A 2016 report by Lawstreet Media said Little Rock was the most dangerous small city in the country. Little Rock has ranked on these lists before, and the general consensus is the lists are a bit biased, but they also get a lot of attention. Lawstreet said:
Little Rock, Arkansas, remains the most dangerous city between 100,000-200,000 people, with a remarkably high violent crime rate. Little Rock’s violent crime rate stayed relatively the same in 2014, with just a 1 percent drop, after a spike in 2013 put it at the top of the list. However, Little Rock’s murder rate did increase slightly, from 18 per 100,000 people in 2013 to 22 per 100,000 in 2014.
For the sake of the Lawstreet Media report, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Robbery and assault are the two most common violent crimes. The report uses the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program. There are some valid criticisms of that program. Comparing cities in a truly uniform matter is impossible.
Still, the stats are a bit staggering. Little Rock's crime rate is 199% higher than average, which means Little Rock residents have a 1 in 11 chance of becoming victim to a crime. Luckily, the most common crimes are property related: auto theft, residential theft, and robbery.
The Worst Neighborhoods
After these studies come out, people always ask, 'Which neighborhoods are the worst in Little Rock?" A "bad area" is only as bad as the people in it. Most of the people in "bad areas" are good people with good families.
Many of the once "bad neighborhoods" (like College Station) are gaining traction on the crime through neighborhood watches and similar initiatives to protect local residents. The once run-down South Main in downtown is now revitalized. Even Southwest Little Rock is looking up.
The true answer is that there are very few areas in the city to feel unsafe as a tourist, especially during the day. Most automobile theft occurs at night, and other property crimes would be unlikely for tourists.
Most of the crime in this area is property crime like auto thefts, robberies, and burglaries. According to my analysis of the crime stats published by the LRPD, you have more of a chance of becoming the victim of a crime in this neighborhood than anywhere else in Little Rock. The most common crimes are residential burglaries and auto thefts, which means you're likely fine if you're just passing through or visiting a business. Even car thefts in this area normally occur at night, so it's fairly safe during the day.
South of I-630 University Area
The area south of I-630 around University to Cedar is another place you're likely to be the target of a crime. Crimes against property are again the most prominent here. In 2014 you were more likely to be the subject of first-degree battery or other violent crime against a person in this area than in any other area in the city. The most dangerous section in this area is the area around 12th street (south of Fair Park). Again, most crimes in this area are property crimes and most crimes are committed against residents of this area, not visitors. The area immediately north of this area hosts the University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences and the Little Rock Zoo, and it is fairly safe during the daytime because of the heavy foot traffic.
Battery to Martin Luther King
The area around Wright Avenue (near MLK) sees a surprising amount of crime for a small area, however, most of the crimes reported are residential burglaries and auto thefts. It's a mostly residential area.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)
Though this area is connected to number 2, the area around the campus deserves a special call-out for criminal activities. The majority of the crimes in this area are non-violent property crimes and burglaries, but there have been robberies and assaults. The UALR campus itself has its own police and is reasonably safe for college students. The most common crimes on campus are drug and alcohol-related and property crimes. The college publishes its yearly crime report. The area near UALR north of I-630 hosts the Midtown Shopping Centers and Park Plaza Mall. Those are fairly safe areas.
The Boyle Park area, especially around 36th street, ranks pretty highly for property crime. There have been violent crimes in the area, but mostly residential crime is committed here.
Though many have questions about the safety of Little Rock's downtown area due to the Lawstreet report, downtown Little Rock is reasonably safe as far as downtown areas go. Any downtown area with tourists is going to have some crime, but Little Rock's is mostly non-violent auto or property related crimes. As far as downtown goes, the most dangerous areas are south Broadway and east of the Capitol. After you cross I-630, Main Street is more dangerous as well. The River Market has been in the media a few times for violent crime, but violent crimes are actually not very common there.