10 Most Dangerous Cities in South Dakota

Updated On October 10, 2023
South Dakota

South Dakota is a happening place combining remarkable monuments, breathtaking landscapes, festivals, PowWos, and a growing food scene.

It is also considered one of the happiest states in the country – confirmed by its roughly 850,000 residents.

Home to dozens of indigenous tribes of the Sioux Nation, the state was built on the fur trade and hosted the first treaty between European Americans and Indigenous people.

Today, roughly 10% of the state’s population are Native descendants.

South Dakota is bordered by six states – Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota.

This landlocked region is dangerous, seeing over 80 recorded earthquakes.

The state also saw a yearly rise in both violent and property crimes.

The violent crime rate increased 27% to 500 per 100,000, while property crime rose to 19 per 1,000.

Assault, theft-particularly package theft, and vandalism were the most common crimes.

Overall, the iconic Mount Rushmore State was ranked seventh in the nation for violent crimes and 14th for property crimes. 

10 Most Dangerous Cities in South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota
Rapid City, South Dakota

1. Rapid City

Rapid City, with 78,500 residents, is one of South Dakota’s largest cities and just a short drive to Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and the Blackhills National Forest.

This growing metropolis is located in the west-central portion of the state along Interstate 90 and is considered some of the most expensive properties in South Dakota.

Surrounded by beauty, Rapid City also has its dark side.

The city now ranks as the most dangerous South Dakotan city and second in the state for violent crimes.

In 2022, 857 per 100,000 violent crimes were reported, including a disturbing 108 rapes and 13 murders.

There were also a substantial number of property crimes, 3,996 per 100,000, with burglaries and auto thefts the most common.

Residents now have a 1 in 149 probability of encountering a violent crime and a 1 in 31 chance of losing their property to thieves or vandals.

The areas in South Dakota are once-in-a-lifetime destinations, but precautions, pre-planning, and a little common sense are essential when visiting Rapid City.

Chamberlain, South Dakota
Chamberlain, South Dakota

2. Chamberlain

Chamberlain is a small western community of 2,365 residents.

It hugs the eastern banks of the Missouri River in central South Dakota. 

Quiet and quaint, the town was founded as a railroad stop on the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul lines.

It hosts the South Dakota Hall of Fame and claims one of the shortest daily commutes in the state – 11 minutes long.

Chamberlain’s other claim to fame is its ranking as the second most dangerous city in South Dakota.

With an overall crime rate 66% higher than the national average, reported violent crimes numbered 680 per 100,000 and property crimes 3, 215 per 100,000.

With some math, this translates into a 1 in 26 chance for residents and visitors to experience criminal activity.

If you pass through Chamberlain, the key to safety is to keep an eye on your favorite backpack or iPhone and lock your door, day and night. 

Pierre, South Dakota
Pierre, South Dakota

3. Pierre

Pierre is the capital of Mount Rushmore State, with a modest and relatively young, highly educated population of 14,000 residents.

The majority of the town extends along the Missouri River.

Unfortunately, this small community is not immune to crime. 

A relatively liveable town in the right areas, crime is trending with 921 per 100,000 violent crimes and 3000 property crimes per 100,000.

These statistics translate to a sixth-place ranking for property crime in South Dakota and first for violent crime — including assault and rape.

The most dangerous part of Pierre straddles the river, while the western half has the lowest incidences.

While visiting this small municipality, take extra precautions with personal belongings and welfare. 

Yankton, South Dakota
Yankton, South Dakota

4. Yankton

Historic Yankton is located in southeastern South Dakota on Lewis and Clark Lake near the Nebraska border.

This frontier town was a pitstop for western and southern settlement in the late 19th century.

Today, Yankton is home to roughly 15,600 residents.

There are numerous parks and historic taverns to tour.

Visitors can even try their hand at axe-throwing at the local game bar.

Unfortunately, for its size, Yankton has a higher-than-expected crime rate – fourth for overall occurrences and holding steady.

The city center has the highest crime rates, with the lowest immediately west of downtown.

The overall reported incidences include 18 rapes and 314 property crimes.

Adjusted for population, Yankton had 564 per 100,000 violent and 3,145 per 100,000 property crimes. 

Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

5. Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, home to roughly 197,500 residents and growing.

It is rated as an excellent place to live, with wide open spaces and an entrepreneurial spirit.

In fact, Sioux Falls is popular with young, single, and educated individuals just starting their careers.

Sious Falls’ recent growth has likely increased the city’s crime issues.

Sioux Falls experienced 1,031 violent crimes last year, including 850 assaults and a shocking 100 rapes.

These infractions translate to a 1 in 191 probability of encountering a violent criminal – higher than the state average of 1 in 253.

Personal property was targeted 1 in 35 times, extrapolated from 5,545 non-violent and car thefts reported.

The good news, the murder rate in Sioux Falls has dropped substantially from 13 to 3 over the past few years.

Mitchell, South Dakota
Mitchell, South Dakota

6. Mitchell

Mitchell is a popular South Dakotan tourist destination in the southeastern corner, straddling Interstate 90.

The Corn Palace, the urban art walk, and indigenous historical sites are the most visited locations.  

Unfortunately, an increased number of people also brings a criminal element.

Overall, crime in Mitchell is declining.

And while the city still ranks high for property crime – second in the state, it is improving.

The vast majority of crime occurs within and north of downtown.

There were 335 non-violent and auto thefts reported last year, down from 520 with the 2020 FBI crime data.  

For violent crime, Mitchell is also improving.

In a city of roughly 15,600 people, it reported 70 violent crimes, down from 73 the year prior.

Surprisingly, 18 incidences were rape, and the remainder were assaults – earning the city the ninth spot.

There were no murders in Mitchell over the past two years. 

Box Elder, South Dakota
Box Elder, South Dakota

7. Box Elder

Box Elder is a small Interstate 90 community of 12,310 residents in western South Dakota.

It is home to Ellsworth Air Force Base.

This unique town is a curious mix of Armed Forces personnel, scientists, and college students from the five area institutions. 

Even at the number 11 spot for size and population, Box Elder continues to rank as one of the most dangerous cities in South Dakota. 

Xrimes data lists 63 violent crimes, including 43 aggravated assaults year-over-year.

This translates into a 1 in 195 chance of experiencing violence higher than the state or national average.

There were also 231 property crimes reported resulting in a 1 in 53 chance of having your car or computer stolen.

And whether you are in town to visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, the Reptile House, or just stopping in for a bite at Sickies Garage Burgers, take extra precautions and lock windows and doors.

Aberdeen, South Dakota
Aberdeen, South Dakota

8. Aberdeen

If you have ever wondered where the Super 8 motel chain started?

Aberdeen is the place.

Initially, a railroad stop, Aberdeen’s roughly 29,000 residents make up the third most populous city in South Dakota.

It is also home to Northern State University. 

Unfortunately, so many people in one place tempt most criminals.

While the rates of both violent and property crimes are stagnant, Aberdeen still ranks as one of the most dangerous places in South Dakota. 

Recent violent crime data listed 127 occurrences, or roughly 558 per 100,000 people – a 1 in 223 probability.

Luckily property in Aberdeen fares a bit better with 2,192 per 100,000 or a 1 in 46 chance of being stolen or vandalized.

Spearfish, South Dakota
Spearfish, South Dakota

9. Spearfish

Spearfish is located near the Black Hills National Forest and west of Sturgis on the Wyoming border.

Initially, an old mining town near a sizeable 19th-century gold strike, the small community’s growth was fueled by instant wealth. 

Unfortunately, Spearfish has never relinquished its violent frontier days, making it one of the more dangerous cities in South Dakota.  

While the violent crime rate is significantly lower, 1 in 588, than the state average of 1 in 253, for a small town, it has a shockingly high number of rapes reported – 13.

The incidences of property crime are more extensive and equally spaced between theft, burglary, and auto theft.

This crime data translates into a 1 in 53 chance of experiencing a loss.

And whether you are in town for an inexpensive base to hike in the forest or just passing through, stay alert as Spearfish’s crime rates continue to trend upward. 

Huron, South Dakota
Huron, South Dakota

10. Hurron

Many of the state’s original settlers preferred Huron as a state capital, but the small city eventually lost to Rapid City.

Centrally located, Huron boasts many outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and spelunking.

Because of its location, it is ideal for the annual South Dakota State Fair. 

Famous for pheasant hunting, the small community of 14,231 residents erected a 43-foot side-road statue to commemorate the popular sport. 

Huron is surprisingly high on the list of most dangerous cities in South Dakota for such a small population.

There were 48 violent crimes and 169 property offenses.

These reported events translate into a 1 in 296 probability of meeting with violence and a 1 in 84 chance of losing your belongings.

5 Safety Tips for Traveling to South Dakota

  1. Lock your vehicle.
  2. Situational and locational awareness is essential when traveling.
  3. Plan your trip – check each place you want to visit for safety and location.
  4. Avoid public transportation.
  5. Stay with others even if you are traveling solo.

South Dakota Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: South Dakota Safety Review

Safety Index:
South Dakota

Frequently Asked Questions

Is South Dakota a fun place to visit?

South Dakota is enjoyable to visit, boasting open landscapes and iconic monuments.

It is home to Mount Rushmore, protected indigenous areas, and Badlands National Park.

This northern midwest state is famous for its herds of bison, the buffalo’s cousin, mountain elk, and extraordinary fishing.

Is South Dakota safe for solo travelers?

South Dakota is very safe for solo and female travelers, but some cities in the state have seen an increase in violent crimes, including rape and assault cases.

Whenever traveling, whether solo or in a group, it is essential to know your surroundings and avoid desolate places.

What is South Dakota's largest city?

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota.

It is also the capital of the famous Mount Rushmore State.

The area population hovers around 200,000 residents.

Home to Falls Park, fed by the Big Sioux River, Sioux Falls is beautiful, with lots to see and do, including museums, historical markers, hiking, camping, and RVing.

1 Comment on 10 Most Dangerous Cities in South Dakota

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    kasjfewa says:

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