Crime and Murder in 2018: A Preliminary Analysis

September 20, 2018

This report analyzes available crime data from police departments in the 30 largest U.S. cities. It finds that across the cities where data is available, the overall murder and crime rates are projected to decline in 2018, continuing similar decreases from the previous year. This report is based on preliminary data and is intended to provide an early snapshot of crime in 2018 in the 30 largest cities. This data will be updated in later reports.

This report’s main findings are explained below:

  • Murder: The 2018 murder rate in these cities is projected to be 7.6 percent lower than last year. This estimate is based on data from 29 of the nation’s 30 largest cities. This murder rate is expected to be approximately equal to 2015’s rate, near the bottom of the historic post-1990 decline. Especially sharp declines appear in San Francisco (-35.0 percent), Chicago (-23.2 percent), and Baltimore (-20.9 percent). These estimates are based on preliminary data, but if they hold, the number of murders in Chicago could fall by year’s end to the lowest since 2015. In Baltimore, homicides could drop to the lowest since 2014. While the city’s murder rate remains high, this would mark a significant reversal of the past two years’ increases.
  • While the overall murder rate is estimated to decline this year in these cities, a few cities are projected to experience increases. For example, Washington, D.C.’s murder rate is expected to rise 34.9 percent. Several cities with relatively low murder rates are also seeing increases, such as Austin (rising by roughly 30 percent). Since the city has relatively few murders, any increase may appear large in percentage terms.
  • Overall Crime: At the time of publication, full crime data — covering all Part I index crimes tracked by the FBI — were only available from 19 of the 30 largest cities. (Past Brennan Center reports included, on average, 21 cities.) In these cities, the overall crime rate for 2018 is projected to decrease by 2.9 percent, essentially holding stable. If this estimate holds, this group of cities will experience the lowest crime rate this year since at least 1990. These findings will be updated with new data when available.

This report does not present violent crime data because the authors could not collect sufficient data by the time of publication.

While the estimates in this report are based on early data, previous Brennan Center reports have correctly estimated the direction and magnitude of changes in major-city crime rates. The Brennan Center’s final report analyzing crime data in 2017 is available here.

*The Brennan Center updated the findings of Crime and Murder in 2018: A Preliminary Analysis after the FBI released it's Uniform Crime Reporting Program numbers for 2017. Click here to read that update.