The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law has conducted an analysis of 2015 crime trends in the nation’s 30 largest cities and concluded “that reports of rising crime across the country are not supported by the available data. “
They write, “Major media outlets have reported that murder has surged in some of the nation’s largest cities. These stories have been based on a patchwork of data, typically from a very small sample of cities. Without geographically complete and historically comparable data, it is difficult to discern whether the increases these articles report are purely local anomalies, or are instead part of a larger national trend.”
This report provides a preliminary in-depth look at current national crime rates. It provides data on crime and murder for the 30 largest U.S. cities by population in 2015 and compares that to historical data.
They write, “This analysis relies on data collected from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police departments. The authors were able to obtain preliminary 2015 murder statistics from 25 police departments in the nation’s 30 largest cities and broader crime data from 19 of the 30. The data covers the period from January 1 to October 1, 2015. As this report relies on initial data and projects crime data for the reminder of the year, its findings should be treated as preliminary as they may change when final figures are available.”
There are two principal findings. The 2015 murder rate is projected to be 11 percent higher than last year in the majority of cities studied. Overall, 11 cities experienced decreases in murder, while 14 experienced increases.
However, the researchers argue that “this increase is not as startling as it may first seem. Because the underlying rate of murders is already so low, a relatively small increase in the numbers can result in a large percentage increase.”
Instead, they find, “Even with the 2015 increase, murder rates are roughly the same as they were in 2012, and 11 percent higher than they were in 2013.”
They also argue, “It should also be noted that murder rates vary widely from year to year. One year’s increase does not necessarily portend a coming wave of violent crime.”
On the other hand, crime overall, in 2015, is expected to be largely unchanged from last year, decreasing 1.5 percent.
The report defines overall crime as “murder and non-negligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The increase in the murder rate is insufficient to drive up the crime rate, and using murder as a proxy for crime overall is mistaken.”
They continue, “It is important to remember just how much crime has fallen in the last 25 years. The crime rate is now half of what it was in 1990, and almost a quarter (22 percent) less than it was at the turn of the century.”
A few days ago, Slate Magazine ran an article that “roundly dismissed talk of a Ferguson Effect as an attempt to kneecap the Black Lives Matter movement by blaming it for a national crime wave more imaginary than real.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, testified in the House that there is “no data” to suggest police are standing down.
Slate, however, writes, “The pushback against the Ferguson Effect theory should be applauded. While there is no doubt that the tense climate since Brown’s death has had an effect on police officers and how they do their jobs, the notion that protesters opposing police brutality are somehow responsible for rising crime rates is ludicrous.”
At the same time, they argue that we should not be ignoring what is happening in cities like Milwaukee and Baltimore, just because there is no Ferguson Effect.
They write that “considering that the overwhelming majority of the people dying in these cities are black and Hispanic, those among us who profess to care about racial equality and the opportunities afforded to people in poor urban neighborhoods need to acknowledge that this is happening. “
The numbers, they write, “are stark and frightening.”
They note: “In Milwaukee, more than 130 people have been killed so far this year, whereas the total for 2014 was 87. Washington, D.C., has seen 143 murders since January, up from a total of 105 for all of last year. St. Louis had recorded 168 murders as of Nov. 16, up from 121 during the first 10 months of 2014.
“Baltimore, meanwhile, recently passed 300 murders for the year—a devastating milestone the city had not reached since 1999. According to the Baltimore Sun, the homicide rate in the city—which seems to have spiked in the immediate aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of police in April—now stands at 48.97 per 100,000, higher than it’s ever been in the history of Baltimore.”
Slate continues, “It’s important not to misconstrue these numbers. They do not amount to a ‘national crime wave,’ as [Heather] Mac Donald and Sen. Ted Cruz claimed at this week’s Senate hearing.”
The analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice confirms this as well.
—David M. Greenwald reporting