Last year, America’s big cities continued the slow, but steady decline in murders.
Though not at the breakneck pace we saw last year, the nation’s largest cities continued to witness steady declines in both total murders and murder rates in 2014.
Data provided by police departments in the 10 cities with the highest number of murders in 2013 shows that six out of 10 saw a significant drops in both total murders and murder rates in 2014. Baltimore and Detroit led the pack with the sharpest declines over last year, but a look at an impressive big picture shows that Los Angeles and New York have managed to cut murders in their city by roughly half. Not every mayor will be celebrating, however—Philadelphia couldn’t make a dent in its homicides this year, and both Indianapolis and Houston saw some significant increases.
It still tops the list, but Chicago, nicknamed Chiraq because of the nonstop violent crimes within its city limits, has seen a decrease in the overall number of murders and rate over the last decade. Murders are slightly down from 414 last year, but have fallen by about one—third since 2003. Fewer dead people doesn’t mean less gun violence though: 327 more people were shot in 2014 than the year before, an increase of 14 percent. So the falling murders might have less to do with decreased violence and more to do with the skill of medical professionals or the lack of proficiency of gunmen.
2. New York—328
Murder in the Big Apple fell by 14 percent in 2014. As in Chicago, New York police are reporting that though homicides are down, shootings were on the rise; 100 more people were shot in 2014 than in the year before. But city officials did note overall crime—including burglaries, robberies, rapes and felony assaults—had fallen from the year before, a feat even more remarkable in light of the mayor’s strained relationship with law enforcement and the curtailing of the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy.
Detroit saw further reductions in murder this year, continuing a slow but stable decline. The total number of murders and the corresponding rate fell by about 9 percent from last year. This preliminary count provided by the Detroit Police Department puts the city on track for the lowest since 1967, when 281 people were killed. Still, thanks in part to an ever-shrinking population, Detroit tops the nation when it comes to murder rate; at 43.4 murders per 100,000 residents, Detroit’s murder rate is 10 times that of New York City.
4. Los Angeles—259
After years of consistent decreases, Los Angles saw a slight rise in homicides in 2014, up 3 percent from last year, according to preliminary numbers released by the Los Angeles Police Department. Murders in the City of Angels have fallen by about half in the last 10 years: no small feat for such a big city. Take this data with a grain of salt, however; the LAPD landed in hot water this year after a Los Angeles Times investigation discovered the department had been misclassifying violent crimes.
The City of Brotherly Love lost one more resident to murder last year that the year before, and crime in the city overall—excluding thefts—is down, according to Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. And unlike Chicago and New York City, total shootings have gone down, too, from 1,128 in 2013, to 1,047 in 2014, and down by a third from 2007. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey credited the police department’s data-driven policing tactics for the overall drop in crime and said at a press conference, “We’re nowhere near what this city has seen for decades, when 400 was the number before anybody began to really panic.”
Texas’ largest city was one of the few across the U.S. to see a dramatic rise in murders last year, up from 214 in 2013, a 12 percent increase. According to these unofficial numbers released by the department, as of December 30, more than 25 people had been killed in the city than in the year prior.
Baltimore was one of the few cities in 2013 to see its murder rate increase, but 2014 brought the trend back in the right direction. Twenty-two fewer people lost their lives last year—an almost 10 percent decrease—though the murder rate per capita still puts it just below Detroit and New Orleans. Shootings and other violent crimes were also down last year, but in a disconcerting turn, juvenile homicides reached a three-year high.
8. New Orleans—150
The number of murders in New Orleans fell again last year, from 156 in 2013, the lowest count the city has seen since 1985. Shootings, however, were up by 23 percent, again suggesting violence hasn’t left the city. Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said the decline was a result of an effort to decrease gang violence. Still, at a rate of roughly 40 per 100,000 residents, The Big Easy is competing with Detroit to be the nation’s murder capital.
Indiana’s capital is one of the few places on our list to see a real increase in murders this year. According to the Indianapolis police, 135 people were killed there this year, an 8 percent increase from the year before and 26 percent over the last decade. The increase pushes the murder rate to the third-highest rate on record, and for the second year, the rate surpasses Chicago’s. Deputy Public Safety Director Valerie Washington told local station WTHITV, “We’re really still looking at those numbers to determine all the root causes as far as what the driving force is. We know that the heroin use is up. We know we’ve had a number of multiple victim homicides.”
Dallas police could only provide preliminary data through December 16, but if the current trend were to continue, we would expect to see about five more murders for the year. At least two additional murders in 2014 were reported by the local media, but even five additional murders would still mean a significant drop for the city overall from 2013.