US Murder Total Likely Down Four to Five Percent in 2018

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The U.S. murder total is on track for the largest one-year drop in five years, crime statistics analyst Jeff Asher writes in the New York Times. Asher bases his conclusion on a comparison of 2017 data and 2018 data for 66 large U.S. cities with populations over 250,000. Murder rose 23 percent nationally between 2014 and 2016 before leveling off in 2017. Major increases in murder in Chicago and Baltimore received much of the national attention, but the increase occurred throughout the nation. In cities in which data is available, murder has been down about 7 percent on average this year relative to the same point in 2017.

Estimating trends from a sample of cities can be tricky because big cities tend to overstate national trends. If murder is up substantially in big cities, the national murder rate is likely also to be up, but a little less so. If murder is substantially down in big cities, you can usually expect a smaller drop nationally. Last year, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found a 4.4 percent decline in 29 large cities for which data was available. The FBI’s national murder count was essentially unchanged. Murder should be down by around 4 percent to 5 percent nationally this year. So far this year, murder in Chicago is down 17 percent, accounting for about a third of the drop in the sample. Murder is also down substantially in cities like Baltimore, Charlotte, Louisville, and Memphis, which all experienced large rises in murder from 2014 to 2016/2017. Overall, far fewer people are murdered each year in the U.S. relative to the 1980s and 1990s. Murder remains up relative to just a few years ago, and the murder rate of about 5 per 100,000 will roughly be in line with 2009’s rate and half of what it was in 1980, the highest U.S. murder rate on record.

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