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New Data: Crime and Murder Down in 2017

This analysis from the Brennan Center estimates that the overall crime rate and the violent crime rate will be at their second-lowest levels since 1990. These findings directly undercut any claim of a national crime wave.

September 6, 2017

New York, NY – An analysis of new 2017 crime data shows that all meas­ures of crime — over­all crime, viol­ence, and murder — are projec­ted to decline this year. The report estim­ates that the over­all crime rate and the viol­ent crime rate will be at their second-lowest levels since 1990. These find­ings directly under­cut any claim of a national crime wave.   

In Crime in 2017: A Prelim­in­ary Analysis, research­ers at the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law collec­ted crime data directly from local police depart­ments in Amer­ica’s 30 largest cities, and then used histor­ical trends to estim­ate 2017 year-end crime numbers. Several key find­ings include:

  • The over­all crime rate in 2017 is projec­ted to decrease slightly, by 1.8 percent. If this estim­ate holds, 2017 will have the second-lowest crime rate since 1990.
  • The viol­ent crime rate is projec­ted to decrease slightly, by 0.6 percent, essen­tially remain­ing stable. This result is driven primar­ily by stabil­iz­a­tion in Chicago, and declines in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., two large cities that exper­i­enced increases in viol­ence in recent years. The viol­ent crime rate for this year is projec­ted to be about 1 percent above 2014’s viol­ent crime rate, the lowest recor­ded since 1990.
  • The 2017 murder rate is projec­ted to be 2.5 percent lower than last year. This year’s decline is driven primar­ily by decreases in Detroit (down 25.6 percent), Hous­ton (down 20.5 percent), and New York (down 19.1 percent). Chica­go’s murder rate is also projec­ted to fall, by 2.4 percent. The 2017 murder rate is expec­ted to be on par with that of 2009, well at the bottom of the historic post-1990 decline, yet still higher than the lowest recor­ded rate in 2013.
  • While crime is down this year, some cities are projec­ted to exper­i­ence local­ized increases. For example, Char­lot­te’s murder rate doubled in the first six months of 2017 relat­ive to last year. Detailed graphs on each of the 30 cities where data was avail­able is included in Section III.

“The numbers show that crime and murder are expec­ted to fall in the nation’s largest cities this year, a sign that grim warn­ings about a nation­wide crime wave remain unfoun­ded,” said Ames Grawert, coun­sel in the Bren­nan Center’s Justice Program. “Crime remains close to record lows, in the nation as a whole and in our city centers.”

“Our organ­iz­a­tion has its own exper­i­ence analyz­ing data in major cities, and the Bren­nan Center research team’s meth­od­o­logy and analysis here is sound,” said Darrel Steph­ens, exec­ut­ive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Asso­ci­ation. “They estim­ate crime and murder will decrease this year, which is welcome news for law enforce­ment officers. We’re hope­ful that will remain the case when final numbers come in at the end of the year.”

“This latest data from the Bren­nan Center under­cuts any claims of a national crime wave,” said Mark Holden, general coun­sel and senior vice pres­id­ent at Koch Indus­tries. “But there’s still much work to be done. We should learn from the dozens of states that have made moves to success­fully reduce crime, incar­cer­a­tion, and recidiv­ism together. Such common-sense reforms make every­one safer, includ­ing law enforce­ment officers, and ensure that decades of bi-partisan progress continue.”

“Fears of a national crime wave pushed by Pres­id­ent Trump and Attor­ney General Sessions have been used to justify or promote contro­ver­sial changes on everything from senten­cing prac­tices, to drug policy, to immig­ra­tion enforce­ment,” said Inimai Chet­tiar, director of the Bren­nan Center’s Justice Program. “Fear sells, and the admin­is­tra­tion hopes people will buy it. But, their claims aren’t backed up by the facts.”

The Bren­nan Center’s previ­ous analysis of crime in 2016 is avail­able here, and an analysis of histor­ical crime trends from 1990 to 2016 is avail­able here.

For more inform­a­tion or to sched­ule an inter­view with a Bren­nan Center expert, contact Rebecca Autrey at or 646–292–8316.