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Crime in 2018: Final Analysis

Key Fact: Rates of violent crime, murder, and overall crime declined in the 30 largest American cities.

Published: June 11, 2019

In this final analysis of crime rates in 2018, we estim­ate that rates of viol­ent crime, murder, and over­all crime declined in the 30 largest Amer­ican cities, with signi­fic­ant declines in murder. The data in this report are collec­ted directly from local police depart­ments. The FBI’s final 2018 data, cover­ing the entire United States, will be released in Septem­ber. 

The data repor­ted here refine an initial Bren­nan Center report released in Septem­ber, Crime and Murder in 2018: A Prelim­in­ary Analysis, which concluded that “increases in the murder rate in 2015 and 2016 were tempor­ary, rather than signal­ing a reversal in the long-term down­ward trend” in crime and viol­ence. A Decem­ber update reached the same conclu­sion, show­ing rates of crime, viol­ent crime, and homicide all declin­ing. These continu­ing declines indic­ate that, while increases in crime in 2015 and 2016 merit further study, they did not signal the start of a new “crime wave.” 

Updated Tables 1 and 2 support conclu­sions similar to the Bren­nan Center’s Septem­ber and Decem­ber reports, and now include complete data through the end of the year:

Murder: The 2018 murder rate in the 30 largest cities is estim­ated to have declined by 8.0 percent since 2017. This find­ing indic­ates that the major-city murder rate will approx­im­ate 2015 levels but remain above 2014’s low point.

Modest declines in most cities explain this decrease. The murder rate in Chicago, which increased signi­fic­antly in 2015 and 2016, declined by nearly 12 percent but remains roughly 40 percent above 2014 levels. Baltimore, another city that contin­ues to struggle with viol­ence, also saw its murder rate decline by 9.1 percent. While Las Vegas saw its murder rate decrease signi­fic­antly, by more than 40 percent, part of this decline is attrib­ut­able to the mass shoot­ing at the Mandalay Bay Resort, which led to an unusu­ally high homicide total in 2017.

Some cities saw their murder rates rise in 2018, such as Wash­ing­ton, DC (35.6 percent) and Phil­adelphia (8.5 percent). These increases suggest a need to better under­stand how and why murder is increas­ing in some cities. New York City’s murder rate also increased, but by less than 1 percent, making it essen­tially the same as the 2017 rate. 

Crime: The over­all crime rate in the 30 largest cities in 2018 is estim­ated to have declined slightly from the previ­ous year, fall­ing by 3.5 percent. If final FBI data track these find­ings, crime will have again reached a record low, driven by declin­ing rates of prop­erty crime.

Viol­ent Crime: The viol­ent crime rate is also estim­ated to have declined, fall­ing by 4.0 percent from 2017.

Estim­ates of crime and viol­ent crime are based on data from 25 of the nation’s 30 largest cities; estim­ates of murder include data from 26 cities. The Bren­nan Center’s previ­ous report on crime in 2018 is avail­able here, and a report study­ing crime trends from 1990 to 2016 is avail­able here