According to a new analysis recently released by the prestigious Brennan Center for Law and Justice, overall national crime rates are projected to nearly the same as 2015. Crime, according to the report, will remain at an all-time low. Released by the Brennan Center's “Election 2016 Controversies” series, the new report presents data from the 30 largest cities in the United States analyzed by a team of economics and policy researchers. The findings undercut media reports referring to crime as "out of control," though they do call attention to increased violence in some cities, specifically Chicago, Illinois, Washington, District of Columbia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
 
Earlier this year, the Brennan Center analyzed crime data from the 30 largest cities in 2015, finding that crime overall remained the same as in 2014. It also found that murder increased by 14 percent, with just three cities — Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. — responsible for half that increase. All told, 2015’s murder rate was still near historic lows. The authors concluded that reports of a national crime wave were premature and unfounded, and that “the average person in a large urban area is safer walking on the street today than he or she would have been at almost any time in the past 30 years.”
 
The report noted, "Notably, in absolute terms, murder rates are so low in many cities now that even an increase or decrease of just a few occurrences can cause a large change in percentage terms" Charlotte is projected by the report for a 40 percent increase in murders from 2014 to 2015, with the number of murders climbing from 47 to 66. Also, the report said that many cities experienced major increases in the percent of murder rates even while they have relatively low overall murder rates. "For example,
Denver and Charlotte saw increases in their murder rates of at least 35 percent, but both have murder rates below 10 people per 100,000. Similarly, Austin had a 68 percent increase, but its 2014 murder rate was only 3.5 per 100,000," said the report.
 
“The overall crime rate in 2016 is projected to rise by 1.3 percent, and 12 of the cities studied are expected to see a drop in crime. These declines are offset by increases in Chicago and Charlotte.”
 
The report said that several cities have seen "troubling increases in murders." All three of the following have had major civil disturbances and racial strife over the last two years: Baltimore, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. Murder rates in Baltimore are now at  the level of the 1990s, said the report. While in Milwaukee and St. Louis, where murder rates were already relatively high, "murder rates have risen sharply, and are now near 1993 levels." "Rather than a national pandemic," the report admitted, "it appears that the increases in murder rates are localized, suggesting that community conditions are a major factor."
 
Still taken from CCTV footage of a July 2016 fatal shooting in St. Louis
 
This report updates those findings. It collects midyear data from police departments to project overall crime, violent crime, and murder for all of 2016. Its principal findings are:
 
Crime: The overall crime rate in 2016 is projected to remain the same as in 2015, rising by 1.3 percent. Twelve cities are expected to see drops in crime. These decreases are offset by Chicago (rising 9.1 percent) and Charlotte (17.5 percent). Nationally, crime remains at an all-time low.
 
Violence: The violent crime rate is projected to rise slightly, by 5.5 percent, with half the increase driven by Los Angeles (up 13.3 percent*) and Chicago (up 16.2 percent*). Even so, violent crime remains near the bottom of the nation’s 30-year downward trend.
 
Murder: The murder rate is projected to rise by 13.1 percent this year, with nearly half of this increase attributable to Chicago alone (234 of 496 murders). Significantly, other cities that drove the national murder increase in 2015 are projected to see significant decreases in 2016. Those cities include Baltimore (down 9.7 percent*) and Washington, D.C. (down 12.7 percent*). New York remains one of the safest large cities, even with the murder rate projected to rise 1.2 percent* this year.
 
Nationally, the murder rate is projected to increase 31.5 percent from 2014 to 2016 — with half of additional murders attributable to Baltimore, Chicago, and Houston. Since homicide rates remain low nationwide, percentage increases may overstate relatively small increases. In San Jose, for example, just 21 new murders translated to a 66.7 percent* increase in the city's murder rate. Based on this data, the authors conclude there is no evidence of a national murder wave, yet increases in these select cities are indeed a serious problem.
 
Chicago Is An Outlier: Crime rose significantly in Chicago this year and last. No other large city is expected to see a comparable increase in violence. The causes are still unclear, but some theories include higher concentrations of poverty, increased gang activity, and fewer police officers.
 
Explanations for Overall Trends: Very few cities are projected to see crime rise uniformly this year, and only Chicago will see significant, back-to-back increases in both violent crime and murder. The authors attempted to investigate causes of these spikes, but ultimately were unable to draw conclusions due to lack of data. Based on their research, however, the authors believe cities with long-term socioeconomic problems (high poverty, unemployment, and racial segregation) are more prone to short-term spikes in crime.
 
Because the pattern across cities is not uniform, the authors believe these spikes are created by as-of-yet unidentified local factors, rather than any sort of national characteristic. Further, it is normal for crime to fluctuate from year-to-year. The increases and decreases in most cities’ murder rates in 2015 and 2016, for example, are within the range of previous two-year fluctuations, meaning they may be normal short-term variations.
 
The Brennan report said that there is an "urgent need to address violence" in specific cities, especially Chicago. 
 
According to the Capital Research Center, other data is illustrative: "Crime had been trending down for decades, but in 2015 homicide rates increased dramatically over 2014. In Houston, homicides were up 25.2 percent; in Washington, D.C., 54 percent; Baltimore, 58.5 percent; Milwaukee, 72.6 percent; and in Cleveland, a whopping 90 percent. Overall, homicides increased 17 percent in the 50 largest cities—the greatest increase in 25 years." In an August 2015 report, the New York Times noticed a sharp increase of the murder rate of several cities, including: Baltimore, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and Washington DC.
 
 
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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