- Murder and crime rates fell in the 30 largest U.S. cities this year, according to an annual report from the Brennan Center for Justice.
- Murder rates declined an estimated 5.8% and violent crime is down 2.7%. The overall crime rate fell 1.8%, with the 30 largest American cities experiencing their lowest average crime rates since at least 1990.
- The final year-end report updates preliminary findings the organization released earlier in the fall and the data is expected to hold steady for the remaining days of this year.
Politicians at all levels of government, but particularly the federal level, have loudly voiced concerns during the past couple of years about a perceived crime wave plaguing urban areas, but the Brennan Center data indicates otherwise. The politicians aren't necessarily fabricating crime statistics but rather working with old, short-term data.
Some cities — Chicago being the most frequently mentioned — did experience an uptick in murders in 2015 and 2016, but the trend has since reversed. Some cities that had the greatest spikes in 2015 and 2016 had pronounced declines in murder rates this year. For example, Chicago had an 18.1% decline and Las Vegas had a 22.2% decrease.
Although the overall crime and murder trend is downward, some cities went in the opposite direction. Washington, DC's murder rate increased 39.5% and Houston at 22.6%. The Brennan Center says more research is needed to figure out why these increases occurred.
The analysis centers on looking at trends in crime and murder rates, but taking into account the raw numbers of crimes also is important. For example, the analysis specifically mentions San Francisco's 26.9% drop in murders in the section describing cities with large declines on that metric, along with Chicago's 18.1% murder rate decline and Baltimore's more modest 7.4% decline.
But when looking at the raw numbers, the number of murders in San Francisco are far lower than the other cities — 56 in 2017 and 41 in 2018, compared with Chicago's 653 in 2017 and 534 in 2018 — so even the difference of a few individual incidents will have a more profound effect on the rate. Similarly, Portland is among the cities whose murder rates increased notably, 18.6%, but the raw numbers show it only had three more murders, bringing the 2018 total to 27.
Still, crime being at its lowest point in decades, barring a temporary blip in 2015 and 2016, is positive. The Brennan Center indicates that the data from the largest cities can be extrapolated to the rest of the country.