Why Are Big-City Murder Rates Falling?


Since 2020, violent crime – specifically the murder rate – has declined gradually. In 2023, murders have dropped dramatically in the United States. Jeff Asher wrote in The Atlantic that murders have dropped by 12 percent in the 90+ cities that released data up to 2023, compared with data as of the same date in 2022.

Does defunding police work? Is it true that the current policy of prosecutors granting light sentences to hardened criminals is causing them to have a “come-to-Jesus” moment and reform?

Not hardly. After the violent crime rates skyrocketed in 2020, mayors of big cities hired more cops. Many departments also reinstituted ‘aggressive police methods’ to combat the out-of-control shootings and murders.

Asher reported that Jerry Ratcliffe is a professor of criminal justice at Temple University, Philadelphia. He said that it’s possible police departments are returning to proactive work they cut back on during the COVID epidemic and after George Floyd.

Many cities have hired more police officers using federal COVID relief money. There is preliminary evidence that adding more officers can reduce homicides and increase arrests for minor offenses. We don’t know yet how well agencies have done in growing their ranks, or if more officers lead to fewer shootings. Chicago, New Orleans, and New York have all seen a drop in murders, yet the number of police officers in Chicago has remained virtually unchanged since last summer. In New Orleans, it is down by more than 8 percent, and New York’s officers are down about 2 percent.

Will more police officers and aggressive tactics result in fewer murders if they are used? Who would have thought it? Duh.

The decline in murders across America’s major cities is not consistent. In some cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, murders have dropped by double digits in the past year. Other cities have experienced a more modest drop.

Judd Legum, of Popular Information, demands that the media covers the decrease in murders just as thoroughly as they did the spike in 2020-21.

The rapid decline in murder rates has, however, not been covered in any detail in the largest newspapers in the United States, such as the New York Times and Washington Post. Cable news channels have also rarely covered the story.

The decline in murder rates, from year to date, is more marked in many large cities. Minneapolis has seen a 40% drop in murders year-to-date, Atlanta 28%, Los Angeles 26%, Philadelphia 20%, and Baltimore 18%. Local coverage has been minimal or nonexistent.

Legum doesn’t seem to understand the economics behind the news industry. If it bleeds it leads also applies to crime statistics. News consumers don’t care much about reading about the decreasing number of murders. Big scary headlines or TV news stories that show an increase in murders will bring in more viewers and increase ad revenue.

Certainly, there’s more to the decline in murders and violent crime in big cities beyond a larger police presence and aggressive, proactive policing strategies. But for a city suffering from a spike in murders and other violent crimes, it’s a damn fine place to start.