Urban violence is spiking across America, not just in Chicago


The Chicago River at night. Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan

While the recent rise in Chicago’s violence has been the main topic of this blog, it’s far from the only American city that has seen spikes in crime over the past several years. The FBI has recently reported jumps in not only homicide, but other violent crime ranging from robbery to assault resulting in a 5.3 percent jump from 2015 to 2016 throughout that category of offenses.

Crime is increasing across the board, but it’s especially visible in America’s biggest cities. Chicago, the third-largest US urban center, and its hundreds of 2016 killings grabbed the headlines with its more than 50 percent jump in the statistic. That’s especially significant given the city’s 2.7 million residents, and although the worst of the violence occurs in several specific areas the negative actions affect the whole city. Still, Chicago’s troubling past year – which accounted for two-fifths of the rise in murder in American cities – is joined by huge percentage jumps in other cities as well. Per FiveThirtyEight, smaller metropolises like San Antonio and Memphis saw 50-plus percent jumps in murder that contributed to the country’s overall increase. Including those examples, there were “at least 16 big cities that tied or surpassed their worst murder years since the start of 2000 in 2016,” the analytics blog reported.

And again, while Chicago is prominent for its high murder rate, it ranked eighth in 2016 among cities with the highest murder rates at 27.9 per 100,000. While bad, that rate is not on the same level as cities like New Orleans (44.5 percent), Baltimore (51.2 percent), and St. Louis, the dubious “winner” of this statistic last year, at 59.3 murders per 100,000 residents.

These bumps in major cities have lead to the country’s overall murder rate rise last year, up from 2014’s decades-low national rate of 4.4 per 100,000 citizens. 2016 has bumped the current number up past a rate of 5 thanks to big city increases, yet are still “low” by historical standards. According to the FiveThirtyEight report, 2016 pales in comparison to peaks in the 1980s and 90s when the US rate reached or topped 10 per 100,000. But while still historically low, murders are trending upwards nationwide in a bigger way than they have since the early 90s. And in cities like Chicago, the problematic spike has been really apparent these last few years.


Chicago’s murder rate trend since the 1990s. Graphic credit: FiveThirtyEight and Rob Arthur

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