This Town in Virginia Has Been Named the Most Violent Town in the State


Virginia is known for its rich history, natural beauty, and diverse culture. However, not all locations in the Old Dominion are secure and tranquil. Some towns and communities in Virginia have greater crime rates than the national average, making them unsafe places to live or travel. In this post, we will look at the most violent town in Virginia, based on the most recent FBI crime data, and discuss some of the likely causes and remedies to its crime issue.

Portsmouth: The Most Violent Town in Virginia

According to FBI crime statistics for 2022, Portsmouth is Virginia’s most violent town. Portsmouth is a port city in the Hampton Roads metropolitan region, with a population of around 98,000. It has a long and distinguished naval heritage, including the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the Navy’s oldest and largest industrial facility.

However, Portsmouth has a darker side. It ranked first in Virginia for both violent and property crime in 2022, with a total crime rate three times greater than the state average. In 2022, residents had a one-in-114 chance of becoming the victim of an attack, murder, or rape, therefore it’s a good idea to be cautious on Portsmouth’s streets. You should also keep your doors secured in Portsmouth, which had the third-highest burglary rate in Virginia last year, with 421 occurrences documented.

Portsmouth’s crime problem isn’t new. According to numerous statistics, the city has continuously ranked as one of the most hazardous cities in Virginia during the previous decade. In 2011, a local newspaper called Portsmouth “the murder capital of Virginia” after it reported 25 killings in a single year.

Why Is Portsmouth So Violent?

There is no clear explanation for why Portsmouth is so violent. Poverty, unemployment, education, narcotics, gangs, policing, and societal standards all have an impact on crime, making it a complicated phenomenon. However, some of the likely causes of Portsmouth’s high crime rate are:

Poverty: Portsmouth’s poverty rate is 18.4%, more than the state average of 9.9%. Poverty is frequently related to crime because it causes stress, despair, and inequity among individuals. People living in poverty may turn to crime as a means of survival or to vent their frustration and rage.

Unemployment: Portsmouth’s unemployment rate is 8.6%, higher than the state average of 4.5%. Unemployment is another element that might contribute to crime since it decreases people’s possibilities and motivations to participate in lawful labor. Unemployed people may turn to crime for a source of money or to relieve boredom and depression.

Education: Portsmouth has a low educational attainment rate, with just 21.4% of people holding a bachelor’s degree or above, compared to the state average of 38.1%. Education is an important role in preventing crime because it equips people with the skills, information, and values they need to thrive in life. People who are educated are more likely to have better occupations, greater earnings, and stronger social relationships, all of which can help them avoid criminal activity.

Drugs: Portsmouth has a significant drug issue, particularly with opioids like heroin and fentanyl. According to the Virginia Department of Health, Portsmouth had the state’s highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in 2019, with 71 fatalities per 100,000 persons. Drugs can drive crime by impairing users’ judgment, impulse control, and moral thinking. Drugs can also drive demand for illicit marketplaces, resulting in violence and corruption among traffickers and consumers.

Groups: Portsmouth has a strong gang presence, with various local and national groups operating within the city. According to the Portsmouth Police Department, there are around 30 gangs in the city, each with over 600 members. Gangs can contribute to crime by engaging in turf warfare, drug trafficking, robbery, extortion, and other unlawful activities. Gangs may also attract and influence young individuals, who may perceive them as a source of identity, protection, and community.

How Can Portsmouth Lower Its Crime Rate?

There are no simple solutions to Portsmouth’s crime problem. Crime reduction necessitates a comprehensive and coordinated approach involving numerous stakeholders, including law enforcement, government, community, education, health, and social services. However, some of the potential solutions that might assist Portsmouth lower its crime rate include:

Strengthening the Police Force: Portsmouth must spend more on its police department, which is understaffed, underfunded, and undertrained. According to the Portsmouth Police Department, the city has just 237 sworn officers, which is lower than the national average of 2.4 policemen per 1,000 population. Portsmouth also has a low clearance rate of 38.9% for violent crimes and 12.8% for property crimes, indicating that the majority of crimes go undetected and unpunished. Portsmouth should recruit additional cops, provide them with better equipment, training, and incentives, and strengthen their connection and trust with the community.

Improving the Economy: Portsmouth should provide additional economic possibilities for its inhabitants, particularly the impoverished and jobless. Portsmouth needs to attract additional firms, industries, and investments by offering tax breaks, infrastructure, and security. Portsmouth should also boost its workforce development and offer additional education, training, and job placement programs to its population, particularly young people and ex-offenders.

Improving the School System: Portsmouth’s education system is failing, underfunded, and unfair. According to the Virginia Department of Education, Portsmouth’s graduation rate is 82.9%, which is lower than the state average of 92.3%. Portsmouth also has a high dropout rate of 10.9%, which exceeds the state average of 5.1%. Portsmouth has to raise its school budget, resources, and standards, as well as provide additional assistance, guidance, and enrichment for its pupils, particularly those in danger of leaving or failing.

Preventing and Treating Drug Abuse: Portsmouth must handle its drug problem, which poses a significant public health and safety risk. Portsmouth has to establish additional prevention and education initiatives, particularly for young people, to raise awareness of the hazards and effects of drug use. Portsmouth should also provide additional treatment and recovery programs for drug addicts, such as counseling, medicine, and rehabilitation while lowering the stigma and hurdles to access.

Combating Gang Violence: Portsmouth must address its gang problem, which is a major cause of violence and crime in the city. Portsmouth must disrupt and destroy the gangs while also prosecuting and punishing their leaders and members. Portsmouth should also prevent and intervene in the recruitment and engagement of young people in gangs, as well as provide them constructive options like mentorship, athletics, arts, and community service.


In conclusion, Portsmouth is Virginia’s most dangerous town, having high crime rates, notably for violent and property offenses. Poverty, unemployment, educational inequality, drug problems, and a significant gang presence are among the underlying factors.

Addressing these difficulties requires a diverse approach that includes strengthening law enforcement, boosting the economy, increasing education, combatting drug misuse, and addressing gang violence. Portsmouth can work toward a safer and more secure environment by making smart investments and collaborating with others.

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