Early Year-End Data Show Crime and Murder Rates Declining in Nation's Largest Cities

December 18, 2018

Media Contact: Rebecca Autrey, rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu, 646-292-8316

New York, NY – An updated analysis of available crime data from the nation’s largest cities shows that crime and murder rates are expected to decline this year. The year-end estimates from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law extend declines in murder, violent crime, and overall crime rates from last year. 

“If estimates hold, some of America’s largest cities will see significant drops in violence this year,” said Ames Grawert, senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “The data show that talks of widespread increasing crime are unfounded, and fearmongering about crime shouldn’t derail important efforts like the pending federal sentencing reform bill that aims to make a more fair system. Our analysis also finds that some cities have seen upticks in crime and violence, and it’s important not to overlook the suffering that’s causing, even as national rates are at or near historic lows.”  

  • The 2018 murder rate in the 30 largest cities is estimated to decline by nearly six percent. 
  • Some cities are projected to see their murder rates rise, including Washington, D.C. (up by 39.5 percent) and Houston (up by 22.6 percent). 
  • At the time of publication, data on overall crime were available from 22 of the country’s 30 largest cities. In this group, the overall crime rate in 2018 is estimated to decline slightly from the previous year, falling by 1.8 percent. 
  • The violent crime rate is estimated to decrease by 2.7 percent, continuing a downward trend from 2017.

Brennan Center researchers found that large decreases in the murder rate in Chicago (down 18.1 percent) and San Francisco (down 26.9 percent), as well as more moderate declines in Baltimore (down 7.4 percent), contributed to the downturn of the overall murder rate in cities studied. Chicago’s decrease comes after significant jumps in the murder rate in 2015 and 2016. 

If estimates hold, the downturn in the overall crime rate will be similar to last year’s drop. Overall, despite upticks in 2015 and 2016, crime rates are still on a downward trend and have been since 1990.  

The new analysis updates the Center’s preliminary look at crime and murder rates in these cities, released in September. For more information on the Justice Program’s work, click here.