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The Cities Climbing On The FBI’s List Of The Most Dangerous Cities in Texas Aren’t Where You Might Think

West Texas is on the rise, while Austin is the safest city in the state.

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Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports are a useful tool for understanding the crime statistics in metropolitan areas across the country. We’ve pored over them in the past and found a lot to dig into. But a lot has changed since our last roundup of FBI data. This summer, we’ve studied the most recent numbers available, which tracks data from 2015, as well as some additional information regarding the early part of 2016, to understand the shifts in violent crime rates across Texas.

Let’s start with a few brief takeaways:

Violent Crime Reports Across Texas Are Slightly Up

It’s important to keep in mind that we don’t know if the incidents of violent crime are actually up, or if it’s simply that those incidents are being reported with greater frequency. Note that these are just the violent crime rates, not the overall crime rates (which, at least in some cities, are falling).

These are important things to keep in mind when you look at numbers. Across the 24 metro areas in the 2015 study, the number of violent crimes reported is up from 2013 by about 30 incidents per city. Of course, those incidents aren’t evenly distributed—and where we’ve seen increases might surprise you.

West Texas is Reportedly More Violent Than Other Parts of The State

The biggest number on the entire list comes to us out of Odessa, with 1,070.1 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents. That rate is far and away the largest in Texas. In second place is Lubbock, with 825.4 per 100,000. The vast majority of those incidents in Odessa are aggravated assault instances—more than 880 of the 1,070—and the murder rate is 7.6 per 100,000. The situation is similar in Lubbock, where nearly three-quarters of the incidents are aggravated assault. (Lubbock sees more robberies than Odessa, despite fewer violent crimes overall.) At number five on the list is Amarillo, which puts three of the five cities with the highest rates of violent crime in West Texas. And when it comes to Odessa and Lubbock, those numbers are way up over the 2013 reports: nearly 25 percent higher in both cities.

Houston is Still The Most Dangerous Big City in Texas

Once you get out of the rising crime rates in the western part of the state, the biggest city to rank in the top five is Houston. That’s not a change from 2013, and in fact, the violent crime rate in Houston is almost unchanged over that same time period. (In 2013, it was 559 incidents per 100,000 people; in 2015, that number is 566.6, well below the state average.) In terms of the types of crimes being reported in Houston, the shift there is a bit more pronounced: The murder rate is slightly up, at 6.9 murders per 100,000 residents, instead of 5.9, and more than 14 additional rapes within that segment were reported, as well. The rates for robbery and aggravated assault, meanwhile, are both down.

Violent Crime Rates Rose Dramatically in Nine Cities

In addition to Lubbock and Odessa, violent crime rates shot up by nearly 30 percent in Abilene, San Angelo, and Sherman. They were up by roughly 20 percent in Brownsville and Waco, and more than 15 percent in Midland and Corpus Christi. There don’t seem to be clear patterns around any of those spikes—the cities are all geographically disparate, in West, Central, North, and South Texas. In Brownsville and Corpus, the murder rate is stable; in Abilene and Waco, it’s up dramatically, tripling in Waco and up from a very low 0.6 per 100,000 in Abilene to 5.3.

But because we’re talking about cities with relatively small populations, those numbers may not be indicative of much. The Abilene metropolitan statistical area has a population of around 166,000, which means that in 2013, there may have been only one reported murder, while in 2015, there were a handful. It’d be much more troubling to see dramatic swings in numbers like that in a city like Houston or Dallas, where each number per 100,000 represents dozens of people.

Let’s Talk About The Rise in Reported Rapes

Even in cities where the number of reported violent crimes are going down, the number of reported rapes are up basically across the board. That seems troubling at first glance, but it’s dangerous to draw conclusions about the number of rapes that are actually occurring in any of these cities based on the number of reports. Rape is a frequently under-reported crime, and the past several years have seen a concerted education campaign at college campuses and in broader culture aimed at talking about what the crime looks like. So it’s entirely possible that the rise in reports is a reflection of that education.

College Station, Laredo, Texarkana, and Victoria All Saw Their Rates Fall Considerably

Again, it’s tricky to draw too many conclusions from small cities, but the number of violent crimes was down dramatically in College Station, Laredo, Texarkana, and Victoria. Because we’re talking about cities with small populations (Corpus, with 440,000, is the largest—none of the others break much past 250,000), it’s possible to confuse outliers with trends. Still, it’s worth noting that each city saw their violent crime rates fall by 10 percent or more even as the trend bucked in the other direction for much of the rest of the state.

Austin Has The Lowest Violent Crime Rate in Texas

It’s long been noted that Austin is something of a fairytale land where violence is rare, and at least compared to the rest of the state, that tends to bear out. Although Austin’s violent crime rate of 287.7 per 100,000 is slightly up from 2013, it’s grown at a much slower rate than any comparably safe city over the past couple of years, putting Austin in the top spot for safe Texas cities. The murder rate is down; the number of aggravated assaults are down; the reported rapes are up significantly (which, as we noted earlier, doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the amount of crimes committed), and the number of robberies is up slightly. Generally speaking, though, Austin is still an extremely safe city.

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  • Jed

    not to worry, once the state stops us from “over-regulating” ourselves into an idyllic, socialist paradise, they will make sure we can’t be any safer than the rest of the state.

  • Bob Brown

    Guess if I mentioned culture or race, I would be considered a racist. Hard to ignore even for a liberal.

    • Daesai Sereiphiel

      If you want to get technical, European Americans commit the majority of overall crimes in the U.S. Not minorities.

      • Flowers Darrin

        Your are misinformed, or an idiot.

      • William Sapphire

        HaHaHa! Yeah sure.

      • Gary

        Actually, you are a mucking foron!

      • Paulledwards

        If you want to get technical? Will getting “technical” prove your point and “win” the argument? How about YOU get factual. If you want to prove a “point” Daesai,the best way to accomplish this is with facts. Provable facts. This is also how we establish truth. The statement you originally made is filled with potential for manipulating the truth. By definition you would think that “minorities” would commit less crimes than whatever the ethnic or racial components used to define the “majority” in the USA is and crimes committed. Let me share some facts. Simple easily provable facts/Truth. The United States of America was founded by a majority of White, Northern European Christian Men. The foundations were based on “The laws of nature and natures God” That our rights come from our Creator, not kings, not any man. That the central Government was brought too life by the States, that the Federal Gov. had very specific but limited roll and that roll or responsibilities was enumerated. Those things NOT enumerated were the jurisdiction of each State. Checks and balances, separation of powers and the consent of the governed are paramount. Trying to keep it simple while getting to the most important point. The point being the result. The results would come to be known as American Exceptionalism. The greatest most powerful and benevolent civilization the world had ever known. Karl Marx devised an ideology that would and have undermined and if not stopped will destroy this great country. We are very close to becoming but another failed Constitutional Republic. CULTURE MATTERS. Mothers and Fathers raising there children matter. Virtue matters. The rule of law matters. Following the origanal intent and the words of the Constitution matter. Living according The the Bible is a requirement. Not a forced requirement but rather freedom loving God loving virtuous people CHOOSING to live accordingly. Marxism has gone after all of these things and through the US Democrat party and there natural inclination toward control of men,there life, abortion, slavery, jealousy toward God and desire to be….God. There ultimate goal is the end of our Constitutional Republic with THEM in charge of every aspect of the individuals life. One example of there “success” is in the destruction of the Black family. Blacks are 12.5% of the US population. Young black men 16-34 are less than 5 % of the US population. In Chicago 75% of all murders are committed by Blacks. 71% of there victims are also Black. Culture matters. Case closed.

        • not_Bridget

          Alas, far too many of those Founders (whom I mostly admire) were slave owners. Or tolerated slaveholding & protected it in the Constitution. Surely, they thought, rational beings will soon end this unfortunate institution.

          No, the next Southern generation began seeing slavery as a positive good. A bloody war ensued & the damage remains.

          Anyone who has studied Texas Murders realizes that a good lawyer will set you free.

          • Larry Cook

            Sorry not_Bridget, slavery as an excuse, is lame. Because slavery has existed in written human history. Either imposed on the loser by a winning nation, or an economic form, of property consisting of human beings. Okay we fought a Civil War, mostly white soldiers lost their lives defending or fighting on either side. Yet tell me just how many of those on the South’s side were directly either slave holders, or worked in some form for the slave issue. I can tell you, it is a given six percent. Okay, now tell me, just how many slaves you think were imported to the southern states? Again, I can give you factual data, around 350,000. Look it up. Surprised that a bloody war was fought for a mere 350,000 people’s freedom. Now read of the other issues listed as reasons to succeed from the Union. There were many given reason. It was not all about slavery. In fact the Union permitted slavery to continue in several Border States, because if it was not, those states would also have joined in the rebellion, and perhaps changed the tide of history. Now we are 162 years past the end of that war, and the end of slavery, 52 years past the Civil Rights Act becoming law, and it seems there are some that wish to visit the battles once again. Now the reason there are three Amendments that pertain to slavery, and its problems, the 13, 14, and 15th Amendments. One to end slavery in America. One to ensure that those brought here against their will, and their children, were citizens of this nation, and one to give each of those adult of age, the Right to vote. With the required numbers to ratify them as Constitutional Amendments only being able to be reached, by requiring those former CSA states to ratify them as a condition for being readmitted to the Union as fully equal states. So the losing side had to sign off on them, or continue under military rule. Guess what option they chose? And then the Civil Rights Act gave teeth to any that tried to oppose such rights by various methods. Poll taxes, and IQ tests, Tests that showed the ability to read and write, when teaching slaves to read and/or write was a criminal at prior. And various others–Jim Crow laws–You know–separate but equal–only the reality was equality was as unbalanced as the enforcement of certain laws. So the wise leadership of this nation got their act together and passed laws that made equality the law of this land. And we progressed. Until recently, where everyone but the man in the mirror is being blamed for one group’s failure to advance themselves. Yet there are many examples that show this to be false. Me, I was raised to view there only being one color that mattered. Nope, not white, but Marine Green. And that all men bled red blood. Along with feeding my animals before I sat to dine. Taking care of those in my charge, such as being an NCO in the military, before I saw to my own needs. And to give respect to anyone, unless by their action and deed, they proved themselves to not deserve such. And to expect nothing in return, except the same respect. About as easy as things get. Like Gibbs on NCIS, Pop a retired career GySgt Marine, had his numbered rules, and growing up I was expected to honor them. Obey a bit strong, but if Pop said jump, I did so, never asking why or how high. He alway had his reasons, and as I age, has become one of the wisest men I have ever known. Maybe not book smart, but filled with common sense. This cannot be taught, must be either self existing or learned through experiences in life.
            You refer to humanity reasons for the end of slavery. Really? A practice that went back to the beginings of written history. Even the Bible has God’s rules for dealing with animals, man servants, and slaves. Look in the Jewish given laws of the Old Testament for this. Read of the Roman laws concerning slaves, and even granting them freedom. Read of the Greek slaves, how they were educated and yet still bore the yoke and brand of slavery. Read of the Egyptians that built some of the biggest monuments using slave labor. Then read of the mere two hundred years of America existing and its dealing with slavery as an issue. Then talk of White Privilege. Paid for in the lives of White soldiers on the Civil War battlefields, Paid for in the actions of a body of representatives passing laws that grant equality to any and all.
            I am offended by the term “racist” or ”racism” because that gives rise to an idea that we are of more than one race, which is untrue. We are all humans. Period. Not open for debate. So what is happening no matter the side taken, in todays events, is bigotry, and hatred.

        • WestTexan70

          Wow — you must be fun at parties …

          I’m a white, male, native West Texan in my early 60s. Almost everything you say is pure, unadulterated swill. 90% of the truly terrible people I have known in my life have been my fellow white males — ESPECIALLY, the ones who call themselves Christians. Take your pontificating and stuff it. I’m much happier living among the folks who have a darker pigment than me than I ever was among people like you.

        • Who Farted

          “Simple easily provable facts”
          “our rights come from our Creator, not kings, not any man”

          Oh, dear lord.

          • “”our rights come from our Creator, not kings, not any man””

            Per the Declaration of Independence.

      • “European Americans commit the majority of overall crimes”

        Not borne out by the FBI stats, Daesai. One would think that the wypipo would commit relatively more, but for violent crimes it is about even between whites (incl Hispanics, that is how the FBI accumulates) and blacks.

        The 13% punches *well* above their weight. The good news (if one can call it that), is that homicides and assaults are committed 85-95% intra-group.

        • Larry Cook

          Same facts that I have pulled up time and time again. And it continues into today’s age.

      • Political Wraith

        Please break that down by percentage? You use the term very loosely since there are more Anglo/European Heritage
        than all other races combined. so Take a percentage of population by ethnic background and let’s see what happens to the numbers?

      • Larry Cook

        Define and state your source please. It seems you have a source not available to most of us. Or are just misinformed. From eyeball experience, I know that most prisons in areas, consist of populations that follow a pretty normal margin for error. One third black, one third Hispanic/Latino, and one third White or other. And from there go to crime stats, where it is not as divided, and try to follow the facts. Most crime breaks down into percentages based upon population census data. So if you convict so many per a given number for each, the mix of criminals is very skewed. Blacks number so many in total, yet their number in prison are higher than any other minority. Why is this? Because the Hispanic portion, until of recent times, kept a very low profile, because any contact with the police was viewed as probably bad. Even of recent times, if ICE was known to be in a nearby town, with a chicken plant that employees many Hispanic/Latinos, even the ones here under legal right would not venture out into public. Downtown, around their favorite shopping stores was like a ghost town.
        Okay, now pull up the last census figures, read the population demographics, and go to the crime stats. Understand that our Federal government lumps Hispanic/Latinos in with us over numbered Whites, not as a separate figure. Why? To make their figures reflect what they wish to reflect.
        And do a little more digging in the demographics. The Hispanic/Latino ethnic group is already out numbering most other ethnic groups. Slightly more than one half of every toddler aged child in America and counted, was of that ethnic group. Meaning that soon Hispanic/Latino will become the majority very soon. And a known fact, when the Hispanic move in, take over, the blacks head elsewhere. In that same nearby town, where once was a thriving Black community, it is now only about six families, the rest having become a barrio neighborhood.
        Base on this, how long before we few working class Whites can no longer support the necessary tax burden of a liberal government?

    • WestTexan70

      Care to explain El Paso’s rate — as mentioned in my earlier reply to Ms. Foster?

      Jackhole.

  • Helen Foster

    I don’t understand the absence of El Paso in this article. I think you’ll find some interesting FBI stats about it.

    • WestTexan70

      If you go look them up (as I did), you’d find they are just a bit worse than Austin and much better than the city you probably live in.