Murder Rates Dropping in 2018: A Preliminary Analysis

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A new report issued by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University projects an overall decline in crime in big cities in 2018, with a larger drop-off in homicides, particularly in cities where violent crime has spiked in recent years.

Authors of the report calculate that murder rates in America’s 29 largest cities will drop by 7.6 percent over the previous year; falling off to levels approximately equal to 2015 rates.

Notably, the report projects a 35 percent decline in homicides in San Francisco, 23.2 percent in Chicago, and 20.9 percent in Baltimore. If projections hold, this would mean a hard reverse in Baltimore’s murder trend, dropping to levels not seen since 2014.

“These findings directly undercut claims that American cities are experiencing a crime wave. Instead, they suggest that increases in the murder rate in 2015 and 2016 were temporary, rather than signaling a reversal in the long-term downward trend,” wrote the authors.

Despite an overall downward trend, the news isn’t good for a few other cities: in particular, researchers calculate a 34.9 percent increase in Washington, D.C.’s murder rates over last year, and a 29.9 percent increase in Austin.

To estimate year-end crime and murder rates, researchers used raw data from individual police departments, interpreting incident-level data to be consistent with each city’s Uniform Crime Report data to the FBI for previous years. Nineteen cities provided complete data on crimes that occurred this year, and 29 cities contributed murder data.

To estimate year-end crime data, researchers used raw data from 19 cities on crimes that have occurred this year, interpreting incident-level data to be consistent with each cities’ UCR reports for previous years. The remaining 11 cities could not provide raw data for 2018. For rate calculations, the authors projected city population assuming the average rate of population growth for the past three years remained constant through 2018.

Overall, authors project a 2.9 percent decrease in crime rates, “essentially holding stable,” they wrote. “If this estimate holds, this group of cities will experience the lowest crime rate this year since at least 1990.”

Year-end data for 2017 issued by the FBI Uniform Crime Report is forthcoming.

Crime and Murder 2018: A Preliminary Analysis was published by the Brennan Center of Justice at the NYU School of Law. The report, authored by Ames C. Grawert, Adureh Onyekwere, and Cameron Kimble, can be found online here. This summary was prepared by TCR’s Deputy Editor-Investigations Victoria Mckenzie

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