Despite claims to the contrary, the most recent analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law found that all measures of crime in the 30 largest cities are doing down.
The three key pieces of analysis are:
- The overall crime rate in the 30 largest cities in 2017 is estimated to decline slightly from , falling by 2.7 percent.
- The violent crime rate will also decrease slightly, by 1.1 percent, essentially remaining stable.
- The 2017 murder rate in the 30 largest cities is estimated to decline by 5.6 percent. Large decreases this year in Chicago [down 11.9 percent] and Detroit [down 9.8 percent], as well as small decreases in other cities, contributed to this decline. … New York City’s murder rate will also decline again, to 3.3 killings per 100,000 people.
Among the more interesting findings in recent years is how localized crime rates actually are. We tend to think in terms of national trends, but for the most part national trends are not uniform trends – crime is fought at a local level, policies are implemented and carried out at a local level, and thus changes in local conditions help to paint a national picture.
Thus there are a few cities where violent crime went up last year, including Charlotte and Baltimore. However, some analysts believe that this year’s crime data suggest that the two-year uptick in violent crime was a blip rather than a trend.
In recent years, Chicago and Baltimore were drivers of the national homicide rate that went up as both cities experienced unusually high murder rates – and Baltimore is projected to break its record-
high homicide figure of 318 from last year.
But that is an aberration rather than the rule.
CityLab reported last week, “A new projection has violent crime rates dropping this year in the largest U.S. cities. Homicides remain alarmingly high in some places, but one takeaway is clear: There’s little evidence to support Jeff Sessions’ claim of a ‘dangerous permanent’ crime rise.”
Instead, what we see in Brennan’s list of the 30 biggest cities is crime has dropped since 2016 in half of them, including double-digits in places like Columbus, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.
Still, it was an uneven picture. However, as the data from Brennan demonstrates, most places where violent crime rose, the rise was fairly low at less than 5 percent. “Baltimore, Fort Worth, Texas, and Memphis were exceptions with unusually high increases in violence this year.”
The murder rate was more promising still, with a number of large cities experiencing significant declines: New York had a 16.8 percent drop and Chicago had a nearly 12 percent drop, while Houston’s dropped by nearly 30 percent.
Notes CityLab: “Several other cities experienced double-digit increases in their murder rates, although the number of murders that caused the spike were small. Portland’s 20-percent leap, for example, means it had 17 homicides this year compared to 14 last year. That said, there were significant increases in murders both per capita and in actual numbers in the cities of Charlotte, San Francisco, and, again, Baltimore.”
CityLab goes further, noting that “even with the data on rising homicides in those few cities, it’s still not accurate to say that violent crime is trending toward chaos. Crime has remained far below the days of record high homicides across the nation in the early 1990s, when the rate of violent crime was nearly double what it is now. There was also a two-year crime rise in 2005 and 2006, which some law enforcement officials wanted to exploit to bring back failed policing practices of yesteryear, but then crime began falling again after that blip in time. It appears this is happening again in 2017.”
“In contrast to rhetoric we’ve heard about rising crime, this new analysis shows that all measures of crime and murder are in decline this year,” said former New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, who is also chairman of the Law Enforcement Leaders.
He added: “False narratives about a national crime wave make it harder for law enforcement to implement proven tactics that address the real issues. We hope that leaders in Washington will prioritize support for local law enforcement’s efforts to swiftly combat violence in these cities – rather than perpetuating myths about crime rates.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting