The FBI says homicides rose nearly 9 percent last year over 2015, but a deeper look at the numbers suggests that a significant portion of the increase can be traced to individual neighborhoods in a few big cities.
The 2016 homicide spike of 8.6 percent reported by the FBI on Monday is one of the sharpest one-year upticks since the American crime decline in the 1990s. But a deeper dive into Monday’s stats doesn’t suggest that the country is backsliding to the high-crime years of the late 1980s and early 1990s, says the Atlantic. Instead, the FBI’s data in its annual Uniform Crime Report points to sharp geographic disparities in violent crimes in American society, with a few major cities accounting for large portions of 2016’s growth in murders and other serious offenses. The UCR includes self-reported stats on an assortment of major offenses from almost every law-enforcement agency in the U.S.
Because people don’t always report incidents to the police for a variety of reasons, criminologists typically use it alongside other datasets like the National Crime Victimization Survey to measure crime rates.Rural, urban, and suburban communities all saw increases in violent crimes in 2016. But they were of varying degrees. Some places, like Houston and Washington, D.C., saw the number of murders either stay roughly the same or slightly decline. Other communities fared worse. Chicago ended 2016 with 762 murders, a whopping 58 percent jump over 2015’s total. Baltimore experienced its second-deadliest year on record with 358 murders, surpassing the previous record set in 2015. That disparity could be felt in the national stats. John Pfaff, a Fordham University law professor who studies crime statistics, noted on Twitter that 22 percent of the nationwide increase in murders came from Chicago alone. But inside Chicago itself, 50 percent of the homicide rise came from just five neighborhoods, which account for only 9 percent of the city’s overall population. Those neighborhoods, in effect, account for 10 percent of the national increase in murders.