going to have to keep an eye out for angry neighbors, drug addiction, and vandalism, too. Needless to say, you probably shouldn’t go out at night here.

4. Red Bluff

red bluff ca

Red Bluff isn’t a name that most people outside of California know, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. This suburb is located right between Chico and Redding, and while the population barely scratches 15,000, it’s one of the most dangerous cities in California. Worse, it doesn’t seem to show any signs of a crime decrease whatsoever.

What’s amazing about this petite city is that the crime is so high, it actually beats out the notorious city of Compton–a town that didn’t even make this list.  Stranger still, most locals don’t realize that the crime rate is so high. Many people believe that the uptick in both violent and nonviolent crimes may have something to do with Redding’s homelessness population. Even so, that doesn’t explain everything.

In this city, you have a 1 in 87 chance of being a violent crime victim and a 1 in 19 chance of being a property crime victim. Those odds aren’t really in your favor. Taking a look at the Red Bluff crime map can help you avoid the most dangerous blocks, but sometimes the crime comes to you. Families here are four times as likely to be burglarized as a typical home.

  • Total Crime Rate: 6,427 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 1, 155 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate: 5,272 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 14 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 833 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 168 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 140 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 3,249 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 966 per 100,000

3. Commerce

With a name like Commerce, you would expect this town to be filled to the brim with booming businesses. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. This city located just below Los Angeles is currently facing high unemployment rates, poverty issues, and homelessness. Many people believe that might be why Commerce is currently ranked as number three on the most dangerous cities in California.

If you take a look at the statistics, this definitely seems to be the case. Most of the crimes that are reported to police are not violent in nature, despite gang activity being regularly reported in the area.  Thefts (both property and car thefts) are some of the highest in the country, let alone the state. This alone means that Commerce has some of the highest crime rates in California.

Should you try to move here, installing a home alarm and carrying pepper spray will be a part of your daily life. If you want to keep your car safe, we suggest getting a wheel lock.

  • Total Crime Rate: 8,783 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 999 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate:  7,784 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 8 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 547 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 79 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 375 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 5,052  per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 1,899 per 100,000

2. Oakland

Considering its hip hop roots and reputation for being dangerous around every corner, it probably isn’t surprising that Oakland is considered to be the second most dangerous city in California. Around 59 percent of Oakland residents claim that they do not feel safe at all, and refuse to walk around at night due to the high rates of violent crime in and around the city.

The big issue that Oakland faces is gang activity, and there’s a huge array of different gangs found in the area here. Bloods, Crips, MS-13, and 18th Street are just some of the names of gangs that plague police blotters in Oakland. The violent crime from gang fights has grown completely out of control in recent years, provoking many locals to look for greener pastures.

When it comes to this Cali city, the most noticeable issue that police deal with is the extraordinarily high robbery and burglary rates. That’s why most homes will have gates, bars, and burglar alarms installed in them. It’s just that unsafe. And, while they are not as common as they once were, drive-by shootings still happen within the confines of this city.

  • Total Crime Rate: 6,664 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 1,274 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate:  5,390 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 16 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 544 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 104 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 609 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 3,655  per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 1,178 per 100,000

1. Emeryville

So, with Oakland clocking in at number two, you’re probably wondering what is the most dangerous city in California. The answer might shock you, since it’s not a well-known town at all.

With many of the most dangerous cities in California, you could argue that most of the crime is relegated to specific parts of the city. This isn’t true with Emeryville. One quick look at the Emeryville crime rate is enough to make most people shudder a little bit. Though this city only houses 12,000 people, it managed to beat out Oakland’s notoriety when it comes to both violent and property crime.

No matter how you try to look at it, the jaw-dropping total crime rate proves that Emeryville is just not safe. This is especially true if you are talking about the rampant property crime. This is one of the few towns in America where you have a 1 in 8 chance of being a victim of property crime every year. Your chances of being a violent crime victim are far lower, at 1 in 72.

If you live here, you better keep a very close eye on your valuables. Emeryville has some of the highest property crime rates in the country. It has a reputation for having cars drive away without the owners and for having almost anything that isn’t nailed down stolen. Despite the shocking property crime rate, the gang activity isn’t as high as other cities on this list. Go figure.

  • Total Crime Rate: 18,192 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 1,274 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate:  16,763 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 0 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 347 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 74 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 1,008 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 14,648 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 1,294 per 100,000

The property crimes that occur in Emeryville run the gamut from burglaries to pickpocketing, to vandalism. Should you choose to visit this town, make sure to leave your valuables at home. Or, better yet, don’t visit. You’ll be less likely to get robbed that way.

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Stockton

stockton ca

Stockton is one of two cities that just fell short of making our list of the most dangerous cities in California. This town, most commonly known for being home to the local university, several museums, and the birthplace of Caterpillar tractors, has been in the throes of poverty. Since the city declared bankruptcy in the mid-2000s, things have been fairly rocky when it comes to the police force.

To give you a better idea of how safe Stockton is, Neighborhood Scout gave this a Crime Index rating of 3 percent. This means that only three percent of all town in America are considered to be safer.  Like many of the other cities that broke the list for violent crime rates, living in Stockton means that you have a 1 in 70 chance of being a victim of violent crime—on par with Emeryville.

The assault rate in Stockton is one of the highest on this list. Unfortunately for the citizens of Stockton, the city’s bankruptcy declaration hit the police force particularly hard. The chances of Stockton getting better, therefore, are pretty low.

  • Total Crime Rate: 5,200 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 1,423 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate:  3,949 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 11 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 958 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 62 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 393 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 2,455 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 728 per 100,000

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Compton

Tupac Shakur immortalized his home town when he wrote “California Love,” a song primarily about gang life. Though the song was released in the early 90s, not much has changed. Or, at least, one could say that Compton is still considered to be a fairly dangerous city. Though recent years has seen some gentrification, Compton still regularly ranks on the top 20 most dangerous cities of California.

In many parts of the country, gang crackdowns led to lower crime rates. Inside this town, gang activity is still alive and well. Currently, Compton is second only to San Bernardino when it comes to murder rates. Assault rates and robbery rates are equally high. The city also struggles with a very violent drug trade, vandalism, graffiti, and sexual assault.

Even though Compton has started to gain a quirky tourism industry thanks to its hip hop roots, it’s still not the kind of place you want to go at night. If you want to take a trip here, we strongly suggest that you avoid the more dangerous neighborhoods and carry pepper spray.

  • Total Crime Rate: 3,871 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 1,217 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate:  2,654 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 23 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 758 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 39 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 440 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 1,355 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 853 per 100,000

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Berkeley

Known for being hone to the university by the same name, Berkeley remains one of the most dangerous college cities of its size in America. While the vast majority of the crime in this area is non-violent, the property crime and drug use problem within its borders give it a sense of lawlessness that few other cities can compete with.

This town’s biggest issue, aside from occasionally violent protests, is the high theft rates. A person who lives within the boundaries of Berkely has a 1 in 19 chance of being a property crime victim every year that they live here. Burglaries and identity theft are both on the rise here, as is vandalism. With a whopping 660 crimes per square mile, it’s safe to say that Berkely isn’t all fun and games.

With that said, potential college students shouldn’t panic about being on campus. The actual college grounds are fairly safe, and campus security is more than capable of handling problesm as they arise. Despite the ample aid, you will still have a 1 in 19 chance of being a property victim crime.

  • Total Crime Rate: 5,722 per 100,000
  • Total Violent Crime Rate: 533 per 100,000
  • Total Property Crime Rate:  5,189 per 100,000
  • Total Murder Rate: 1 per 100,000
  • Total Assault Rate: 247 per 100,000
  • Total Rape Rate: 62 per 100,000
  • Total Robbery Rate: 86 per 100,000
  • Total Theft Rate: 4,824 per 100,000
  • Total Car Theft Rate: 610 per 100,000

Is California Safe To Live In?

With all the talk about high crime rates on this list, it’s easy to feel like you should avoid California whenever possible. This just isn’t true. Though it’s easy to get swept up in all the talks about gang activity and homelessness, the truth is that you’re still looking at a list of the most dangerous cities in California. They’re the exception, not the rule!

Like with most things concerning real estate, it’s all about the location you pick. California has plenty of great places to live, raise kids, and enjoy. In fact, one could argue that there are cities on this list that are worth a visit or two at night, too. If you’re not sure of a place’s safety levels, research your spots before you go and keep an eye out for crime.

Staying Safe In One Of California’s Most Dangerous Cities

Are you considering getting a place in one of the more unsafe regions of the Golden State? Just curious about what you can do to protect yourself in a rough town? Knowing how to handle yourself in a dangerous city can help you make sure you don’t have a bad time. These easy tips will help ensure your safety:

  • Know where you’re going, and avoid the rough parts of town. Even in the most crime-ridden areas, you’ll find safe areas among the rough. Sticking to areas that have lower crime rates is a good way to stay safe if you have to drop by the town. While doing this won’t guarantee that you’ll avoid crime, it will reduce the chances of you having a run-in with nasty types of people.
  • Avoid going out at night whenever possible. This is just common sense, but it still deserves to be mentioned. Violent crimes are more likely to happen at night than during the day.
  • Use safety gear whenever possible. Getting a burglar alarm for your home, having iron bars on your windows, carrying pepper spray, and having a steering wheel lock all can help you make your life more safe. Those tools are there to help people live safer lives, so why ignore them?
  • Consider taking a self defense course. Though many people might not like learning how to fight, the truth is that it’s a necessary skill in many situations. Learning how to defend yourself in a fight can save your life. With hope, you’ll never have to prove your self-defense mettle. But, if you have to, it’s good to know what to expect.
  • Don’t travel alone if you don’t have to. No matter what you’re doing, it’s safe to say that there is power in numbers. Even having one other person with you can help reduce the chances of being a victim. Most criminals won’t attack people who are traveling in large groups. It’s just too much of a hassle.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Thieves, in particular, are known for preying upon people who appear to be aloof. If you notice someone who is eyeing you strangely or if you feel like you’re being followed, then act accordingly.
  • Keep your belongings close to you at all times, and keep an eye on them. Most thefts happen as a result of people who decide to leave their bag attended “for just a minute” while they look at something. Or, they happen as a result of being distracted and leaving their phone out for all to see. Don’t make it easy for people to target you!

Are You A Target?

In most cases of violent crime, victims know the attacker. However, there always are cases where the attack appears to be at random. To avoid looking like a target, try to blend in with the crowd and don’t appear afraid of your surroundings. If someone is looking to pick a fight, they will go for the weaker target that doesn’t look like they belong there.

To avoid being seen like a target, walk with a purposeful walk, keep your head high, and make eye contact. Act like you know the area, even if you don’t. The more nervous you act, the more likely it is that you will be a victim.

So, What Are The Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in California?

Rank City Population Violent Crimes Per Capita Property Crimes Per Capita
1 Emeryville 12,002 1,414 16,760
2 Oakland 435,224 1,273 5,390
3 Commerce 12,690 987 7,676
4 Red Bluff 14,463 1,152 5,022
5 Barstow 24,132 1,182 4,573
6 West Hollywood 37,430 803 5,603
7 San Bernardino 215,784 1,333 4,135
8 Santa Monica 90,555 860 5,106
9 Signal Hill 11,453 734 5,891
10 Eureka 26,938 724 5,486

Should You Avoid California Real Estate?

Though the numbers on our charts are grim, you shouldn’t avoid buying real estate in California. It’s important to remember that crime rates are going down on a national scale.

So, even if you do live in the rough part of town, chances are that things will improve. With that said, it’s absolutely understandable if you want to stick to safer neighborhoods.

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Related Questions

What are the most dangerous cities in California for pedestrians?

Almost every major city in California has pedestrian accidents, but some cities have it far worse than others. Bakersfield is considered to be the most dangerous city for pedestrians in terms of car accidents, but Sacramento and Stockton also ranked highly in terms of car-related injuries. 

Other major pedestrian danger cities include Lodi, Fresno, San Bernardino, and Riverside. To avoid getting into an accident, make sure to stick to crosswalks and keey aware of your surroundings at all times. 

How dangerous are California cities?

California’s cities typically have crime rates that are slightly higher than the national city average. However, typical cities in California are not the most crime-ridden cities in the United States. Compton and Oakland are exceptions rather than the rule. 

With that said, California is not as dangerous as many people assume it is. Each city will have its own crime rate. The best way to make sure that you stay safe is to research the cities and stay in areas that are deemed low-crime.

What are the three most dangerous large cities in California?

With the assumption that large cities will be over 200,000, the most dangerous large cities include Oakland, San Bernardino, and Santa Monica. If you are looking at portions of Los Angeles, then the most dangerous neighborhood would be West Hollywood. 

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Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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