Report: Urban Murder Rate Up for Second Year in a Row

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Receives Award From The Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York City
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions / Getty Images
• June 7, 2017 12:31 pm


The murder rate in America's 30 largest cities rose by a total of 13.1 percent in 2016, according to a new preliminary study from the Brennan Center for Justice.

The study marked the second year in a row that the Brennan Center has reported an increase in the urban murder rate. At the end of 2015, Brennan estimated that America's 30 largest cities saw a murder rate increase of 13.2 percent. This was then confirmed by the FBI's 2015 crime statistics, which found that "murder and non-negligent manslaughter" increased by 10.8 percent nationwide.

The 2016 study found that overall, crime across the 30 largest cities remained flat, increasing only 0.9 percent since 2015. This was consistent with Brennan's estimate in 2015, which found overall urban crime declining by 0.1 percent.

However, the violent crime rate beyond murders increased by 4.2 percent over 2016. Brennan found a 3.1 percent increase in urban violent crime at year end 2015 and the FBI found a 3.9 percent increase nationwide in the same year.

The report attributed the spike in murders to particular cities: Chicago could be responsible for 55.1 percent of the total increase, after the city's murder rate rose by 63 percent.

The violent crime rate's increase was also driven by the increase in Chicago, by 16.5 percent, and in Baltimore, by 18.6 percent. Cities like Los Angeles, San Antonio, Dallas and San Jose all saw increases of more than 10 percent in their violent crime rates.

But the study's authors Ames Grawert and James Cullen were quick to emphasize that crime, violent and otherwise, remained at 25-year lows. Violent crime is considered to have peaked in the early 1990s and has been in steady decline since then.

"This analysis finds that Americans are safer today than they have been at almost any time in the past 25 years," Grawert and Cullen wrote.

Although crime levels remain lower than their early 1990s peak, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in February that the trend's reversal over the past two years were "clear warning signs" that the "progress is now at risk."

"The latest FBI official data tell us that from 2014 to 2015, the violent crime rate in the U.S. increased by more than 3 percent—the largest one-year increase since 1991. The murder rate increased 11 percent—the largest increase since 1968.  The rape rate increased by over 4 percent, and the aggravated assault rate rose by nearly 4 percent," Sessions said.

"If this was a one-year spike, we might not worry too much. But the preliminary data for the first half of 2016 confirmed these trends." he continued.

"These numbers should trouble all of us. My worry is that this is not a ‘blip' or an anomaly, but the start of a dangerous new trend that could reverse the hard-won gains of the past four decades – gains that made America a safer and more prosperous place," Sessions said.