10 Most Dangerous Cities In West Virginia

Updated On October 10, 2023
West Virginia

Located in the Southern Appalachian region of the United States, West Virginia has some beautiful areas in which to live and vacation.

The “Mountain State” is known for its outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, skiing, and whitewater rafting.

Bordering the states of Ohio and Kentucky, West Virginia has given us the Golden Delicious apple and Family Feud host Steve Harvey.

They seceded from the larger state of Virginia in 1863.

Residents of West Virginia, whose number is just over 1.8 million, are mostly working-class, blue-collar professionals.

The overall crime rate in West Virginia is 1,900 per 100,000 residents.

Thirty-six states have a higher rate of crime than the Mountain state.

Sadly, this state leads the United States in fentanyl deaths (66 per 100,000 people).

Drugs are a major issue in some parts of West Virginia.

It has exacerbated an already high unemployment rate (caused by the closure of coal mines).

Unemployment and despair can cause crime.

Though West Virginia is a lovely place as a whole, there are some individual cities where crime makes them dangerous places to be.

Read on to find out more about the 10 most dangerous among them.

The 10 Most Dangerous Cities In West Virginia

Dunbar, West Virginia

10. Dunbar, West Virginia

Situated on the Kanawha River, Dunbar is 2.8 square miles and has a population of 7,480.

It was a rural farming community until glass and bottling plants came to town.

This turned Dunbar into a small, yet bustling town.

Unfortunately, the companies eventually closed, leaving many unemployed.

Today, Dunbar is safer than only 7% of cities its size.

The latest data available for this area shows that there were 44 violent crimes, including 1 murder, 3 sexual assaults, and 40 aggravated assaults.

In addition, there were 223 property crimes (larceny, burglary, motor vehicle theft).

The chances of being a victim of violent crime in Dunbar is 1 in 183 and property crime is 1 in 33.

Parkersburg, West Virginia

9. Parkersburg, West Virginia

Parkersburg has a population of 29,749 and is West Virginia’s 4th largest city.

It is the county seat for Wood county, West Virginia.

At one time, Parkersburg was the leading industrial center in the Ohio valley, producing glass, chemicals, rayon, tools, and iron.

Today, over 20% of its population lives below the poverty level.

According to Crime Grades, Parkersburg is in the 25th percentile for safety.

This means that 75% of cities its size are safer.

Last year, there were a total of 1,706 crimes in the city.

Violent crimes accounted for 137 and property crimes totaled 1,154.

Based on the numbers, people in Parkersburg need to be most concerned about the crimes of assault and theft. 

When visiting Parkersburg, one should stay alert and not flash valuables.

Clarksburg, West Virginia

8. Clarksburg, West Virginia

Clarksburg is the county seat of Harrison county and has a population of 16,000, along with a 20% poverty rate.

The city was once bustling with industry, like brickworks, potteries, chemical plants, and glass factories.

The downtown was home to 8 banks, 3 hospitals, and a few upscale hotels.

By 1980, most of that was gone and the town was struggling.

According to data, Clarksburg is safer that only 2% of cities its size.

Despite the fact that the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Division is located in the city.

Last year, there were 72 violent crimes committed and 757 property crimes.

The chances of being a victim of theft or robbery in Clarksburg are 1 in 21.

Wheeling, West Virginia

7. Wheeling, West Virginia

Wheeling is situated on the Ohio River and has a population of 27,000.

It’s about 60 miles outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Prior to the Great Depression, the city was bustling with industry and culture.

They are best known for developing cut nails and overalls.

At one point, the Wheeling suspension bridge (1849), was the largest in the world.

However, like many large cities in the United States, Wheeling began to suffer when manufacturing plants closed down.

Now, the West Virginia town is safer than 14% of other towns its size.

Last year there were 862 assaults per 100,000 people, 7.7 murders per 100,000 people, and 46 robberies per 100,000 people.

If you’re in Wheeling, your chances of being a  victim of violent crime are 1 in 103 and 1 in 60 for property crime.

Huntington, West Virginia

6. Huntington, West Virginia

With a population of 49,000, Huntington is home to the 2nd busiest inland port in the United States.

The city has taken advantage of its location on the Ohio river by providing industrial goods that are easily shipped via cargo boats.

This does not help their crime situation.

In a town where 25% of its residents live below the poverty level, Huntington’s crime rate is 42 per 1,000 residents.

This is the highest crime rate in the United States for a city of this size.

Last year there were 320 violent crimes committed.

In addition to violence, over 1,600 property crimes were committed.

When visiting Huntington, one should be most concerned about theft.

Morgantown, West Virginia

5. Morgantown, West Virginia

Located on the Monongahela River, Morgantown has a population of 30,300.

This number includes the students that attend West Virginia University, which is in Morgantown.

The poverty rate in the town is an astounding 38%.

This may be why the bulk of criminal activity involves theft (68%) and burglaries (12.7%).

Last year, there were 94 violent crimes reported along with798 property crimes.

Morgantown is safer than just 10% of towns its size.

When visiting this city, be careful not to wear expensive jewelry and keep a watchful eye on your belongings.

Martinsburg, West Virginia.

4. Martinsburg, West Virginia

With a population of 28,835, Martinsburg’s crime rate is 75% higher than other United States cities its size.

In 1792, the first US post office was opened in the city.

During the 1800s and early 1900s, it was the center of the railroad industry in the state.

Many mills and factories were sprinkled throughout Martinsburg until the 1970s.

When they closed, jobs were lost, people moved away, and crime rose.

Last year there were 83 violent crimesand 725 property crimes reported.

When in Martinsburg, people must be concerned about theft, assault, and robbery.

Charleston, West Virginia

3. Charleston, West Virginia

Charleston is the capital of West Virginia and has a population of 48,864.

The city gained prominence in the early 1800s with the discovery of salt deposits.

While drilling salt wells, natural gas was discovered, and while drilling for gas, coal was unearthed.

Charleston used the plethora of natural resources to build a thriving industrial community.

Today, the city is a major center for the state’s commerce, legal, and economic functions.

They host many festivals and activities related to the arts.

Yet Charleston still has a significant crime problem.

The police blame a great deal on the influx of gangs and drugs.

A violent crime occurs at the rate of 63.4 per 1,000 people ( as opposed to the national average of 22).

Property crime occurs at the rate of 95 per every 1,000 people.

The chances of becoming a victim of property crime in Charleston are 1 in 28.

When visiting, people should stay vigilant and aware of their surroundings.

South Charleston
South Charleston, West Virginia

2. South Charleston, West Virginia

Located just outside of the larger city of Charleston, South Charleston has a small population of just over 13,000 people.

It is home to International Industries, a national manufacturer of coal and timber.

On the surface, it has a small town and a rural appearance.

Unfortunately, the rate of crime based on population is 103% higher than the national average.

It is safer than just 2% of cities the same size.

Last year, there were 47 violent crimes and 577 property crimes.

The chances of becoming a victim of a property crime in South Charleston is 1 in 21.

Beckley, West Virginia

1. Beckley, West Virginia

Beckley has a population of 26,286 and is the county seat of Raleigh county, West Virginia.

It was once the leader of the coal mining industry in West Virginia.

Today, one of the main attractions is the preserved mine that’s been turned into a museum.

Beckley is also home to West Virginia University’s Institute of Technology.

The town is relatively busy with various businesses and government offices.

As far as crime, Beckley is in the 19th percentile based on its population.

This means that 81% of cities its size are safer than Beckley.

 Last year, there were 1,045 total crimes reported.

This included 2 murders, 8 sexual assaults, and 116 aggravated assaults.

The overall crime rate is 45.7 per 1,000 residents.

The chances of becoming a victim of crime in some areas of Beckley is 1 in 18.

When visiting, be sure to secure your vehicle and stay with a group if possible.

5 Safety Tips For Traveling To West Virginia

  1. Be mindful of ride-sharing apps and taxis. They are not as common in West Virginia as in other states. So take care to confirm you are not being scammed or worse. Drive your own car or rent one if you can.
  2. If you’re vacationing in a cabin, camping, etc. let someone back home know where you are staying. Remote areas do not always get cell service or WiFi.
  3. Carry some spare money in your shoe, sock, bra, etc. If you are robbed, you don’t want to be stranded as well.
  4. If you need to pull over, make sure to do so in a well-lit, well-populated area.
  5. As a general rule, don’t wear anything you want to lose.

West Virginia Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: West Virginia Safety Review

Safety Index:
West Virginia

Frequently Asked Questions

What cities pose the greatest risk of being mugged?

The chances of being mugged are highest in Huntington and Morgantown.

What is considered a violent crime in West Virginia?

Any crime that exudes physical force is considered violent.

This includes murder, assault, robbery, and rape.

Is pepper spray legal in West Virginia?

Pepper spray is legal for self-defense purposes in West Virginia.

7 Comments on 10 Most Dangerous Cities In West Virginia

  1. R
    Rufus Mann says:

    Carry a high caliber weapon and don’t hesitate to use it in the event of even a small crime !

  2. S
    Savannah says:

    Absolutely, you’d rather be safe than sorry believe me, so yes, protect yourself and get some. So that’s just what I’m doing.

  3. C
    Cori Adams says:

    West Virginia is like most other places. I have lived here my entire life. I am educated, happy and raising my children here. I know it’s possible to have some experiences here that I don’t want to be part of. Because of this, I try my best to avoid certain areas, times or people that may make these things more likely to happen. I mean it isn’t full proof but if you don’t put yourself in the line of fire, you will most likely avoid it. Just a thought…

  4. A
    Anonymous says:

    I think Morgantown is getting worse because of the way the town really is, things just keeps getting worse and most people are so naive in my opinion it doesn’t matter if something happened downtown Morgantown, anything could happen. I understand that people have different views about Morgantown but that is no excuse to be naive especially for college students. The roads are so screwed up, it needs sidewalks, I mean what the hell kind of college town is Morgantown? Seriously!!!!!!!!

  5. C
    Christian Crawford says:

    As a state resident, it’s crucial to be aware of the safety dynamics in different areas. Your comprehensive breakdown of crime statistics and the historical context gives a clear picture of the current situation. I appreciate how you’ve not only highlighted the cities with higher crime rates but also delved into the types of crimes prevalent in each area.

  6. E
    Evan Buckley says:

    This helps residents and potential visitors understand the specific safety challenges. Including the community initiatives and law enforcement efforts to combat crime adds a balanced perspective, showing that while these cities face challenges, there are also active efforts to improve safety.

  7. B
    Bailey Wilson says:

    I found the detailed analysis of crime rates extremely helpful. Your use of clear statistics and trends over time provides a thorough understanding of which areas have higher risks and why. It’s also reassuring to read about the measures being taken to address crime in these cities. Highlighting the efforts of local law enforcement and community programs shows that there is a concerted effort to improve safety.

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