Oakland and Baltimore lead in homicide rates among 65 large U.S. cities after the rates are adjusted for differences in demographic and social factors, says the Improving Crime Data project led by three criminologists. The FBI discourages ranking cities by their crime rates because cities differ in poverty, unemployment, and other crime-producing factors beyond their control. Criminologists Richard Rosenfeld, Alfred Blumstein, and Robert Friedmann applied a model that adjusts each city’s homicide figures by differences in the level of socioeconomic disadvantage (a measure combining poverty, unemployment, race composition, and female-headed families). The researchers maintain that the model produces a more meaningful comparison of city homicide levels, especially for providing insight into the effectiveness of criminal justice policies and programs.
Some cities change substantially in rank when socioeconomic differences are statistically controlled. Detroit falls from number 1 in the unadjusted homicide ranking to number 21, Atlanta from number 11 to number 51, and Milwaukee from number 15 to number 62. By contrast, San Jose, CA, rises from number 62 to number 24. A drop in rank indicates that a city has a lower homicide rate than would be expected based on its level of socioeconomic disadvantage. An increase in rank means that a city has a higher homicide rate than would be expected based on its level of disadvantage. The 65 cities in the study contain about 17 percent of the nation's population but accounted for 40 percent of the homicides last year.