Major US cities see crime, murder rates drop in 2018

Murder and crime rates in the nation’s largest cities, including some riven by gang violence, extended their decades-long decline in 2018.
 
A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice shows the murder rate fell by almost 6 percent between 2017 and 2018 in the 30 largest U.S. cities. Violent crime overall dropped by about 2.7 percent in cities where data was available, while the overall crime rate declined 1.8 percent.
 
“This is a trend starting in the early ‘90s, where crime has been plummeting,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “We are at all-time lows for crime. We’re not in the middle of a crime wave.”
 
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The report comes as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on a White House-backed criminal justice reform measure that would overhaul sentencing guidelines and prison practices in hopes of reducing recidivism. The bill also would end mandatory life sentences for some crimes under the three-strikes law.
 
The largest decreases in murder rates came in some cities where violent crime has spiked in recent years.
 
Chicago’s murder rate fell more than 18 percent over last year, though it still had more murders — 534 — than any other major city. Murder rates were down sharply in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Diego, too.
 
But they were up in 11 of the 30 largest cities in the country, led by a spike in Washington, D.C., where 165 people have been killed so far this year, a nearly 40 percent increase. Houston; Memphis; El Paso, Texas; and Portland, Ore., also saw their murder rates increase from last year.
 
Overall crime fell precipitously in Baltimore; Boston; San Francisco; San Antonio and Fort Worth, Texas, according to the report. The crime rate is down in 14 of the 22 cities with available data. It rose, however, in Chicago, driven by an increase in property crime even as the violent crime rate fell slightly.
 
Once final numbers are calculated by the FBI next year, the overall crime rate across the country is likely to have fallen to the lowest level since 1990, the Brennan Center estimated.
 
Chettiar said the long-term drop in crime rates can be attributed in part to better policing methods and changing socio-economic circumstances across the country. But a large portion of the decline is not yet fully understood by sociologists who study crime data.
 
She said the drop is not likely explained by harsher prison sentences and the country’s growing incarcerated population.
 
“Research conclusively shows that overly incarcerating people doesn’t have an impact on crime,” Chettiar said. “There’s not a reason to have overly harsh, overly punitive measures that frankly don’t work anymore.”