Early Data from Nation’s Largest Cities Show 2018 Crime and Murder Rates to Decline

September 20, 2018

New York, N.Y. – The overall crime and murder rates are projected to decline across some of the nation’s largest cities this year, according to a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The Brennan Center estimates that the decline in crime and murder from last year will continue, remaining at or near historic lows.
 
“If our estimates hold, the data would undercut claims of rising crime in America’s largest cities,” said Ames Grawert, senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “This first snapshot of crime for 2018 shows cities that drove the spike in the murder rate in 2015 and 2016 are now estimated to see some of the largest declines this year. We’ll continue to keep a close eye on the data, but at this preliminary stage, concerns about a widespread crime wave appear overblown.”  
 
Brennan Center researchers found that the decline in the overall murder rate in the analyzed cities can be at least partially attributed to sharp decreases in San Francisco (–35.0 percent), Chicago (–23.2 percent), and Baltimore (–20.9 percent). According to these projections, Chicago’s murder rate could fall this year to the lowest level since 2015. In Baltimore, murders could drop to the lowest figures since 2014. These findings suggest that the increases in the murder rate for 2015 and 2016 were likely temporary.
 
Crime in 2018: A Preliminary Analysis examines available data from police departments in the nation’s 30 largest cities. It finds: 

  • The 2018 murder rate in 29 cities is estimated to decrease by 7.6 percent. The overall murder rate in these cities is estimated to be similar to 2015’s rate, approaching the lowest point since 1990.
  • Some cities in the group are projected to experience increases in murder rates. For example, Washington, D.C.’s is expected to rise 34.9 percent.
  • Several cities with relatively low murder rates are expected to see increases, such as Austin (rising by roughly 30 percent). Since the city has relatively few murders, any increase may appear larger in percentage terms.
  • At the time of publication, data on overall crime were available from 19 of the country’s 30 largest cities. In this group, the overall crime rate for 2018 is estimated to decrease by 2.9 percent, remaining nearly stable. If this estimate holds, this group of cities will experience the lowest crime rate this year since at least 1990. These findings will be updated when new data are available.

Read the Brennan Center’s full preliminary report here. In advance of next week’s release of the FBI’s 2017 crime data, read the Brennan Center’s final analysis of 2017 crime numbers here. And to learn more about crime trends across the country since 1990, click here.
 
For more information or to contact researchers on the Brennan Center’s Justice Team, contact Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646-292-8316.