The 10 Most Dangerous and Worst Cities To Live In Iowa

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante
Iowa is one of the most unique states in the Midwest, but not all of the state’s cities are safe to live in. Ten cities in Iowa, in particular, have high crime rates, and that includes Red Oaks, Mason City, and Fort Dodge. Whether it be Ottumwa or Davenport, follow along as we explore the most dangerous cities in Iowa.

Iowa is one of the most beautiful states to drive through or call home in the Midwest. Rows of corn, gorgeous fields, and friendly people can be found throughout the state. Unfortunately, several cities in Iowa are not great to live in due to high crime and poverty.

The worst places to live in Iowa are as follows:

  • Des Moines
  • Council Bluffs
  • Davenport
  • Ottumwa
  • Red Oak
  • Sioux City
  • Mason City
  • Indianola
  • Fort Dodge
  • Fort Madison

When traveling through Iowa, or staying there, it’s best to avoid these cities at all costs to avoid any issues that may arise.

Iowa is a great state and is by no means dangerous as a whole. With that said, several cities are dangerous and it’s important to know about them. Follow along as we explore the most dangerous cities in Iowa.

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1. Des Moines

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 7.26
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 41.70
  • Reported Crimes: 10,488
  • Population: 215,636

Des Moines is one of the most recognizable cities in Iowa, but it’s also the most dangerous. With over 10,488 recent crimes, you risk a high chance of experiencing one in Des Moines. Property crimes far outweigh violence in Des Moines with 8,933 recent reports.

Sadly, 1 in 24 Des Moines residents will fall victim to property crime. Theft and burglary are the leading property crimes in Des Moines, followed by vehicular theft. To put that in perspective, you are more than twice as likely to experience property crime in Des Moines than Iowa as a whole.

Violence is less common, but it still affects 1 in 138 Des Moines residents. There were 1,141 recent assaults, and that’s the leading violent crime in Des Moines. Central Des Moines is the most dangerous part of the city, and it’s best to avoid it at night.

2. Council Bluffs

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 7.93
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 58.70
  • Reported Crimes: 4,142
  • Population: 62,355

Council Bluffs made this list due to the crime rate and staggering 95 crimes per square mile. Central and western Council Bluffs are the most dangerous areas, but crime is spread throughout the city. The 4,142 recent crimes are mostly made up of thefts and burglaries.

Violence affects 1 in 126 residents of Council Bluffs, primarily through assaults. Robbery, rape, murder, and assault made up 493 of recent crime reports in Council Bluffs. Despite the high violent crime rate, Council Bluffs is mostly dangerous due to the influx of property crimes.

A shocking 1 in 17 Council Bluffs residents suffers a property crime, such as theft. The 3,649 property crimes in recent Council Bluffs history shed a light on the widespread problem. Unfortunately, crime is evenly distributed throughout the city, so it’s best to watch your back no matter where you are.

3. Davenport

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 5.99
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 38.57
  • Reported Crimes: 4,527
  • Population: 102,169

In Davenport, 45 of out every 1,000 residents will experience a violent or property crime. You are most likely to experience theft or burglary in Davenport, and that affects 1 in 26 residents. In Davenport, 3,918 recent cases of vehicular theft, theft, and burglary were reported.

The most common property crime in Davenport is easily theft, and it affects 27 out of every 1,000 residents. Besides that, the 745 recent burglaries mean it’s worth investing in a home security system of some sort in Davenport. The 70 crimes per square mile in Davenport are primarily relegated to property crime.

Violence is another part of life in Davenport, and it affects 1 in 167 residents. Assault, robbery, rape, and murder added up to 609 recent reports in Davenport. If you find yourself in Davenport, avoid the south side of the city.

4. Ottumwa

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 5.50
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 41.41
  • Reported Crimes: 1,143
  • Population: 24,545

Ottumwa has been called the video game capital of the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. The property crime rate in Ottumwa is double the state average, affecting 1 in 24 people. Sadly, 748 residents recently experienced personal theft.

Burglary and vehicle theft are also common, accounting for 261 recent crimes. The 69 crimes per square mile primarily refer to the widespread property crime, but there is a violent element as well. In Ottumwa, 1 in 182 residents falls victim to violent crimes, such as robbery and assault.

There have only been 2 recent murders, but the robberies, rapes, and assaults total 134. If you are in Ottumwa, stick to safe neighborhoods such as Rutledge to stay clear of the majority of crime.

5. Red Oak

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 6.25
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 23.31
  • Reported Crimes: 156
  • Population: 5,362

Red Oak is among the smallest cities to make this list, but the crime rate makes up for it. When you look at Red Oak’s crime numbers, they may not seem high, but they are high relative to the population. For example, there were only 123 recent property crimes, but it affects 1 in 43 residents since the population is small.

Theft is far and away from the most common crime in Red Oak, and it affects 14 out of 1,000 residents. Luckily, violence is mostly uncommon in Red Oak, with only 33 recent incidents. You risk a 1 in 160 chance of suffering robbery, rape, and assault as a Red Oak resident.

There have been no recent murders in Red Oak, but assault does occur. Stick to streets such as Elliot and Grant if you want to avoid crime in Red Oak. The city’s center is where most of the crime occurs, so avoid it at night.

6. Sioux City

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 4.43
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 38.75
  • Reported Crimes: 3,569
  • Population: 82,531

Sioux City has many monuments and museums, but it also boasts a high crime rate. With 3,569 recent crimes and 61 crimes per square mile, Sioux City is far from a safe city. Theft, vehicle theft, and burglary account for 3,203 of Sioux City’s recent crime reports.

Of said property crimes, 2,310 of them were thefts, and 645 were burglary reports. Sadly, 1 in 26 Sioux City residents can claim to have experienced a property crime. Sioux City is similar to the most dangerous cities in Florida in that crime is spread throughout the whole city.

Violence also occurs in Sioux City, and assault is the most commonly reported violent crime. The 366 recent violent crimes are due to assault, rape, and robbery, with only 2 murders. Stick to neighborhoods like Leeds in Sioux City if you want to be safe.

7. Mason City

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 6.54
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 29.30
  • Reported Crimes: 965
  • Population: 27,200

Mason City is known for its architecture, but that’s not enough to outshine the crime. Considering that Mason City is only 28 square miles, the 34 crimes per square mile is shocking. Property crime makes up 789 of 965 total crime reports in recent Mason City history.

Theft alone accounts for 617 recent crime reports, and it’s the leading type of crime in Mason City. Burglary and vehicle theft pad out the rest of Mason City’s property crimes. Property crime affects 1 in 34 Mason City residents, and it a real possibility.

Luckily, violence is far less common in Mason City, but the 155 recent assaults are disturbing. Violence impacts 1 in 153 Mason City residents, and that primarily assaults and robbery. You can find safety in neighborhoods such as Portland but avoid central Mason City.

8. Indianola

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 7.18
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 19.73
  • Reported Crimes: 431
  • Population: 15,802

With only 431 crime reports, Indianola may not seem that dangerous compared to Des Moines. However, you need to consider the small size and population of this Iowa city before you mistake it as safe. With 38 crimes per square mile, the small city of Indianola has widespread crime relative to the population, and it is disturbing.

There were recently 115 violent crimes, and 316 property crimes in Indianola. The most common type of crime in Indianola is theft, as with most Iowa cities, followed by assault. Property crime affects 1 in 51 Indianola residents, and it is primarily due to burglary and theft.

You risk less of a chance of suffering a violent crime in Indianola than a property crime, but it’s still a present danger. Assault specifically is a common crime in Indianola, and it’s been reported 85 times recently. Be wary of your surroundings in Indianola and travel with a group at night, especially if you’re in the city’s center.

9. Fort Dodge

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 4.23
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 30.31
  • Reported Crimes: 825
  • Population: 24,278

Fort Dodge is home to a community college, state park, art museum, and high crime rates. Property crime specifically is rampant in the city, and 724 recent reports are disconcerting. As a Fort Dodge resident, you face a 1 in 33 chance of burglary, robbery, and vehicle theft.

With 566 recent thefts and 117 burglaries, Fort Dodge residents always need to be on their toes. Property crime is almost twice as rampant in Fort Dodge as the rest of Iowa, so caution is necessary. After all, there are 51 crimes per square mile.

Violence affects 1 in 237 residents making it less common than property crime, but still dangerous. Assault, rape, and robbery make up the majority of the 101 violent crimes, with 2 recent murders. Streets like Clare and Barnum are your best bet for avoiding the crime that Fort Dodge is known for.

10. Fort Madison

  • Violent Crime Rate Per 1K: 6.69
  • Property Crime Rate Per 1K: 19.86
  • Reported Crimes: 274
  • Population: 10,929

Yet another fort that doesn’t feel safe, Fort Madison is one of the worst places to live in Iowa. Violence touches the lives of 1 in 150 Fort Madison residents, and it’s usually due to assault reports. With that said, violence is almost uncommon when you compare it to Fort Madison’s property crime rate.

Property crime affects 1 in 50 Fort Madison residents, and it is mostly due to theft. With 152 thefts and 38 burglaries, it’s safe to say that personal property is not safe in Fort Madison. Vehicle theft is another problem that contributes to the 21 crimes per square mile in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Central Fort Madison is the hub of the majority of the city’s crimes. You are much safer in the northern and northeastern parts of Fort Madison.

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Summing It Up

Des Moines is the worst place to live in Iowa, followed closely by Council Bluffs. Other cities, such as Mason City, Ottumwa, Davenport, and Red Oak are also quite dangerous. Iowa is a mostly safe state, but the cities on this list drive the crime rates throughout the state.

The common thread throughout each city is that the city’s center is often the most dangerous. With that said, cities such as Des Moines boast crime throughout the entire city. If you find yourself in any of these cities, exercise caution and travel in a group at night.

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Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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