Crime in 2015: A Preliminary Analysis

November 18, 2015

An analysis of 2015 crime trends in the nation's 30 largest cities shows that reports of rising crime across the country are not supported by the available data. 

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Introduction
 
Major media outlets have reported that murder has surged in some of the nation’s largest cities. These stories have been based on a patchwork of data, typically from a very small sample of cities. Without geographically complete and historically comparable data, it is difficult to discern whether the increases these articles report are purely local anomalies, or are instead part of a larger national trend.
 
This report provides a preliminary in-depth look at current national crime rates. It provides data on crime and murder for the 30 largest U.S. cities by population in 2015 and compares that to historical data. This analysis relies on data collected from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police departments. The authors were able to obtain preliminary 2015 murder statistics from 25 police departments in the nation’s 30 largest cities and broader crime data from 19 of the 30. The data covers the period from January 1 to October 1, 2015. As this report relies on initial data and projects crime data for the reminder of the year, its findings should be treated as preliminary as they may change when final figures are available.
 
This report’s principal findings, based on the data presented in Table 1, are:
 
  • Murder in 2015: The 2015 murder rate is projected to be 11 percent higher than last year in the majority of cities studied. Overall, 11 cities experienced decreases in murder, while 14 experienced increases. Yet, this increase is not as startling as it may first seem. Because the underlying rate of murders is already so low, a relatively small increase in the numbers can result in a large percentage increase. Even with the 2015 increase, murder rates are roughly the same as they were in 2012, and 11 percent higher than they were in 2013. It should also be noted that murder rates vary widely from year to year. One year’s increase does not necessarily portend a coming wave of violent crime.
  • Crime Overall in 2015: Crime overall in 2015 is expected to be largely unchanged from last year, decreasing 1.5 percent. This report defines overall crime as murder and non-negligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The increase in the murder rate is insufficient to drive up the crime rate, and using murder as a proxy for crime overall is mistaken. It is important to remember just how much crime has fallen in the last 25 years. The crime rate is now half of what it was in 1990, and almost a quarter (22 percent) less than it was at the turn of the century.

Crime in 2015: A Preliminary Analysis