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Year-End Analysis: Crime and Murder Down in 2017

All measures of crime in the 30 largest American cities — the overall crime rate, violent crime rate, and murder rate — are estimated to decline in 2017 according to a new year-end analysis. These findings directly undercut any claims of a nationwide crime wave.

December 20, 2017

New York, NY – All meas­ures of crime in the 30 largest Amer­ican cities — the over­all crime rate, viol­ent crime rate, and murder rate — are estim­ated to decline in 2017 accord­ing to a year-end analysis by the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

Crime in 2017: Updated Analysis directly under­cuts any claims of a nation­wide crime wave. Compiled by a team of econom­ics and policy research­ers, it updates the Center’s Septem­ber report, Crime in 2017: A Prelim­in­ary Analysis.

“Once again crime rates remain near historic lows. This is welcome news as 2017 comes to an end, and a clear indic­a­tion that claims of rising crime are unfoun­ded,” said Ames Grawert, a coun­sel in the Bren­nan Center’s Justice Program. “However, there are some cities where viol­ence has increased, and those concern­ing spikes need to be better under­stood and addressed.”

Key find­ings from the analysis include:

  • The over­all crime rate in the 30 largest cities in 2017 is estim­ated to decline slightly from 2016, fall­ing by 2.7 percent.
  • The viol­ent crime rate will also decrease slightly, by 1.1 percent, essen­tially remain­ing stable.
  • The 2017 murder rate in the 30 largest cities is estim­ated to decline by 5.6 percent. Large decreases this year in Chicago (down 11.9 percent) and Detroit (down 9.8 percent), as well as small decreases in other cities, contrib­uted to this decline. New York City’s murder rate will also decline again, to 3.3 killings per 100,000 people.
  • Some cities are projec­ted to see their murder rates rise, includ­ing Char­lotte (54.6 percent) and Baltimore (11.3 percent).

“Since day one in office, Pres­id­ent Trump and his admin­is­tra­tion have wrongly pushed this idea of ‘Amer­ican Carnage’ and a nation­wide crime wave,” said Inimai Chet­tiar, the director of the Bren­nan Center’s Justice Program. “They appear to be trying to scare Amer­ic­ans into support­ing some of the admin­is­tra­tion’s most contro­ver­sial policies, from changes to drug prosec­u­tions to aggress­ive immig­ra­tion enforce­ment. But, numbers clearly under­cut their claims. Crime rates this year remain near historic lows.”

“This latest research from the Bren­nan Center refutes claims that crime is on the upswing in this coun­try,” said Mark Holden, general coun­sel and senior vice pres­id­ent at Koch Indus­tries, which has long advoc­ated for reforms in the crim­inal justice system. “That does­n’t mean we should be compla­cent. We should learn from the dozens of states that have made moves to success­fully reduce crime and recidiv­ism while also redu­cing incar­cer­a­tion. Such common-sense reforms make every­one safer, includ­ing law enforce­ment officers, and ensure that decades of bipar­tisan progress on crim­inal justice reform continue.”

“This over­all drop in the national crime rate is welcome news for law enforce­ment officers and all those who care about safe­guard­ing our communit­ies,” said Darrel Steph­ens, former exec­ut­ive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Asso­ci­ation and a long­time chief of the Char­lotte Mecklen­burg Police Depart­ment in North Caro­lina. "Our organ­iz­a­tion has years of exper­i­ence analyz­ing crime data in major cities, and the Bren­nan Center’s meth­od­o­logy and analysis here is sound.”

Click here to see more of the Bren­nan Center’s research on crime rates in Amer­ica, includ­ing an analysis of histor­ical crime trends from 1990–2016, avail­able here. And, click here to read more about the meth­od­o­logy behind the Bren­nan Center’s crime analyses.

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