East St. Louis, Il., has the nation’s highest murder rate, report the Belleville (IL) News-Democrat and St. Louis Public Radio. The chances of being murdered in East St. Louis are 19 times greater than the national average. The national homicide rate is around 5 murders for 100,000 people; in East St. Louis, it’s 96 murders per 100,000, topping cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Washington, D.C. Only 25 percent of the murders are charged in criminal court, compared to a national average of 60 percent. There were 454 murders within the 14-square-mile border of East St. Louis from 2000 to 2018.
East St. Louis has a population of 26,000. Ninety-five percent are black. More than two-thirds of the city’s children live in poverty. The median household annual income is under $20,000. The unemployment rate is almost twice the national rate. The school system is ranked as one of the worst in the state. The public housing projects that are the most dangerous areas in the city. “The same kind of conditions that increase the likelihood of violence, like unsafe housing, failing schools, and lack of economic opportunity, also contribute to community trauma,” said Rachel Davis of the Prevention Institute, a California-based think tank that studies trauma associated with gun violence. During a stretch in the 1990s, the number of murders hovered around 70 a year when the population was 50,000. Today, there are 24 murders a year with half the population. The News-Democrat reviewed police and coroner’s reports, court records and national crime data, and interviewed victims, police, criminologists and prosecutors. In 2017 — after a spike of 37 murders — East St. Louis was selected to be part of the federal Project Safe Neighborhoods program. After a year of the project, the number of killings dropped to 24 in 2018. This year, the city is again on pace to hit the average number of murders — 24.