Finding Utopia in America. Where Not To Look.

New York City street gang Savage Skulls

One person’s hell is another’s paradise found. The Garden of Eden was not the lush tropical paradise depicted by imaginative artists, but to the planet’s first couple those blistering sands were Utopia. It’s all relative. Military families, or, government gypsies, have a saying that generally holds true. “The worst place a person has ever been is where they are now. The best place they have ever been was where they were last.”

Finding a person’s personal Utopia is limited by their abilities. Their financial ability. Their health. Their age. Their skills. This is seconded only by their desires. City life. The country. The mountains. The beach.

To shorten one’s hunt for just the right spot, they should consider the advice of those who have gone before. A general consensus. If you’re looking for the perfect spot to hang your hat, here are a few hellish places in America they say to steer clear of. If you live in one of these places and love it, don’t shoot the messenger.

10. Modesto, California

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Modesto’s violent crime rate is higher than every other city in California, including the gang-filled streets of Los Angeles. This can be directly attributed to more than 22% of residents living below the national poverty level.

Don’t plan on making your fortune in Modesto. That ship is not likely to come in. Workers earn on average 30.5 percent less than those in the rest of the state, nearly $7000 less, with an average annual income of just $22,556.

In a city of roughly 211,000 people, 5,000 to 10,000 of them are reported gang members, which is probably why Modesto ranks number one in the entire nation for car thefts. There’s a chop-shop on every corner.

9. Oakland, California

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Oakland should come as no surprise to anyone. Despite the city having a relatively strong economy with a median household income of $52,000, its poverty rate stands at just over 25%.  it is also home to over 50 street gangs with a collective membership of over 2000.

Oakland has always been ranked as one of the most dangerous places to live in the nation and without question the most dangerous in California. While statistics show a significant decrease in crime over the past decade, violent crimes still number upward of 35,000 incidents per year.

If you go to Oakland bring a respirator. The air quality is 190% worse than the national average, largely contributed to by constant high-traffic congestion.

8. New Orleans, Louisiana

Homicide.

It’s a great place to visit but who wants to live in a city named by Travel & Leisure Magazine as the second dirtiest city in America?

New Orleans owns the proud distinction of having the highest murder rate of any city with a population higher than 100,000, with 57.6 out of 100,000 meeting their makers with a bit of unwanted assistance.

The poverty rate of 29% is due in part to the city never totally recovering from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Twice, once in 2014, and again in 2015, brain eating amoebas were found in the city’s water supply.

So enjoy some Beignets and Mud Puppies, snap your fingers to some lively jazz beats, get plowed on some silly named drinks, then, by all means, head home to the safety of whence you came.

7. Birmingham, Alabama

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As the largest city in Alabama, Birmingham has big city expenses, yet the median income is only $32,000. This has 27.3% of its residents living below the poverty line.

If low incomes are not bad enough, Birmingham taxes sales by a whopping 10%, one of the highest rates in the country.

Because of Birmingham’s extremely prevalent drug trade, violent crime touches 1,483 out of every 100,000 residents, annually.

6. Stockton, California

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Money being what it is, in 2012 the city of Stockton filed for bankruptcy. Housing values plummeting by 39% and crime went through the roof.

Stockton is rated in the bottom 3% of unsafe city’s in America. As hard as this is to fathom, each year sees almost 21,000 violent crimes in this city of 300,000 inhabitants. In other words, your chances of getting hurt are pretty good. With Stockton’s unemployment rate running around 15%, one of the highest in the country, lots of people need money. Yours if they can get it. Forbes voted Stockton one of the most dangerous city’s in America due to its high crime rate.

Air quality, schools, churches, shopping and other amenities, are of no use researching considering Stockton is a virtual war zone of violent criminal activity. It’s difficult to enjoy much else when you’re afraid to leave your house. On to the next worst city.

5. Memphis, Tennessee

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With a huge population of 654,000, Memphis is the largest trash heap in Tennessee. Like New Orleans, Travel & Leisure magazine ranked Memphis in the top ten of “America’s Dirtiest Cities”. Anyone having traveled there can testify to the truth of their well-founded claim.

If you’re the type who won’t let a little dirt get in the way, consider this; violent crime has become such an out-of-control free-for-all, if the grungy air quality doesn’t suck the life out of you first, there is a 1 in 12 chance of your ending up on the wrong end of a violent crime. 1 in 12. How lucky do you feel?

Roughly 21% live below the poverty level, outside of the unreported money they bring in on the side via a fervent drug trade, or prostitution, or breaking and entering, or auto theft, or…

Memphis will only give you the blues. Try Nashville. It’s high on the list of places to live.

4. New Haven, Connecticut

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While Connecticut is well-known for its quaint picturesque towns full of friendly and welcoming people, take the long way around New Haven. Go as far out of your way as you have to. If you just can’t avoid it. Don’t stop.

Like Memphis, New Haven is ranked in the bottom 3% of unsafe places to live, but the chances of escaping a violent crime increase to 68 in 1000.

While housing the prestigious Yale University in all its splendor, walking a few blocks from campus in any direction will lead you straight into an impoverished neighborhood. As manufacturing jobs were not so slowly laid to rest, which provided the bulk of this blue collar working town’s economy, so went the comfortable lifestyles of a great majority of its 131,000 residents.

As people arm-wrestle for available jobs, people willing to work for less money keep the median income low at $30,000, while unemployment continues to lag at 25%.

3. Cleveland, Ohio

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For whatever reason, Cleveland has been hit hard by a financial crunch. Its residents are discovering there are nicer places to live. If you are thinking Cleveland might be a good place to grow your roots, keep in mind there are some who have already unapologetically yanked theirs out of its frozen soil.

Because of an average annual snowfall of 60 inches, one year setting a record with almost 118 inches, coupled with brutally bone snapping temperatures, harsh winters make Cleveland an undesirable location for most people still in possession of all their faculties.

With a median income of less than $27,000 and a price index that demands higher dollars, foreclosures continue to border on the ridiculous. Ramen Noodles are the main and only course for dinner, at least for the 27% living below poverty and the folks who should be rated as below poverty were it not for the states ill-conceived notion of what it takes to survive.

Washington D.C. has nothing on Cleveland. Over the past ten years, 350 of Cleveland’s city officials have been convicted of crimes of corruption. Cleveland in the most corrupt city in the nation, bar none.

2. Detroit, Michigan

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How can any list of undesirable places to hang your hat not include the Motor City? Motown. By a show of hands. Who’s surprised?

From 2000 to 2010, Detroit’s population decreased by 25%. A quarter of the city got the hell out. Urban decay becomes worse by the year as more and more buildings crumble from disrepair.

A high-dollar city with a median income of less than $26,000 is responsible for one-third of the city living below the national poverty line.

It should also come as no surprise that Detroit has the highest crime rate of any city over 200,000, making it the most dangerous city in America.

1. Camden, New Jersey

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Camden has remained on top of many publications list of miserable places to live for many years.

With a population of just over 77,000, almost 43% of them are unemployed. Even for those who do work, the average income is an unlivable $18,000. Camden is the single most impoverished city in the United States.

If this is not enough to discourage someone from moving to Camden, the crime rate is 560% over the national average. You will be a victim.

Political corruption in Camden openly runs amuck so expect this lawless impoverished city to keep their number one trophy for years to come.

To summarize Camden: Don’t go there.

So, there you have it. Now that you know where not to go, good luck finding your personal piece of heaven on earth, whatever, and wherever, it may be.

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