C R I M E t re n d s : 1 9 9 0 - 2 0 1 6

Matthew Friedman, Ames C. Grawert, and James Cullen

Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law
ABOUT THE BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE

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ABOUT THE BRENNAN CENTER’S JUSTICE PROGRAM

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Matthew Friedman is the Economics Fellow in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. He brings a
quantitatively rigorous approach to the study of issues related to mass incarceration. He has researched
diverse topics related to the economics of crime, including the efficacy of certain types of policing, the
impact of legal sanctions on recidivism, and the economic determinants of crime. He holds degrees
in economics and broadcast journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder and a doctorate in
economics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Ames C. Grawert is the John L. Neu Justice Counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. He leads
the program’s law and economics research team. Previously, he was an assistant district attorney in the
Appeals Bureau of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, and an associate at Mayer Brown LLP.
He holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law, and a B.A. from Rice University.

James Cullen is a Research and Program Associate in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. As part of
the program’s law and economics research team, he performs economic, statistical, and policy research
and analysis on issues related to mass incarceration. He holds a B.A. in economics and political science
from the University of Chicago.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The Brennan Center gratefully acknowledges Laura and John Arnold, Marguerite Casey Foundation,
Democracy Alliance Partners, Jason Flom, Ford Foundation, The Margaret and Daniel Loeb – Third
Point Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Public Welfare Foundation, Rockefeller Family Fund,
and William B. Wiener, Jr. Foundation for their support of the Justice Program.

The authors are grateful to Inimai Chettiar for her strategic guidance of the report’s analysis and
methodology, and to Michael Waldman and John Kowal for their insights. They also thank Noah
Atchison, Rahimah Faiq, and Adureh Onyekwere for their research assistance; and Rebecca Autrey,
Theresa Jefferson, Jim Lyons, Erik Opsal, and Jeanine Plant-Chirlin for their editing and communications
assistance.
TABLE OF CONTENTS

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1

I. CRIME 2

II. VIOLENT CRIME  5

III. MURDER 8

CONCLUSION12

APPENDIX A: CRIME RATES BY CITY 13

METHODOLOGY28

ENDNOTES29
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This report examines crime trends at the national and city level during the last quarter century.1 It covers the
years 1990 through 2016, as crime rates peaked in 1991. It analyzes data from the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and from police departments from the nation’s 30 largest cities. Data for 2016 are estimated, as
full year data was not available at the time of publication.

This report concludes that although there are some troubling increases in crime in specific cities, there is no
evidence of a national crime wave. Key findings:*
 Overall Trends: Crime has dropped precipitously in the last quarter-century. While crime may fall in
some years and rise in others, annual variations are not indicative of long-term trends. While murder
rates have increased in some cities, this report finds no evidence that the hard-won public safety
gains of the last two and a half decades are being reversed.
 Overall Crime Rate: The national crime rate peaked in 1991 at 5,856 crimes per 100,000 people,
and has generally been declining ever since. In 2015, crime fell for the 14th year in a row. Estimates
based on preliminary data for 2016 indicate that the overall crime rate will remain stable at 2,857
offenses per 100,000, rising less than 1 percent from 2015. Today’s crime rate is less than half of
what it was in 1991.
 Violent Crime: The violent crime rate also peaked in 1991 at 716 violent crimes per 100,000, and
now stands at 366, about half that rate. However, the violent crime rate, like rates of murder and
overall crime, has risen and fallen during this time. For example, violent crime registered small
increases in 2005 and 2006, and then resumed its downward trend. In 2015, violent crime increased
by 2.9 percent nationally and by 2 percent in the nation’s 30 largest cities. Preliminary data for 2016
also show a greater increase in the national violent crime rate, up 6.3 percent, and a smaller jump in
the 30 largest cities, 2.4 percent. Crime is often driven by local factors, so rates in cities may differ
from national averages.
 Murder: From 1991 to 2016, the murder rate fell by roughly half, from 9.8 killings per 100,000 to
5.3. The murder rate rose last year by an estimated 7.8 percent. With violence at historic lows,
modest increases in the murder rate may appear large in percentage terms. Similarly, murder rates in
the 30 largest cities increased by 13.2 percent in 2015 and an estimated 14 percent in 2016. These
increases were highly concentrated. More than half of the 2015 urban increase (51.8 percent) was
caused by just three cities, Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. And Chicago alone was
responsible for 43.7 percent of the rise in urban murders in 2016. It is important to remember the
relatively small base from which the percentage increases are calculated.
 City-Level Analysis: Appendix A provides detail on crime in each of the nation’s 30 largest cities.
The data demonstrate that crime rates and trends vary widely from city to city. In New York, for
example, crime remains at all-time lows. Other cities, such as Washington, D.C., have seen murder
rise and then fall recently, yet the rate is still lower than it was a decade ago. However, there is a small
group of cities, such as Chicago, where murder remains persistently high, even by historical
standards.

* For national crime data from 1990 to 2013, the authors drew on the FBI’s UCR Data Tool; for 2014 and 2015,
they used the 2015 edition of the FBI’s Crime in the United States. Where these sources conflicted, the authors chose to
rely on Crime in the United States, which contains more updated information. See Email from Federal Bureau of

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 1
I. CRIME
Figure 1 shows the national crime rate from 1990 to 2016. This graph includes Part I index crimes tracked by
the FBI: aggravated assault, murder, and robbery (collectively, “violent crime”); and burglary, larceny, and
motor vehicle theft (“property crime”).†

Figure 1: Crime Rate in the United States (1990-2016)

7,000

6,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

5,000

4,000

3,000

2,000

1,000

0

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports (1990-2015) and Brennan Center Analysis (2016).2

(continued…)

Investigation, Crime Statistics Management Unit, to the authors (Mar. 30, 2016, 01:49 EST) (on file with the authors).
Additionally, national murder rates in this report were rounded to the second decimal point for all calculations, to
eliminate the distorting effect of rounding. As a result, national rates and comparisons in this report may not appear to
match top-line numbers in older FBI publications. Due to the inclusion of more recent data, data in this report
may also not exactly match data in previous Brennan Center reports.
† Rape is also a Part I index crime; however, the FBI recently changed the definition of this offense, making historical
comparisons difficult. For that reason, rape data is not included in this analysis. Additionally, while the FBI does track
some data on some drug offenses, they are considered Part II index crimes, for which only arrest data is available. Since
arrest data do not accurately indicate the number of crimes committed, drug crimes are also omitted from this analysis.

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 2
Key findings:
 America’s crime rate remains at historic lows after peaking most recently in 1991. (Before that, the
highest crime rate recorded since 1960 was 1980, when crime was at about the same level as 1991.) In
the ensuing 25 years, crime has largely fallen steadily, and now is about half what it once was,
declining from 1991’s rate of 5,856 crimes per 100,000 to 2016’s estimated rate of 2,857.
 While crime peaked nationally in 1991, in the 30 largest cities, the overall crime rate was higher in
1990, at 10,244 crimes per 100,000 people. Since then, the crime rate in these cities has declined by
63.9 percent, reaching 3,702 crimes per 100,000 people in 2016.
 The overall crime rate has fallen for 14 of the last 15 years. The last increase was in 2001, when the
overall rate grew by around 1 percent.
 Estimates for 2016 are similar to the last few years, with the overall crime rate remaining stable (an
increase of less than 1 percent).
 Even though the long-term trend since 1991 has been downward, there have been some years of
increase. Crime can fluctuate up and down in the short term without disrupting long-term trends.

City trends:

Most cities show a trend toward greater safety, though not all cities have seen crime decline evenly or at the
same rate, as illustrated by the examples in Figure 2.

 In many cities, the downward trend in crime has been very rapid. In New York, for example, overall
crime declined markedly since 1990, despite a brief swell in 2012. Today, the crime rate in New York
is actually lower than the national crime rate.
 Crime has declined at different rates across cities. In Philadelphia, crime has moved downward more
slowly, and there have been intermittent increases, such as in 1998 and 2006. In Detroit, crime has
fallen dramatically since 1991 despite intermittent spikes, in 2006 and 2010. The history of the past
25 years shows that some annual fluctuations are to be expected without disrupting the overall trend.
 Some cities face unique challenges. In Baltimore, crime continued to rise until 1995, and then fell
rapidly. Though Baltimore’s murder rate has increased (see Section III), its property crime rate has
decreased, leaving its general crime rate barely above historic lows.

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 3
Figure 2: Crime in Select Cities (1990-2016)

Baltimore Crime Rate Philadelphia Crime Rate
14,000 14,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
12,000 12,000
10,000 10,000
8,000 8,000
6,000 6,000
4,000 4,000
2,000 2,000
0 0

New York Crime Rate Detroit Crime Rate
14,000 14,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People

12,000 12,000
10,000 10,000
8,000 8,000
6,000 6,000
4,000 4,000
2,000 2,000
0 0

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports (1990-2015) and Brennan Center Analysis (2016).3

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II. VIOLENT CRIME
Figure 3 shows the national violent crime rate from 1990 to 2016. Violent crime in this report includes three
Index I crimes tracked by the FBI: aggravated assault, murder, and robbery.‡

Figure 3: Violent Crime Rate in the United States (1990-2016)

800

700

600
Violent Crimes per 100,000 People

500

400

300

200

100

0

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports (1990-2015) and Brennan Center Analysis (2016).4

‡ The FBI defines robbery as “taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a
person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.” Aggravated assault is
defined as “an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily
injury.” UNITED STATES DEP’T OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, CRIME IN THE UNITED STATES,
2015: VIOLENT CRIME (2016), https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/offenses-known-to-
law-enforcement/violent-crime. For additional background on index crimes tracked in this report, see footnote, page 1.

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 5
Key findings:

 The national violent crime rate remains near the bottom of a 25-year decline. Violent crime reached
its peak in 1991, when the rate was 716 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The estimated violent
crime rate for 2016 is 366 per 100,000 — a 49 percent decline from 1991. Today, the national violent
crime rate is just below what it was in 1971. Violent crime in the nation’s 30 largest cities has declined
by 63.6 percent since the 1991 peak.
 Nationally, the violent crime rate increased by 2.9 percent in 2015, and 6.3 percent in 2016. This
increase was partially explained by an increase in aggravated assault, which is the most common
violent crime tracked by the FBI. Notably, robbery rates actually declined in 2015.
 Violent crime has not declined uninterrupted. Nationally, the rate went up about 1.5 percent between
2004 and 2005, and then another 2.4 percent in 2006. Then, in 2007, it went down 1.5 percent.
Similarly, the rate held stable from 2011 to 2012, and then continued its decline in 2013. Annual
fluctuations in the overall decline of violent crime are not uncommon.

City trends:

As with overall crime trends, cities have had varied experiences, as shown by Figure 4.
 Several cities have seen violent crime decline significantly, despite isolated increases. In Boston, for
example, violent crime was already falling in 1991 and continued to fall until an uptick in 2005 and
2006. Yet, the next year, violent crime resumed its decline in the city.
 Not all cities have seen violent crime decline. In Las Vegas, the violent crime rate has been especially
volatile. The rate surged between 1990 and 1994, then steeply declined until 2000. Yet, from 2000 to
2007 crime followed a largely upward trajectory, reaching another peak in 2007. Then crime fell until
2011, and followed another largely upward trajectory until 2015. Yet, the estimated 2016 rate
dropped nearly 13 percent from 2015, and now is roughly at the same rate as in 1998.
 Other cities have seen violence rise in recent years: Houston and Los Angeles are two examples.
While increases should not be minimized, it is also important to understand how contemporary
trends compare to long-term history. Los Angeles is estimated to have a violent crime rate of 640 per
100,000 in 2016, an increase of nearly 60 percent since 2013, when the rate was 406 per 100,000. Yet,
2013 marked the all-time lowest rate in Los Angeles. With the estimated growth in violent crime, the
Los Angeles rate in 2016 will be roughly what it was in 2008, and down 74 percent since its peak in
1991. In Houston, too, violent crime rose by 7.8 percent in 2016, but was down 35 percent since its
1991 peak.

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 6
Figure 4: Violent Crime in Select Cities (1990-2016)

Boston Violent Crime Rate Las Vegas Violent Crime Rate
3,000 3,000
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People
2,500 2,500

2,000 2,000

1,500 1,500

1,000 1,000

500 500

0 0

Los Angeles Violent Crime Rate Houston Violent Crime Rate
3,000 3,000
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

2,500 2,500

2,000 2,000

1,500 1,500

1,000 1,000

500 500

0 0

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports (1990-2015) and Brennan Center Analysis (2016).5

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III. MURDER
Figure 5 shows the national murder rate between 1990 and 2016. Murder is defined by the FBI as the “willful
(nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another.Ӥ

Figure 5: Murder Rate in the United States (1990-2016)

12

10
Murders per 100,000 People

8

6

4

2

0

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports (1990-2015) and Brennan Center Analysis (2016).6

§ Other types of homicides, such as negligent manslaughter, are not included in this category, because they are not
tracked as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. UNITED STATES DEP’T OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF
INVESTIGATION, CRIME IN THE UNITED STATES, 2015: MURDER (2016), https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-
u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/murder.

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 8
Key findings:

 After peaking in 1991 at 9.8 murders per 100,000, the national murder rate remains near the bottom
of a 25-year trend. In 2016, the estimated murder rate was 5.3 per 100,000, a decline of 46 percent.
The murder rate in the 30 largest cities has fallen faster than the national rate, declining by more than
60 percent since 1991, from 28.8 to 11.4 killings per 100,000 people.
 The national murder rate rose 10 percent in 2015, to 4.9 per 100,000, and is estimated to increase by
around 8 percent in 2016 to 5.3. These increases place the national murder rate around 2008 levels.
In the 30 largest cities, murder rates rose by 13.2 percent in 2015, and 14 percent in 2016. Even so,
today’s “inner cities” are safer than at almost any point in the past.
 Rising murder rates in large cities have also been highly concentrated. In 2015, more than half the
increase in murders in the 30 largest cities (51.8 percent) was caused by Baltimore, Chicago, and
Washington, D.C. In 2016, killings in Chicago accounted for nearly half (43.7 percent) of the
increase. This is indicative of localized problems in some cities, but not evidence of a national crime
wave.
 Like overall crime and violent crime, the murder rate has not declined evenly. It fell rapidly from
1991 to 2000, and then did not change much for the next several years. From 2000 to 2007, the rate
varied from 5.5 per 100,000 to 5.8. The rate began falling again in 2008, and fell to 4.4 in 2014, the
lowest homicide rates since at least 1960.

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 9
City trends:

Figure 7, on the next page, shows that while murder rates have declined in major cities, the progress has not
always been even.

 Even when murder rates have generally declined, they have varied from year to year, increasing at
some times and decreasing at others. For example, in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., murder
increased significantly in 2015, before declining in 2016. In other cities, such as Charlotte, murder
decreased consistently, despite isolated increases. This variation makes it difficult to determine
whether increases in any given year represent normal fluctuations, or a reversal of long-term trends.

 In some cities, murder rates have decreased significantly and remain low. New York continues to be
one of the safest large cities. Murder rates were already declining in 1990, and have fallen by 87.3
percent since then. Today, New York’s murder rate is well below the national average. In Los
Angeles, the murder rate is also down 74.7 percent since 1991, despite a slight increase in 2016. And
in Washington, D.C., even with increases in 2015, the murder rate is down 75.7 percent since 1991.

 In 2015 and 2016, several cities — especially Chicago — saw their murder rates increase significantly.
The distorting effect of this concentrated increase is illustrated in Figure 6, which breaks down the
total increase in murders between 2014 and 2016 by city. As shown below, Baltimore, Chicago, and
Houston together account for around half of the increase in murder in major cities between 2014 and
2016.

Figure 6: Breakdown of 2014-2016 Murder Increase, by City

29%

Chicago
Baltimore
Houston

10%

10%

Source: Brennan Center analysis.

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 10
Figure 7: Murder in Select Cities (1990-2016)

Baltimore Murder Rate Charlotte Murder Rate
90 90
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People
80 80
70 70
60 60
50 50
40 40
30 30
20 20
10 10
0 0

Chicago Murder Rate Los Angeles Murder Rate
90 90
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

80 80
70 70
60 60
50 50
40 40
30 30
20 20
10 10
0 0

New York Murder Rate Washington, D.C. Murder Rate
90 90
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

80 80
70 70
60 60
50 50
40 40
30 30
20 20
10 10
0 0

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports (1990-2015) and Brennan Center Analysis (2016).7

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 11
CONCLUSION
Americans today are safer than they have been at almost any time in the past 25 years. Since 2014, some cities
have seen increases in murder, causing increases in national rates of murder and violence. These spikes in
urban violence are a serious cause for concern. But history shows these trends do not necessarily signal the
start of a new nationwide crime wave, and even with these increases, crime and murder rates remain near
historic lows. There is no evidence of a national crime wave.

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 12
APPENDIX A: CRIME, VIOLENCE, AND MURDER BY CITY

This section collects detailed graphs on crime trends in each of the 30 major cities studied in previous
Brennan Center reports. For some cities, graphs stop at 2014 or 2015, as more updated data were not
available.

For an explanation of the data underlying these graphs, see the Methodology.

Austin, Texas

Austin Crime Rate Austin Violent Crime Rate
25,000 800

Violent crimes per 100,000 People
Crimes per 100,000 People

700
20,000
600
15,000 500
400
10,000 300
200
5,000
100
0 0

Austin Murder Rate
12
Murders per 100,000 People

10

8

6

4

2

0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 13
Baltimore, Maryland Boston, Massachusetts

Baltimore Crime Rate Boston Crime Rate
14,000 14,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
12,000 12,000
10,000 10,000
8,000 8,000
6,000 6,000
4,000 4,000
2,000 2,000
0 0

Baltimore Violent Crime Rate Boston Violent Crime Rate
3,500 2,500
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

3,000
2,000
2,500
2,000 1,500

1,500 1,000
1,000
500
500
0 0

Baltimore Murder Rate Boston Murder Rate
60 30
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

50 25

40 20

30 15

20 10

10 5

0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 14
Charlotte, North Carolina Chicago, Illinois

Charlotte Crime Rate Chicago Crime Rate
14,000 12,000

Crimes per 100,000 People
Crimes per 100,000 People

12,000 10,000
10,000
8,000
8,000
6,000
6,000
4,000
4,000
2,000 2,000

0 0

Charlotte Violent Crime Rate Chicago Violent Crime Rate
2,500 3,500
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Vioelnt crimes per 100,000 People

3,000
2,000
2,500
1,500 2,000

1,000 1,500
1,000
500
500
0 0

Charlotte Murder Rate Chicago Murder Rate
35 35
Murders per 100,000 People
Murders per 100,000 People

30 30
25 25
20 20
15 15
10 10
5 5
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 15
Dallas, Texas Denver, Colorado

Dallas Crime Rate Denver Crime Rate
18,000 9,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
16,000 8,000
14,000 7,000
12,000 6,000
10,000 5,000
8,000 4,000
6,000 3,000
4,000 2,000
2,000 1,000
0 0

Dallas Violent Crime Rate Denver Violent Crime Rate
3,000 1,200
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crime per 100,000 People

2,500 1,000
2,000 800
1,500 600
1,000 400
500 200
0 0

Dallas Murder Rate Denver Murder Rate
60 25
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

50 20
40
15
30
10
20

10 5

0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 16
Detroit, Michigan Fort Worth, Texas

Detroit Crime Rate Detroit Crime Rate
14,000 14,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
12,000 12,000
10,000 10,000
8,000 8,000
6,000 6,000
4,000 4,000
2,000 2,000
0 0

Detroit Violent Crime Rate Ft. Worth Violent Crime Rate
1,200 2,500
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

1,000 2,000
800
1,500
600
1,000
400

200 500

0 0

Detroit Murder Rate Ft. Worth Murder Rate
70 45
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

60 40
35
50
30
40 25
30 20
15
20
10
10 5
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 17
Houston, Texas Jacksonville, Florida

Houston Crime Rate Jacksonville Crime Rate
12,000 12,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
10,000 10,000

8,000 8,000

6,000 6,000

4,000 4,000

2,000 2,000

0 0

Houston Violent Crime Rate Jacksonville Violent Crime Rate
1,800 2,000
Violent crimes per 100,000 People
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

1,600 1,800
1,400 1,600
1,200 1,400
1,000 1,200
1,000
800
800
600 600
400 400
200 200
0 0

Houston Murder Rate Jacksonville Murder Rate
40 30
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

35
25
30
20
25
20 15
15
10
10
5
5
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 18
Las Vegas, Nevada Los Angeles, California

Las Vegas Crime Rate Los Angeles Crime Rate
9,000 12,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
8,000
10,000
7,000
6,000 8,000
5,000
6,000
4,000
3,000 4,000
2,000
2,000
1,000
0 0

Las Vegas Violent Crime Rate Los Angeles Violent Crime Rate
1,400 3,000
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

1,200 2,500
1,000
2,000
800
1,500
600
1,000
400
200 500

0 0

Las Vegas Murder Rate Los Angeles Murder Rate
25 35
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

30
20
25
15 20

10 15
10
5
5
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 19
Louisville, Kentucky Memphis, Tennessee

Louisville Crime Rate Memphis Crime Rate
6,000 12,000

Crimes per 100,000 People
Crimes per 100,000 People

5,000 10,000

4,000 8,000

3,000 6,000

2,000 4,000

1,000 2,000

0 0

Louisville Violent Crime Rate Memphis Violent Crime Rate
700 2,500
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

600
2,000
500
400 1,500

300 1,000
200
500
100
0 0

Louisville Murder Rate Memphis Murder Rate
16 35
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

14 30
12 25
10
20
8
15
6
4 10
2 5
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 20
Nashville, Tennessee New Orleans, Louisiana

Nashville Crime Rate New Orleans Crime Rate
12,000 14,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
10,000 12,000
10,000
8,000
8,000
6,000
6,000
4,000
4,000
2,000 2,000
0 0

Nashville Violent Crime Rate New Orleans Violent Crime Rate
2,000 2,500
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

1,800
1,600 2,000
1,400
1,200 1,500
1,000
800 1,000
600
400 500
200
0 0

Nashville Murder Rate New Orleans Murder Rate
25 100
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

90
20 80
70
15 60
50
10 40
30
5 20
10
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 21
New York, New York Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

New York Crime Rate Oklahoma City Crime Rate
12,000 14,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
10,000 12,000
10,000
8,000
8,000
6,000
6,000
4,000
4,000
2,000 2,000
0 0

New York Violent Crime Rate Oklahoma City Violent Crime Rate
2,500 1,400
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

1,200
2,000
1,000
1,500 800

1,000 600
400
500
200
0 0

New York Murder Rate Oklahoma City Murder Rate
35 60
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

30 50
25
40
20
30
15
20
10
5 10

0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 22
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Phoenix, Arizona

Philadelphia Crime Rate Phoenix Crime Rate
8,000 12,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
7,000
10,000
6,000
8,000
5,000
4,000 6,000
3,000
4,000
2,000
2,000
1,000
0 0

Philadelphia Violent Crime Rate Phoenix Violent Crime Rate
1,800 1,200
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

1,600
1,000
1,400
1,200 800
1,000
600
800
600 400
400
200
200
0 0

Philadelphia Murder Rate Phoenix Murder Rate
35 25
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

30
20
25
20 15

15 10
10
5
5
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 23
Portland, Oregon San Antonio, Texas

Portland Crime Rate San Antonio Crime Rate
14,000 14,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
12,000 12,000
10,000 10,000
8,000 8,000
6,000 6,000
4,000 4,000
2,000 2,000
0 0

Portland Violent Crime Rate San Antonio Violent Crime Rate
2,000 900
Violent crimes per 100,00 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

1,800 800
1,600 700
1,400 600
1,200
500
1,000
400
800
600 300
400 200
200 100
0 0

Portland Murder Rate San Antonio Murder Rate
14 25
Murders per 100,000 People
Murders per 100,000 People

12
20
10
8 15

6 10
4
5
2
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 24
San Diego, California San Francisco, California

San Diego Crime Rate San Francisco Crime Rate
10,000 12,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
9,000
8,000 10,000
7,000 8,000
6,000
5,000 6,000
4,000
3,000 4,000
2,000 2,000
1,000
0 0

San Diego Violent Crime Rate San Francisco Violent Crime Rate
1,400 2,000
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

1,800
1,200
1,600
1,000 1,400
800 1,200
1,000
600 800
400 600
400
200
200
0 0

San Diego Murder Rate San Francisco Murder Rate
16 20
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

14 18
16
12
14
10 12
8 10
6 8
6
4
4
2 2
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 25
San Jose, California Seattle, Washington

San Jose Crime Rate Seattle Crime Rate
6,000 14,000
Crimes per 100,000 People

Crimes per 100,000 People
5,000 12,000
10,000
4,000
8,000
3,000
6,000
2,000
4,000
1,000 2,000
0 0

San Jose Violent Crime Rate Seattle Violent Crime Rate
800 2,000
Violent crimes per 100,000 People

Violent crimes per 100,000 People

700 1,800
1,600
600
1,400
500 1,200
400 1,000
300 800
600
200
400
100 200
0 0

San Jose Murder Rate Seattle Murder Rate
7 14
Murders per 100,000 People

Murders per 100,000 People

6 12
5 10
4 8
3 6
2 4
1 2
0 0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 26
Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. Crime Rate Washington, D.C. Violent Crime Rate
14,000 3,500

Violent crimes per 1000,000 People
Crimes per 100,000 People

12,000 3,000
10,000 2,500
8,000 2,000
6,000 1,500
4,000 1,000
2,000 500
0 0

Washington, D.C. Murder Rate
90
Murders per 100,000 People

80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 27
METHODOLOGY

National Crime Data

National data in this report are collected from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). “Overall crime”
includes the following UCR Part I offenses: aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, murder,
and robbery. “Violent crime” is defined as aggravated assault, murder, and robbery. “Property crime”
includes burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft.

Rape is also a Part I index crime; however, the FBI recently changed the definition of this offense, making
historical comparisons difficult. For that reason, rape data is not included in this analysis. Additionally, while
the FBI does track some data on some drug offenses, they are considered Part II index crimes, for which only
arrest data is available. Since arrest data do not accurately indicate the number of crimes committed, drug
crimes are also omitted from this analysis.

For national data on crime, violent crime, and murder rates between 1990 and 2013, the authors drew on the
UCR Data Tool; for 2014 and 2015, they drew on the 2015 edition of Crime in the United States. Where these
sources conflicted, as in 2014, the authors chose to rely on Crime in the United States, which has been more
recently updated.8 As a result, national rates and comparisons for 2014 and 2015 reported here may not
appear to match top-line numbers in FBI publications.

UCR data have not been released for all of 2016; instead, the FBI has only released preliminary data covering
the first six months.9 Because some jurisdictions do not report data at the midyear mark, and then submit
full-year data later on, year-end crime and murder rates are different from, and generally higher than, crime
rates reported at midyear. To account for this divergence, the authors calculated the average deviation
between previous midyear and final reports for the last five years, and applied that to the 2016 midyear figure
to estimate a final year figure.

To calculate all crime rates, the authors used population data from the UCR through 2015. For 2016
population estimates, the authors applied the average growth rate over that last five years to the 2015
population for each city.

City Level Crime Data

Crime data comes from the UCR for the years 1990 through 2015. Data for 2016 were collected by the
authors from city police departments, or from reports by the Major City Chiefs Association.10

At the time of publication, only some of these cities reported full-year data; others released data only through
the first half of the year, or through the third quarter. To estimate city crime rates for 2016, first, the authors
divided the number of crimes that occurred in each city in 2015, according to the UCR, by the number of
crimes committed year-to-date in 2015 according to city CompStat sources. That ratio helps “standardize”
city data against the FBI baseline. Next, that ratio was multiplied by the number of crimes that have been
committed in the city by the same point in 2016. For example, suppose a city reported 100 murders in 2015,
according to FBI data. If the same city experienced 60 murders between January 1 and November 1, 2015,
according to local police data, and 70 murders between January 1 and November 1, 2016, this method would
project a year-end murder count of 116.67, rounded to 117. This method is an empirically accepted way to
create rough projections, but is influenced by last year’s crime trends.

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 28
ENDNOTES
1 For previous Brennan Center research on crime in the United States, see MATTHEW FRIEDMAN, AMES GRAWERT, &
JAMES CULLEN, BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE, CRIME IN 2016: UPDATED ANALYSIS (2016),
https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/crime-2016-updated-analysis; AMES GRAWERT & JAMES CULLEN, BRENNAN
CTR. FOR JUSTICE, CRIME IN 2015: A FINAL ANALYSIS (2016), https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/crime-2015-
final-analysis; OLIVER ROEDER ET AL., BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE, WHAT CAUSED THE CRIME DECLINE? (2015),
https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/what-caused-crime-decline.
2 For data through 2013, see UNITED STATES DEP’T OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, UNIFORM
CRIME REPORTING STATISTICS, STATE AND NATIONAL CRIME ESTIMATES BY YEAR (1985-2014),
https://www.ucrdatatool.gov/Search/Crime/State/StateCrime.cfm (select “State by state and national estimates,” and
on the next page, select “United States-Total” from the first list, “Violent crime rates” and “Property crime rates” from
the second, and “1990” to “2013” from the third). For crime data on 2014 and 2015, see UNITED STATES DEP’T OF
JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, CRIME IN THE UNITED STATES, 2015 tbl. 1 (2016),
https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/tables/table-1. For crime data on 2016, see the
Methodology. The authors chose to rely on Crime in the United States, 2015 for data on 2014 and 2015 because it has been
more recently updated. See Email from Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime Statistics Management Unit, to the
authors (Mar. 30, 2016, 01:49 EST) (on file with the authors.
3 Unlike the national data discussed in the previous footnote, agency-level data in Crime in the United States does not
included revisions to the previous year’s totals. Therefore, for data through 2014, see UNITED STATES DEP’T OF JUSTICE,
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, UNIFORM CRIME REPORTING STATISTICS, LOCAL LEVEL REPORTED CRIME
(1985-2012), http://www.ucrdatatool.gov/Search/Crime/Local/LocalCrime.cfm (for each city, first select “Single
agency reported crime,” and then select the corresponding state from the drop-down box, and the municipality size
from the list. On the next page, select the specific city agency, “Violent crime rates” and “Property crime rates” and
“1990” to “2012.”). For crime data on 2015, see UNITED STATES DEP’T OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF
INVESTIGATION, CRIME IN THE UNITED STATES, 2015 tbl. 8 (2016), https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-
in-the-u.s.-2015/tables/table-8/table_8_offenses_known_to_law_enforcement_by_state_by_city_2015.xls/view (for
each city, select the appropriate state and navigate to the relevant row). For crime data on 2016, see the Methodology.
4 See footnote 2.
5 See footnote 3.
6 See footnote 2.
7 See footnote 3.
8See Email from Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime Statistics Management Unit, to the authors (Mar. 30, 2016,
01:49 EST) (on file with the authors).
9 See UNITED STATES DEP’T OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, CRIME IN THE UNITED STATES,
PRELIMINARY SEMIANNUAL UNIFORM CRIME REPORT, JANUARY-JUNE, 2016 (2017), https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-
u.s/2016/preliminary-semiannual-uniform-crime-report-januaryjune-2016.
10See MAJOR CITIES CHIEFS ASSOCIATION, VIOLENT CRIME SURVEY – TOTALS: THIRD QUARTER COMPARISON (2016)
(on file with the authors).

BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE | 29
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