Drugs, gangs and hopelessness: San Pedro Sula is the world's most dangerous city

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
40 PHOTOS
San Pedro Sula
See Gallery
Drugs, gangs and hopelessness: San Pedro Sula is the world's most dangerous city
Members of Honduras' Special Unit against Drug Traffickng and Organized Crime arrange packs containing 400k of cocaine seized in a container carrying soft drinks coming from Costa Rica, in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa, on July 2, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of Honduras' Special Unit against Drug Traffickng and Organized Crime arrange packs containing 400k of cocaine seized in a container carrying soft drinks coming from Costa Rica, in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa, on July 2, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator holds a banner that reads 'No to the toll-Farmers alliance' along the San Pedro Sula-Tegucigalpa road on June 26, 2014 during a road hauliers strike against a road toll. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA. (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Honduran gang member covered in tattoos while walking shirtless through the San Pedro Sula barrio.
Army soldiers walk by iddle lorries along the San Pedro Sula-Tegucigalpa road on June 26, 2014 during a road hauliers strike against a road toll. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA. (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
View of the semitrailer coming from Costa Rica, from which the Honduran Police seized 400k of cocaine --found in a fake ceiling-- in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa, on July 2, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of Honduras' Military Police arrange packs containing 400k of cocaine seized in a container carrying soft drinks coming from Costa Rica, in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa, on July 2, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of Honduras' Special Unit against Drug Traffickng and Organized Crime count packs containing 400k of cocaine seized in a container carrying soft drinks coming from Costa Rica, in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa, on July 2, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Two children stand against their shanty home in the San Pedro Sula barrio.
Honduran Criminal Investigation agents carry the body of one of nine people riddled with bullets outside the morgue, in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa on August 19, 2014. The victims --who were taking away the remains of a relative-- were attacked by unidentified hooded criminals. Seven of them died at the site and the other two died in hospital. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS--Military police officers at the central bus station in San Pedro Sula during an anti-extortion operation. Police said that gang members have been extorting the shops and taxis who operate at the station.
A demonstrator holds a banner that reads 'No to the toll-Farmers alliance' along the San Pedro Sula-Tegucigalpa road on June 26, 2014 during a road hauliers strike against a road toll. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA. (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A girl holds her mother tight as she speaks to the press upon arriving in San Pedro Sula, about 260 km north of Tegucigalpa, on July 14, 2014 after being deported from the United States. A first group of 120 deportees from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who had crossed into the United States illegally were repatriated by plane to their countries -- most of them unaccompanied youths. US authorities have detained some 57,000 unaccompanied minors since October, twice the number from the same period a year ago, seeking to illegally cross into the US from Mexico. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A girl cries as her mother speaks to the press upon arriving in San Pedro Sula, about 260 km north of Tegucigalpa, on July 14, 2014 after being deported from the United States. A first group of 120 deportees from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who had crossed into the United States illegally were repatriated by plane to their countries -- most of them unaccompanied youths. US authorities have detained some 57,000 unaccompanied minors since October, twice the number from the same period a year ago, seeking to illegally cross into the US from Mexico. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Children at a free feeding program in the slum barrio of Chamelecon San Pedro Sula. PHOTOGRAPHY by SEAN SPRAGUE 2006
AIDS patient at the San Jose Hospice in San Pedro Sula.
Honduran Criminal Investigation agents work next to the body of one of nine people riddled with bullets outside the morgue, in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa on August 19, 2014. The victims --who were taking away the remains of a relative-- were attacked by unidentified hooded criminals. Seven of them died at the site and the other two died in hospital. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Honduran Criminal Investigation agents carry the body of one of nine people riddled with bullets outside the morgue, in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa on August 19, 2014. The victims --who were taking away the remains of a relative-- were attacked by unidentified hooded criminals. Seven of them died at the site and the other two died in hospital. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
An older couple in Los Bordos a poor barrio, an illegal settlement, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
A Honduran policeman and a Criminal Investigation agent check the body of one of nine people riddled with bullets outside the morgue, in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa on August 19, 2014. The victims --who were taking away the remains of a relative-- were attacked by unidentified hooded criminals. Seven of them died at the site and the other two died in hospital. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Children smiling amid the grim San Pedro Sula barrio.
Members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, offer a press conference at a prison in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa, on May 28, 2013. Leaders of the MS-13 and the Mara 18 (M-18) of Honduras, announced their disposition to reach a truce with the mediation of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Catholic Church. The gangs are involved in drug trafficking that has brought terror to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. AFP PHOTO /Leonel CRUZ (Photo credit should read LEONEL CRUZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, offer a press conference at a prison in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa, on May 28, 2013. Leaders of the MS-13 and the Mara 18 (M-18) of Honduras, announced their disposition to reach a truce with the mediation of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Catholic Church. The gangs are involved in drug trafficking that has brought terror to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. AFP PHOTO /Leonel CRUZ (Photo credit should read LEONEL CRUZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, offer a press conference at a prison in San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa, on May 28, 2013. Leaders of the MS-13 and the Mara 18 (M-18) of Honduras, announced their disposition to reach a truce with the mediation of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Catholic Church. The gangs are involved in drug trafficking that has brought terror to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. AFP PHOTO /Leonel CRUZ (Photo credit should read LEONEL CRUZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, are pictured behind bars at the prison of San Pedro Sula, 240 km north of Tegucigalpa, on May 28, 2013. Leaders of the MS-13 and the Mara 18 (M-18) of Honduras, announced their disposition to reach a truce with the mediation of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Catholic Church. The gangs are involved in drug trafficking that has brought terror to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. AFP PHOTO /Leonel CRUZ (Photo credit should read LEONEL CRUZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman and her four children outside their grim home in San Pedro Sula.
Un miembro enmascarado de la pandilla Barrio 18 mira desde la ventana de una prisión mientras otros pandilleros brindan una conferencia de prensa en el interior de la cárcel de San Pedro Sula, Honduras, martes 28 de mayo de 2013. (AP Foto/Esteban Felix)
A National Police officer is reflected in a mirror hanging inside the area of gang members from the Mara Salvatrucha, MS, inside the San Pedro Sula prison in Honduras, Tuesday, May 28, 2013. Honduras' largest and most dangerous street gangs have declared a truce, offering the government peace in exchange for rehabilitation and jobs. A Mara Salvatrucha gang spokesman says the gang and its rival, 18th Street, will commit to zero violence and zero crime in the streets as first step show of good faith. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
A boy and his dog in the San Pedro Sula barrio.
A man who was severely injured with a knife by unidentified assailants waits for medical treatment at the emergency room of a public hospital in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Monday, March, 25, 2013. With 91 murders per 100,000 people, the small Central American nation is often called the most violent in the world. The homicide rate is roughly 20 times that of the U.S. rate, according to a 2011 United Nations report. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
The dead body of Carlos Pineda, 30, is taken to the morgue of a public hospital after being shot in the head and spending a day in agony in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Monday, March 25, 2013. With 91 murders per 100,000 people, the small Central American nation is often called the most violent in the world. The homicide rate is roughly 20 times that of the U.S. rate, according to a 2011 United Nations report. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this March 24, 2013 photo, a forensic official takes a picture of a dead man lying on the street after being attacked by unidentified assailants in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. With 91 murders per 100,000 people, the small Central American nation is often called the most violent in the world. The homicide rate is roughly 20 times that of the U.S. rate, according to a 2011 United Nations report. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
FILE - In this March 10, 2012 file photo, a man who said he was injured when attacked with a machete during an attempted robbery sits at the Catalino Rivas public hospital emergency room in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Honduras has more homicides than any other country in the world with 91 per 100,000 people, the World Health Organization says. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)
FILE - In this March 10, 2012 file photo, Alberto Barrientos, who was injured during a shooting, waits to enter the operating room inside the Catalino Rivas public hospital emergency room in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. A wave of violence has made Honduras among the most dangerous places on Earth, with a homicide rate roughly 20 times that of the U.S. rate, according to a 2011 United Nations report. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)
FILE - In this March 11, 2012 file photo, a woman who was injured during a shooting at a pool hall is carried into the Catalino Rivas Public Hospital in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. A wave of violence has made Honduras among the most dangerous places on Earth, with a homicide rate roughly 20 times that of the U.S. rate, according to a 2011 United Nations report. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, file)
Girl with broom in the poor barrio of Los Bordos in San Pedro Sula Honduras
Boys playing football in the slum barrio of Chamelecon San Pedro Sula. PHOTOGRAPHY by SEAN SPRAGUE 2006
Simple dwelling in the slum barrio of Chamelecon San Pedro Sula. PHOTOGRAPHY by SEAN SPRAGUE 2006
Women gathered outside a Maquila factory in San Pedro Sula.
Children and teens play soccer football in a neighborhood of San Pedro Sula.
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


By RYAN GORMAN

San Pedro Sula lays claim to a dubious title -- the world's highest murder rate.

The impoverished Honduran city's roughly one million residents were slaughtered by drug gangs at a rate of 187 per 100,000 in 2013, according to one estimate. As a country, Honduras is by far the world's most dangerous -- 82 out of every 100,000 people are killed each year, according to the Washington Post.

America's most notorious city, Detroit, sees its residents cut down at a rate of only 48 per 100,000, according to the Post.

The mindless violence is mostly perpetrated by brutal drug gangs gunning each other down while fighting for a piece of the drug trade as the city has become an important stop for Mexican traffickers on the way to the U.S., according to the Los Angeles Times.

These violent drug gangs have overwhelmed the city's feeble police force. Officers often appear masked in press conferences touting drug seizures and arrests out of fear for retribution from the gang members.

Gang leadership even holds their own press conferences, an unthinkable (by U.S. standards) spectacle heavily attended by local media. Street thugs also charge every home and business a "protection tax," accordion to the Times.

Those who choose not to pay the tax have two choices: Leave or die.

Ciudad Juarez, a notorious Mexican border town also infested with drug gangs that previously topped most dangerous cities lists, has a murder rate of only 148 per 100,000, according to the Post.

El Salvador, the second-most dangerous country in the world, sees 66 out of every 100,000 people murdered each year.

Images from the impoverished city show families crammed into tiny homes on dirt roads, bodies stashed along the side of a road and barefoot children playing soccer on dirt lots.

Gang members are easily identifiable by the tattoos covering their bodies, including their faces.
Inside 'the World's Most Lawless City'
Read Full Story

People are Reading