Survey of 30 U.S. Cities Shows Nearly 10 Percent Drop in Homicides in 2023 (2023)



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After a surge during the height of Covid, killings have fallen but remain well above prepandemic levels.

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Survey of 30 U.S. Cities Shows Nearly 10 Percent Drop in Homicides in 2023 (1)

By Tim Arango

In 2020, amid the disruptions of the pandemic and the social upheaval following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the United States saw the largest increase in its homicide rate in modern history. Now, more than three years after the start of the pandemic, the country is on track to record one of its largest — if not the largest — annual declines in homicides, according to a report released on Thursday.

Even so, violent crime is still considerably higher than just before the pandemic, the benchmark that police chiefs and city leaders are striving to return to, as cities remain awash in guns.

In the new report, the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice examined crime data from 30 U.S. cities — including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Denver — and found that through the first half of the year there were 202 fewer homicides, a drop of more than 9 percent. Still, homicides across those cities are 24 percent higher than in same period of 2019.

“I would call the result heartening,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who was the lead author of the report. “Not a cause for celebration. Most cities have not returned to the homicide levels that were prevailing just prior to the height of the pandemic. So we have a ways to go.”

The latest data at least offers a hopeful sign that the increases in violent crime during the pandemic were not the start of a new era of steadily rising crime, as many experts have worried. But the data is limited to the cities in which the council could obtain data, and the authors cautioned that for some categories only a few cities released statistics.

Gun assaults, for instance, declined 5.6 percent — a positive sign for gun violence overall — but that was based on only the 10 cities in the study that provided gun assault data. Robberies, burglaries and larcenies were also down. Car thefts, which have risen substantially in recent years, partially because of the ease in which teenagers have been able to steal Kia and Hyundai models, rose even further.

The council began tracking crime at the start of the pandemic, seeking to provide a timely snapshot of national trends and fill the void in comprehensive data from government agencies. The F.B.I., which typically releases national statistics in the fall for the prior year, has been hampered by a shift in 2021 to a new reporting system that saw several large cities, such as Chicago and New York, fail to submit data.

Just as criminologists struggle to reach a consensus to explain sudden increases in crime like the United States saw in 2020, concrete explanations for declines in crime are similarly elusive.

“It’s like explaining the score at halftime,” said Jeff Asher, a crime analyst based in New Orleans who tracks homicides across American cities and levels of law enforcement staffing. “Even if you are up by two touchdowns, it’s still halftime. And so understanding that context makes it hard to say, ‘Oh it’s because it’s x, y or z.’ We don’t have a strong understanding yet. And it’ll be a little while until we do have an understanding.”

But many agree that the disruptions of the pandemic — the social isolation, the closure of schools and jobs lost — likely led to an increase in crime. More contentious is an unproven theory cited by some experts that amid the social unrest that followed the murder of Mr. Floyd, officers in some places pulled back from enforcement and some citizens, distrustful of law enforcement, stopped working with police.

Notably, violent crime has fallen at a time when many police departments are smaller than they were before the pandemic. While the defund the police movement, which grew out of the Floyd protests, lost momentum as crime rose, police staffing levels declined in many cities as officers retired or quit and as many departments struggled to recruit new officers in a competitive U.S. job market. The result for some major cities has been an unintended experiment in what a smaller police department looks like.

Los Angeles, for example, is down about 1,000 officers since 2019 — it had about 9,200 officers at the end of last year — and hundreds of civilian workers. And yet homicides are down more than 20 percent this year, and overall gun violence has fallen at a similar clip.

“We are still not done with getting back to crime levels, community safety levels, that we saw just four years ago,” Chief Michel Moore of the Los Angeles Police Department said in an interview. He added: “We’re not home free because of the persistence of gun violence, and the persistence of too many guns in too many hands.”

With fewer officers, Mr. Moore said the department was relying on overtime and on focusing resources on the most serious violent and property crimes. He said that the department was not responding as quickly as it used to for lesser issues, like neighborhood disputes or loud, late-night parties. The department’s goal is to hire 700 more officers and 300 more civilians this year.

“The service levels have been impacted,” he said, adding that the change has come at the expense of community members who typically interact with the police only on that type of lower level issue. That “gives me concern because it undermines their sense of confidence and their sense of safety in the department, and in government,” he said.

A similar dynamic of smaller departments and falling crime has also played out in Philadelphia, which had about 5,800 officers at the end of last year, more than 700 fewer than in 2019. The city saw homicides decline more than 20 percent and has spent millions of dollars in overtime.

In Minneapolis, whose homicide data is not included in the council’s report, violent crime is also down substantially, and the department has about 300 fewer officers than in 2019. To maintain the reductions in crime, the department has said it would focus its limited resources this summer on crime hot spots in the city.

Even with the increases in recent years, violent crime is still far below its historical peaks reached in the early 1990s. In periods of the last century when murders and violent crime surged, policymakers responded with ever harsher criminal justice policies: mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, tough new laws for juvenile offenders and massive increases in policing, all of which led to mass incarceration.

And as crime rose in recent years, some mayors and governors did respond with tough-on-crime rhetoric. But, at least so far, there have not been major policy shifts toward more punitive measures like during the 1980s and 1990s, said Jeffrey A. Fagan, an expert on crime and policing at Columbia Law School. Efforts to overhaul bail systems are continuing and progressive prosecutors are being elected in many cities, which, he said, “showed that you really didn’t need these harsh measures that were put in place to have violence rates and murder rates decline.”

Tim Arango is a Los Angeles correspondent. Before moving to California, he spent seven years as Baghdad bureau chief and also reported on Turkey. He joined The Times in 2007 as a media reporter. More about Tim Arango

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What is the definition of a homicide? ›

Homicide is a manner of death, when one person causes the death of another. Not all homicide is murder, as some deaths caused by another person are manslaughter, and some are lawful; such as when justified by an affirmative defense, like insanity or self-defense.

Are homicide rates in the US _____ higher than other developed countries? ›

The homicide rate in the US was 7.5 times higher than the homicide rate in the other high-income countries combined, which was largely attributable to a firearm homicide rate that was 24.9 times higher. The overall firearm death rate was 11.4 times higher in the US than in other high-income countries.

How likely are you to be murdered in the UK? ›

Compared with most other crimes, the homicide rate remains very low, with 11.7 homicides recorded per million population during the year ending March 2022.

What are three types of homicide and explain the difference between them? ›

First-degree murders are the most serious and punished accordingly, involving premeditated murder and intentional murder. Second-degree murders are the next step down but still involve intent to harm or to kill. Third-degree murders are the lowest level of criminal homicide but can still result in serious sentences.

What are the causes of homicide? ›

Homicide is caused by mix of factors at the individual, relationship, community and societal levels. Demographic structure is a well-established risk factor for homicide. Societies where young people – particularly young males – make up a greater share of the population tend to have higher homicide rates.

Who has the number 1 crime rate in America? ›

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, the 5 most hazardous states in the U.S. in 2023 are: Louisiana: Overall Crime Rate of 537.5/100,000 people, making it the most dangerous. Mississippi: Overall Crime Rate of 413.2/100,000 people.

What region has highest homicide rate? ›

The states with the highest murder rates in the United States are Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alaska, Maryland, Oklahoma, Mississippi and North Carolina, but it is the District of Columbia that has the highest murder rate in the US, with a rate of 49.2 murder per 100,000 people.

What are the safest countries in the world by homicide rate? ›

Countries Ranked by Safety
#CountryMurder Rate
1Iceland1.47 per 100k
2New Zealand
3Ireland0.69 per 100k
4Austria0.72 per 100k
81 more rows

Why is stabbing common in UK? ›

A “long list” of things drive knife crime, says Green. “Social exclusion, poverty, deprivation, inequality, racism – a whole number of factors make people vulnerable to being drawn into crime and, ultimately, violence.”

How many mass shootings in 2023? ›

Signs and flowers are pictured at a makeshift memorial for victims of a 4th of July mass shooting in downtown Highland Park, Illinois on July 6, 2022.

Does England have manslaughter? ›

Under English law, according to R v Creamer, a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when he or she intends an unlawful act that is likely to do harm to the person, and death results which was neither foreseen nor intended. The name for this crime is 'manslaughter by an unlawful and dangerous act' (MUDA).

What is the definition of homicide in the Black's Law Dictionary? ›

HOMICIDE Definition & Legal Meaning

The killing of any human creature. 4 Bl. Comm. 177. The killing of onehuman being by the act, procurement, or omission of another.

What are the three types of criminal homicide quizlet? ›

Criminal homicides were divided into three offenses: murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter.

What is an example of manslaughter? ›

Here are some potential examples of involuntary manslaughter:
  • Someone engages in street racing, loses control of the car, and kills someone.
  • A person drives drunk and kills a bystander.
  • A driver is driving far over the speed limit and kills someone.
Apr 11, 2022

What is the definition of homicide quizlet? ›

Homicide. The killing of one human being by another human being, either lawfully or unlawfully. Homicide includes murder and manslaughter (unlawful) and excusable and justifiable (lawful) homicides. Murder.

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