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New Analysis: Overall Crime Rate Holds Steady in 2016

Overall crime rates in 2016 are projected to be nearly the same as last year, with crime remaining at an all-time low, according to a preliminary analysis of data from the nation’s 30 largest cities.

September 19, 2016

**Update: Corrections made below on 9/21/16

Murder Rate Up with Chicago Accounting for Nearly Half of Increase

Overall crime rates in 2016 are projected to be nearly the same as last year, with crime remaining at an all-time low, according to a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

Crime in 2016: A Preliminary Analysis — released in the Center’s “Election 2016 Controversies” series — presents data from the 30 largest cities in the United States analyzed by a team of economics and policy researchers.

Several key findings:

  • The overall crime rate in 2016 is projected to rise by 1.3 percent, and 12 of the cities studied are expected to see a drop in crime. These declines are offset by increases in Chicago and Charlotte.
  • The violent crime rate is projected to rise slightly, by 5.5 percent, with half of the increase driven by Chicago (up 16.2 percent*) and Los Angeles (up 13.3 percent*). Violent crime remains near the bottom of the nation’s 30-year downward trend.
  • The murder rate is predicted to rise by 13.1 percent, with nearly half of that increase attributable to Chicago alone (234 of 496 murders). Notably, other cities that contributed to a murder increase in the Brennan Center’s analysis of 2015 data are expected to see declining murder rates this year, including Washington, D.C. (down 12.7 percent*) and Baltimore (down 9.7 percent*).

The researchers examined several possible theories to explain the spike in murders in some cities, including long-term socioeconomic conditions, numbers of police officers, strained police-community relations, and more.

“These findings undercut media reports referring to crime as ‘out of control,’ or heralding a new nationwide crime wave,” authors Matthew Friedman, Ames Grawert, and James Cullen wrote. “But the data do call attention to specific cities, especially Chicago, and an urgent need to address violence there.”

The 2016 analysis comes out a week before the Federal Bureau of Investigation is expected to release its Uniform Crime Report for 2015. Based on reports, the Brennan Center expects that data to mirror findings of our final 2015 analysis, showing localized increases in murder in a handful of cities and overall crime rates at historic lows.

*Figures marked with this symbol were updated on September 21, 2016 to improve consistency or correct a transcription error. All changes are available in the report, and are listed in endnote 5.