Report: Homicide Rates at All-Time Low in U.S. Cities Compared to Pre-Epidemic Increases 

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By Roxy Benson 

NEW YORK, NY – Major U.S. cities are seeing rapid decreases in homicides, coming close to rates they were once at before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, making this the fastest rates have fallen in decades, according to an article published by the Wall Street Journal.

From the beginning of the year until March 2024, the decline in homicides has been around 20 percent in 133 cities, according to Jeff Asher, crime-data analyst.

WSJ reports the city of Philadelphia has seen a 35 percent drop as of April 12, as well as New York City where rates have continued to fall 15 percent lower through the first week of April.

Dropping rates in these cities can be attributed to the trend of the uptick in homicides during the pandemic; the dramatic decline seen so far in 2024 is compared to the drop in rates of the late 90s, said the WSJ.

In the article, Asher states, “There’s just a ton of places that you can point to that are showing widespread, very positive trends,” said Asher, co-founder of criminal justice consulting firm AH Datalytics.

Asher added, “Nationally, you’re seeing a very similar situation to what you saw in the mid-to-late ’90s. But it’s potentially even larger in terms of the percentages and numbers of the drops,”

Rates, as reported in the WSJ article, are continuing to drop and could match ones recorded in 2014 with the lowest rates seen since the 60s, although the WSJ said cities such as Denver, Los Angeles and Portland all saw rises in homicide rates while other cities in the country saw decreases, illustrating other outcomes that aren’t consistent with the decrease in homicide trends in the major cities mentioned.

Since the start of the pandemic, homicide rates increased tremendously all over the country, undoing the progress made before COVID to lower rates federally, according to the Wall Street Journal, adding, “The number of homicides in the US rose nearly 30 percent in 2020 from the prior year to 21,570, the largest single-year increase ever recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

The upward spike has been due to factors that include crime-prevention programs, the normal operation of prisons and court disrupted, children unable to attend schools during the pandemic, and the repercussions of the killing of George Floyd and social unrest seen all around the country, leading law enforcement agents to pull back regular operations, wrote the WSJ.

Dean Dabney, who is a criminology professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, commented to WSJ, “The police went to sleep. The prosecution and the courts went to sleep, and the jails and prisons let people out. So you had an ideal situation for criminals.”

Since then police forces have been able to hire more officers to various departments, and continue work with crime-prevention programs that were once in place before the pandemic, added Dabney.

Officials featured in the article noted there isn’t one reason crime rates drop in different cities, but several factors that work together to create this outcome.

Partnered with homicide rates dropping there has been a drop in property crime in some cities, the WSJ said, adding San Francisco, where property crime rate trends tend to be high, saw a decrease in crimes including burglaries and larceny, as well as thefts, and car thefts just at the beginning of 2024.

Drops in cities like New Orleans have become a point of interest for crime research because of the high rates it normally sees…New Orleans had the highest homicide rate in 2022, but in 2024 rates dropped 39 percent, wrote the WSJ.

Ronal Sepas, New Orleans police superintendent from 2010 to 2014, told the WSJ the decline in numbers is not changing the public’s view of crime in the city, continuing to show the general public is still worried about homicides, and drug use in their communities, as some rates of crime have remained the same.

About The Author

Roxy Benson is a third year student at the University of Vermont studying political science, with a minor in Gender Women and Sexuality Studies. While currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Political Science, Roxy hopes to apply to law school in the future to further learn more about the American justice system, as well as aiding the system with the goal of eliminating instances of everyday injustices. She has had a continued passion form criminal justice reform, and finds her passions aligning with advocating for different social justice issues that face the system as a whole through her writing, as well as immersing herself in her studies.

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