Every year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) releases its annual Uniform Crime Report. From this report, we can list (statistically) America’s most dangerous cities. Some might surprise you; others not so much. Regardless, all are selected based on hard data compiled by the bureau’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) unit.

Travel Discounts for AARP Members

Savings on hotels, car rentals, cruises, tours and airfare


Subscribe to the AARP Travel Newsletter

Don’t let this list get you down, though. The overall picture is actually much sunnier: Even though economic woes are up, crime (particularly violent crime) is down in the United States, and it’s been trending downward for the last five years. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon common sense wherever and whenever you travel. In general, avoid deserted areas, particularly at night, leave your valuables at home, and park in well-lighted areas. Finally, keep in mind that statistics only tell a small part of the story; talk to locals for a fuller picture.

1. Flint, Michigan

The birthplace of General Motors went into a tailspin when the auto industry collapsed and its workforce went from 80,000 to around 8,000. Michael Moore, a Flint native, documented the decline in his 1989 film Roger & Me, which memorably showed laid-off workers being evicted from their homes on Christmas Eve. With a median income of $27,049 — a whopping 46 percent below the national average — and 36 percent of its population living below the poverty line, gang activity and drugs have hit Flint hard. But police Chief Alvern Lock is stepping up community policing with such federally funded programs as the Blue Badge Volunteer Corps and by cementing partnerships with state police and area task forces. Early 2011 FBI statistics show that something is clearly working: The violent crime rate was down in nearly all categories.

2. Detroit, Michigan

Few cities have had as precipitous a decline as Detroit. The bankrupt auto industry, the collapse of the housing bubble and the flight from the inner city — all have had a hand in Detroit’s Shakespearean fall from vital Midwestern hub to urban wasteland. But hopeful signs are everywhere. FBI statistics for the first half of 2011 indicate that violent crime is down 24 percent compared with the same period in 2010. Revitalization projects have pumped $1.5 billion into the city and have included a spiffed-up riverfront with the RiverWalk and green spaces. The Detroit Tigers (MLB) and Lions (NFL) both had stellar 2011 seasons. Urban farming is another proposal on the table, with 30,000 acres of vacant land ripe for crops.