Murders Increasing, But It’s Not Yet Clear If Last Year’s Rise Was Enormous


More Americans were murdered last year than in 2014, preliminary city and federal data suggest. That news alone is bad enough, says, but whether the increase was big or the biggest on record depends on whether you look at national data for half the year or full-year data for big cities, which are the meager choices available from the nation's patchwork crime statistics. FBI reports for the first six months of 2015 show that murder was up 6.2 percent nationally. If the full-year rise for all agencies is as high as the preliminary half-year figures, it'd be the biggest increase in murders in a single year since murders rose by 9 percent in 1990.

Based on the latest available data from the 60 most populous cities, total murders were up 16 percent. Such a nationwide murder increase would be enormous and unprecedented. The previous biggest increase in a single year since the start of the FBI data set was 13 percent, in 1968. Still, last year’s increase in murders was smaller outside big cities, offsetting the big increase in big cities. The FBI data indicate a disconnect between murder in cities and in the rest of the country. The FBI said murders in the first half of the year had increased by about twice the national rise in cities with 500,000 or more people, a category that includes more than half of the 60 biggest cities. The biggest cities consistently have been a good proxy for the direction, but not the magnitude, of murder trends.

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