Chicago’s spate of 82 shootings over the July 4th holiday weekend, in which at least 16 people were killed, drew national attention but that focus risks missing the bigger picture, says the Pew Research Center: When adjusted by population, murder rates are far higher in smaller cities than in larger ones, such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. In terms of raw number of murders, Chicago has long been at or near the top of U.S. cities. In 2012, it had 500 murders, the most of any city. So far this year there have been 201 murders in Chicago.
Adjust the raw numbers for population size to get a murder rate, and a very different picture emerges. According to FBI data, Flint, Mi., had the highest murder rate of any sizeable U.S. city in 2012. There were 62 murders per 100,000 population. Trailing Flint were Detroit (54.6 murders per 100,000), New Orleans (53.2 per 100,000) and Jackson, Ms., (35.8 per 100,000). Chicago, whose population is several times bigger than any of those cities, came in 21st, with 18.5 murders per 100,000 — nearly quadruple the national average, but nowhere near the nation’s highest. From 1985 through 2012 only six cities have had the nation's highest murder rate: New Orleans (12 times, most recently 2011); Washington, D.C. (eight times, most recently 1999); Detroit (four times, most recently 2006), Flint (twice, also in 2010); Richmond, Va. (once, in 1997) and Birmingham, Al. (once, in 2005).