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April 3, 2024

Encouraging homicide data as the first quarter of 2024 comes to a close

A few days ago, I received an alert from my local paper about this article reporting that "data from the Columbus Division of Police showed that the city is experiencing some of the lowest levels of violence in a decade."  According to this press piece, the biggest city in Ohio has recorded only 18 murders in this calendar year, compared to 41 at this time last year.  The article also flagged that a number of other cities have also seen significant homicide declines.  

Conveniently and encouragingly, Jeff Asher posted yesterday this new substack entry detailing that Columbus, Ohio is not alone in experiencing a significant homicide decline to start 2024.  Folks should read his full posting for lots more context and details, but here are some highlights:

[M]urder is down around 20 percent in 2024 in more than 180 cities with available data this year compared to a comparable timeframe last year (as of the moment of this piece's publication).  Murder is down 20.5 percent in 183 cities with available data through at least January, down 20.2 percent in 174 cities with data through at least February, and down 20.8 percent in 59 cities with data through at least March 20....

We could still see, and perhaps should expect to see the sample's murder decline to regress towards a more normal rate of decline as the year goes on.  It's only April and there is a ton of time left in 2024 for these figures to regress, but murder is down roughly twice as much with a sample that’s twice as large as what we had last year at this time.... Murder is down more than 30 percent at the moment in Washington DC, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, Philadelphia, and I could keep going....

It's not just murder data in cities pointing to a large decline.  Shooting data from the Gun Violence Archive shows a decline of around 12 percent in terms of shooting victims through March compared to 2023.  This matches the trend of declining shootings in 20 of the 25 cities with available shooting data through at least February this year. 

As readers may recall from prior posts, 2023 saw a considerable (perhaps historic) decline in homicides in the US compared to 2022 (which had itself recorded a small decline in homicides after significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021).  But the latest AH Datalytics' collection of homicide data for 2024 from a large number of US cities shows now over a 20% cumulative decline(!) in murders across the nation's cities through roughly the first quarter of 2024.  Of course, these remarkable homicide numbers could change in the months ahead, but the many hundreds of fewer murders to start 2024 is certainly something to celebrate and hope it will continue.

Though not mentioned by Asher, I will note that the notable 2023 and 2024 declines in homicide come at a time of relatively low use of the death penalty and relatively lower rates of incarceration by US standards.  The last eight or so years, as detailed in this DPIC fact sheet, have seen historically few death sentences and executions across the US for the modern capital punishment era.  Also national incarceration totals and rates have been in relative (slow) decline for about a decade, and the US likely now has its lowest total incarceration rate since the mid 1990s.  Critically, I do not think these punishment trends can in any way directly explain recent homicide declines, but I had seen some claims that the spike in homicides in 2020 and 2021 might be atributed in part to these punishment trends.  Recent homicide declines would seem to partial couner worries that recent punishment trends a chief cause past homicide increases.  And if homicide levels keep dropping at the pace we have seen in 2023 and so far in 2024, we may soon hit modern record low levels in both homicides and severe punishments in the US. 

April 3, 2024 at 10:45 AM | Permalink


The death penalty does deter, but is not used often enough to have a strong deterrent effect, nor is that its principal justification. Its principal justification is that, for some grotesque murders, like the Boston Marathon murders, it's the only legal punishment that comes close to fitting the crime.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 3, 2024 10:51:57 AM

Regarding crime and the "good news"--yeah, it is, but how much of the good news is caused by people changing their lives? NYC subways aren't safe. Is that ok?

Posted by: federalist | Apr 3, 2024 10:56:01 AM

Bill, one great thing about the death penalty--the person who gets it almost certainly will never harm another person.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 3, 2024 11:41:08 AM

Only if a death sentence is carried out swiftly, federalist; most murderers sentenced to death in the US do not get executed for 20+ years, if at all.

Posted by: Doug B | Apr 3, 2024 1:46:36 PM

Doug --

While it's true that only death itself puts a final end to the inmate's dangerousness, security conditions on death row are pretty tight, meaning that the degree of danger an inmate there poses to others is less (but not zero) than if he were in the general population. Of course we could improve the situation by cutting back on year after year of appeals that have nothing to do with factual guilt or innocence. It simply does not take 20 years or anything like that to get the case right and have confidence in the outcome.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 3, 2024 3:02:02 PM

Bill: If post-sentencing prison security is the key issue, that should be possible for all incarcerated populations (though there is an economic cost for more secutity, of course). I have always wondered about comparison of crimes committed in prison by (a) death row murderers, (b) LWOP murderers and (c) Life with parole murderers. I have assumed the death row folks are inclined to be better behaved in the hope of securing clemency, since most states have mandated clemency processes for (only) those on death row.

Posted by: Doug B | Apr 3, 2024 3:39:57 PM


You illustrate the dishonesty in academia. You say, “[death row conditions] should be possible for all incarcerated populations…,” on a blog where there are probably 100 entries against (and none for) holding inmates in super max prisons.

You know it’s not happening.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 3, 2024 4:42:16 PM

Not clear what you think is "dishonesty" Master Tarls. Bill noted the "security conditions on death row are pretty tight," and I said that's possible for for "all incarcerated populations." I did not assert most academics would support putting everyone in supermax prisons, and it is true that most academics who write on prison conditions are opposed to extended periods of solitary confinement. But I was not advocating for anything, just responding to Bill's point that prison security (rather than execution) can be an effective means of incapacitation. What academics/advocates (flagged on this blog or elsewhere) suggest as an ideal punishment is an different issue.

What exactly is dishonest, Master Tarls, about noting the implication of Bill's point that prison security (rather than execution) can be an effective means of incapacitation? I agree that, primarily for cost reasons, there will not be massive increases in prison security effforts (especially with prisons now so understaffed and underresourced). I do surmise that most academics would not support greater use of supermax prisons --- though I do suspect there are probably some (many?) death penalty abolitionists who'd favor LWOP/supermax for some over death senteces for fewer (functionally that's what we saw in NJ as they abolished DP and went to a mandtory LWOP instead).

Posted by: Doug B | Apr 3, 2024 5:30:29 PM


You said it is possible.” It’s not. I suspect there are even court decisions outlawing the concept.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 3, 2024 7:09:26 PM

It's impossible to know one way the other where there are any decisions on point, so I say go with Tarls's view. MAGA

Posted by: MAGA 2024 | Apr 3, 2024 9:38:00 PM

Outlawing what, Master Tarls, the widespread use of "security conditions [that] are pretty tight" like those on death row? My understanding is that the US has tens of thousands of prisoners held in extreme solitary (which surely qualify as "pretty tight" "security conditions") and that these include prisoners convicted of a wide array of crimes. I am drawing from the Liman Center 2022 accounting: https://law.yale.edu/centers-workshops/arthur-liman-center-public-interest-law/liman-center-publications/time-cell-2021. I believe there have been rulings in other countries limiting extreme use of solitary, but I am not aware of any modern constitutional rulings to that effect (though it has been advocated by many academics).

Also, I do not believe all death rows in all states hold all prisoners in extreme solitary. From a Marshall Project article in 2017: "Arizona will become the latest of several states to lift restrictions on death row inmates. In recent years, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia have allowed condemned inmates to have more time out of their cells, and in some cases, eat meals and exercise with other inmates and hold jobs.") I suspect that the death row "security conditions" are still "pretty tight" in places like Louisiana and Tennessee and elsewhere, even if they do not involve extreme solitary. And I think it would certainly be "possible" (though surely expensive and perharps harmful in other ways) to house all prisoners under comparable security.

Beyond all these particulars, you plainly missed the context and meaning of the dialogue above. federalist asserted the death penalty is uniquely incapacitative because murders ends up dead. I noted that this form of unique DP incapacitation is not well achieved if persons are not actually executed or only executed after 20+ years. Bill then chimed in to suggest that "pretty tight" prison security for the death row population (rather than execution) itself serves as a an effective means of incapacitation. In turn, I said that if prison security (rather than execution) that was the key to incapacitation, we could possibly extend that to folks not subject to a death sentence (thereby undercutting the notion that a death sentence was uniquely incapacitative). As I see it, this discussion did not involve "dishonesty" by anyone, but rather a talking through of goals and means.

Many might not like the goals and means we are discussing, but I suggest you save the term "dishonesty in academia" for actual "dishonesty in academia." From what I read in the papers about plagarism and other academic failings, there is plenty of actual "dishonesty in academia" to call out. But I just do not see it here. And yet, for the record, I do not think you are being dishonest.

Posted by: Doug B | Apr 4, 2024 10:20:36 AM


The chance of using death row conditions on all inmates, or even those deemed dangerous, is zero. For example, 20% or so are mentally ill and you cannot keep them in long term solitary in NY or PA.

If a state tried to, or the Feds, it would immediately be met with hundreds of lawsuits. It will never happen. You know this.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 5, 2024 1:07:05 AM

Master Tarls, you are now making the reasonable point that there would surely be other practical challenges to expanding heightened security beyond the direct economic costs -- eg, "hundreds of lawsuits." But that still does not in any way make "dishonest" what I said, especially in the context of the discussion with federalist and Bill.

I now take your point to be that, though it would be theoretically possible to achieve greater incapacitation for all prisoners through heightened prison security, there would be practically "zero" chance to pursue that path in the US because of practical challenges. (You might also be saying you think other (constitutional?) values would limit any singular pursuit of the goal of incapacitation this way.) I certainly agree that there would be practical challenges to any efforts to expand heightened "death-row-type" prison security --- though heightened prison security does apply to tens of thousand of prisoners in the US now. But my mention of cost in response to Bill's focus on the incapacitation benefits of, as I put it, "post-sentencing prison security" flagged the practical challenges of pursuing incacapacitation uber alles.

Again, I do not see any part of this dialogue as an example of "dishonesty in academia" by anyone (Bill is also in academia, after all). Rather, we are having an academic discussion talking through goals and means (in a medium, blog comments, that sadly too often involves vitriol rather than extended constructive academic dialogue).

Posted by: Doug B | Apr 5, 2024 8:24:06 AM

Here in Lexington, Kentucky, the numbers are too small at this point to be meaningful. By this date in 2023, there had been only 2 homicides (leading up to 24 total for calendar year 2023), but thus far in 2024, there have been 4 homicides. In 2022, there were 44 homicides in Lexington, setting an all-time record. There has been one shocking shooting case so far in 2023, which could have resulted in another homicide, but did not. About 6 weeks ago, a plain clothes police detective was surveilling a home occupied by 3 young black men (two of them are only 19 years old), who were suspected of involvement in some violent crimes, armed robberies and shootings, from an unmarked police car parked across the street from the home. The 3 suspects exited the home and walked towards the police car with guns and fired more than 40 shots into and thru the windows and body of the car. The Detective suffered only minor wounds, a graze on his thigh and some cuts from broken glass. When the suspects began firing at the Detective's car, he opened the driver's door and rolled out onto the ground, so he was not occupying the vehicle as most of the bullets struck the vehicle. All three suspects are charged with attempted murder of a police officer and felony wanton endangerment. One is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Things like this almost never happen in Lexington. The night of the incident, there were no other arrests in Lexington, because every on-duty officer was at the scene of the shooting. When the defendants were arraigned the next day, the Courtroom was packed with uniformed police officers.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Apr 5, 2024 9:50:36 AM

An ironic thing made the newspaper this morning in Lexington, Kentucky. It seems that what had been reported earlier this year as Lexington's first homicide of 2024 has been now found, upon further investigation, to have been a justified killing, so it no longer qualifies as a homicide. So, the numbers have changed and we have only 3 homicides for 2024, compared to two homicides by this date in 2023!

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Apr 5, 2024 11:51:09 AM


That's a 50% increase in homicides in one year! That's what happens when voices for law and order like Preston Worley and Fred Brown are lost. You guys better find some Trump supporters to fill those council seats or there will just be more homicides.

Dictator on day one! MAGA

Posted by: MAGA 2024 | Apr 5, 2024 9:26:40 PM

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