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Increase in Violent Crime: National Trend Driven by Local Politics?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Increase in Violent Crime: National Trend Driven by Local Politics?

The FBI released its Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report earlier this week and the bad news is that violent crime increased for the second consecutive year.

Looking at the January to June period, violent crime decreased from 2012-2013 and then again from 2013-2014. From 2014-2015, we experienced an increase of 1.7%. From 2015-2016? An increase of 5.3%. This includes increases in all categories of violent crime – murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery – compared to the first six months of 2015. 

We can’t determine the roots of the increase without additional data. What the existing data does reveal is that the increase in violent crime has not been experienced uniformly throughout the country.

Metropolitan counties experienced a larger increase in violent crime than non-metropolitan counties (6.3% to 1.6%, respectively). Cities with a million or more residents had the largest increase in violent crime from the same period last year (+9.7%). Cities with half a million to a just under a million residents experienced an increase of 5.2% in violent crime and smaller cities experienced a 4.3% increase. Large cities with a million or more residents were also the site of an increasing number of property crimes (+2.1%) while smaller cities saw marginal increases or even decreasing amounts of property crime. 

Some cities had a more severe increase in violent crime than others. Chicago suffered through 13,729 violent crimes (including 317 murders) in the first six months of 2016. That’s 503 per 100,000 residents – an increase of 97 violent crimes since the same time the prior year. 

Baltimore, a city with roughly one quarter as many residents as Chicago, had 5,176 violent crimes during early 2016. That is a rate of 833 per 100,000 residents and an increase of 153 points from the early 2015 rate. 

Not all major cities – or even all cities with historically high violent crime rates – had spikes as dramatic as Chicago and Baltimore. Detroit’s violent crime rate decreased from 861 per 100,000 residents in 2015 to 803 in early 2016. Houston went from 449 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in early 2015 to 509 per 100,000 in early 2016, and Dallas went from 333 to 367. Metropolitan Las Vegas went from 435 violent crimes per 100,000 residents to 465. 

While these are just a handful of cities from across the country, their citizens saw significantly different increases in violent crime rates during the first six months of 2016. This initial data indicates that while overall crime levels may simply be leveling off after several years of decline, local policies and events are an important factor in how bad things got in specific cities in early 2016.

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