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December 22, 2016

Continuing to track a continuing rise in homicide rates and violent crime

This week brought two notable new data points to reinforce the disconcerting reality that homicide and violent crime are on the rise in significant portions of the United States.  This Wall Street Journal article has a headline capturing the deadliest part of this story: "Homicides Rose in Most Big Cities This Year: Sixteen of the 20 largest police departments saw a year-over-year increase." This piece starts this way:

Homicides rose in most big American cities in 2016, continuing a worrisome trend for police and criminologists that began last year, even as murder rates in most cities are nowhere near the levels of two decades ago.

Sixteen of the 20 largest police departments reported a year-over-year rise in homicides as of mid-December, a Wall Street Journal survey found. Some notched minor increases, while Chicago has experienced one of the most dramatic jumps, with more than 720 murders — up 56% from 2015.

Chicago’s homicide count, greater than the considerably larger cities of Los Angeles and New York combined, marks a grim tally not seen since the violent drug wars of the 1990s.  As the bodies in Chicago pile up — including that of Nykea Aldridge, cousin of basketball star Dwyane Wade, shot while walking with her baby in broad daylight — police are struggling to solve the killings, clearing only one in five homicides so far this year.

Nationally, 37 of the 65 largest police agencies, including ones in San Antonio, Las Vegas and Memphis, Tenn., reported year-over-year homicide increases as of Sept. 30, the Major Cities Chiefs Association said. In 2015, 44 departments reported increases, many for the first time in years.

The folks at the Brennan Center are also on this beat, as evidence by this new publication, titled simply "Crime in 2016: Updated Analysis," which is summarized this way:

In September, the Brennan Center analyzed available crime data from the 30 largest cities, projecting that by the end of 2016, these cities would see a nearly unchanged rate of overall crime and a slight uptick in the murder rate.  That report concluded that while concerns about “out of control” crime rates were premature, the data “call attention to specific cities, especially Chicago, and an urgent need to address violence there.”

This report updates these findings, incorporating more recent data. Updated Tables 1 and 2 show conclusions similar to the initial report, with slightly different percentages:

  • The overall crime rate in the 30 largest cities in 2016 is projected to remain roughly the same as in 2015, rising by 0.3 percent. If this trend holds, crime rates will remain near historic lows, driven by low amounts of property crime.

  • The violent crime rate is projected to increase slightly, by 3.3 percent, driven by increases in Chicago (17.7 percent increase) and Charlotte (13.4 percent increase). This is less than the 5.5 percent increase initially projected in the September report. Violent crime still remains near the bottom of the nation’s 30-year downward trend.

  • The 2016 murder rate is projected to be 14 percent higher than last year in the 30 largest cities. Chicago is projected to account for 43.7 percent of the total increase in murders. The preliminary 2016 report identified some reasons for increasing violence in Chicago, such as falling police numbers, poverty and other forms of socioeconomic disadvantage, and gang violence. A similar phenomenon occurred in 2015, when a group of three cities — Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. — accounted for more than half of the increase in murders. This year Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are projected to see their murder rates decline, by 6 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively.

  • An increase in the murder rate is occurring in some cities even while other forms of crime remain relatively low. Concerns about a national crime wave are still premature, but these trends suggest a need to understand how and why murder is increasing in some cities.

I am pleased to see that the Brennan Center is not trying to wish away what is now a two-year uptick in homicides, and I share the view that "these trends suggest a need to understand how and why murder is increasing in some cities."  This is whay I am very hopeful (but, candidly not all that optimistic) that Prez-elect Trump with follow-up on his campaign promise (noted previously here) to work with Congress to create a task force on violent crime during his first 100 days in office.

December 22, 2016 at 06:01 PM | Permalink


And now all those idiot fact checkers can apologize to Trump.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 22, 2016 7:52:16 PM

The rise in homicide, mostly of black males is 100% the fault of the lawyer decarceration movement. I would like to know if lawyer unemployment has begun to fall. It would not be a coincidence. Black males were also the target of that other lawyer founded, led and run movement, the KKK.

Posted by: David Behar | Dec 23, 2016 1:09:18 AM

What we also know is that the majority of those on death row at least, granted only a fraction of those who kill or conduct violent acts, are those with mental health problems, often arising from childhood neglect and abuse; those in poverty with little chance of economic advancement owing to poor education; those with gang associations and/or drugs. These are the high priority issues for city administrations together with improved housing and other social supports for those at risk. Tackle those and the numbers will come down. It just needs a will and long term commitment from all levels of civil authorities and indeed from civil society itself. Economic disadvantage and the polarization of society between extremes of rich and poor; poor access to good education and health supports; tolerance of gang culture and abuse of drugs; poor city housing in older residential areas; all these are issues which contribute to criminal activity and which CAN be tackled to significantly reduce crime. It's called civilization.

Posted by: peter | Dec 23, 2016 8:48:18 AM

It is called rent seeking.

This is offensive comment. It implies poverty is a cause of crime. It certainly is not. Many poor jurisdictions have very low crime rates, and high rates of morality.

Posted by: David Behar | Dec 23, 2016 2:08:51 PM

David, I don't disagree. Nonetheless, there is a clear correlation between the two which suggests a contributory influence on possible behavior given the right mix of others. There is never one factor alone. Change one factor and that mix doesn't occur, lessening the chances of criminal behavior. Poverty is key, because it commonly denies access to jobs, the best education, access to healthcare, access to housing, etc. There is therefore an obvious source of disenchantment with, and lack of respect of, the norms of society which may tip some people to engage in crime. These are simplifications, but I can't write a book about here (I'm sure someone has). Poor jurisdictions with low crime rates likely have compensatory characteristics such as strong social bonding, strong leadership and stable populations.

Posted by: peter | Dec 23, 2016 3:44:06 PM

Peter. The confounding factor that explains why some poor people have low crime rates, some high is bastardy. So people making $1000 a year with 8 children are truly poor. Prices are the same around the world. So you can imagine trying to live on that in the US. It is the same in Egypt.

No bastardy in Egypt. Low crime rates on UN conducted household surveys, using gold standard methodology from the US Justice Department before Obama politicized this survey. The value of welfare benefits ranges from $40,000 to $60,000 in the US. There are no poor people in the US. There are a lot of bastards. Thus the appallingly high crime rate. Egyptian children have high blood lead levels in case anyone was looking for a rebuttal to the most powerful driver of crime, feminist lawyer imposed bastardy.

I have a good Facebook Friend who is an appellate lawyer in Cairo. We discussed the Egyptian legal system. It is not relevant to the low crime rate.

Posted by: David Behar | Dec 24, 2016 3:20:37 AM

Prof. Berman and my Facebook Friend should become Friends too. Bill may also like this guy.

He was in law school not long ago. He was arrested as a law student, repeatedly beaten and jailed for 6 months for his comments in class, questioning government corruption. The police released him, and told him to focus on his studies and on his examinations. The next time they had to deal with him, he would be killed. And, we thought Harvard Law cold calls were a challenge.

Egyptian law is based on the French civil code, and not on British common law. About 10% of licensed lawyers can become appellate lawyers. He is with the defense and is trying to free someone caught up on drug charges. About 10% of the appellate bar get accepted to argue before the constitutional court. Acceptance is based on written examinations. It is not acceptance into a chummy club membership, as in the US. See:


Posted by: David Behar | Dec 24, 2016 3:38:00 AM

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