Hey, violent crime was down last year! Well, except for, you know... murder

The new set of crime data for the first half of 2017 was just released by the FBI this week and it was… sort of a mixed bag. The Semiannual Uniform Crime Report compiles data on a number of different crimes, broken down by region and population density. For the most part, things were actually looking better. A number of categories of crime saw declines, continuing trends which have been going on for some time now. These include rape, robbery and aggravated assault. But as the Free Beacon reports, there’s one area where we’re not doing quite as well. Murder.

Total violent crime declined slightly in the first half of 2017, according to data released Tuesday by the FBI, but murders continued to increase, albeit at a slower pace than over previous years.

The new data, part of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, which aggregates data from more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, compares statistics from the first half of 2017 with the same numbers from the first half of 2016.

The overall violent crime rate declined by 0.8 percent in the first half of 2017 as compared against the first half of 2016. That drop was precipitated in large part by declines in the rates of rape (down 2.4 percent), robbery (down 2.2 percent), and aggravated assault (down 0.1 percent).

However, the rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter increased by 1.5 percent over the same period. Significantly, that increase came in spite of a 1.9 percent decline in the murder rate in cities with a population of one million or more (which includes Chicago, but not high-crime Baltimore or Washington, D.C.).

Some of the confusion over these numbers no doubt stems from the way the FBI assembles homicide data based on population centers. When you look at any of the Table 4 reports, broken down by city in alphabetical order, you’ll see that they bunch the data together for cities based on population. But it’s still useful to observe the overall trends.

Take New York City for example, found on this chart. The numbers for the first half of 2017 are lower than those for the corresponding period of 2016 in every single category. That’s incredible, and the NYPD deserves full credit for this achievement. But then look at Baltimore (Found under Maryland on this table). It’s not so much a question of the raw numbers because they’re such a smaller city, but they show a mirror image of what you saw in New York. Total incidents of crime rose in every single category but one from the previous year. (Somehow they managed a slightly lower number of burglaries. Well done, Charm City.)

But don’t skip the raw data entirely. In the first half of 2017, Baltimore racked up 170 murders. By comparison, the Big Apple recorded 127 in the same time period. But Baltimore only has roughly 600K citizens while New York City has 8.5 million… literally more than ten times as many people. And we’re talking about two cities which are only 187 miles apart. You can leave after breakfast and drive from one to the other before lunch on a good traffic day. You can’t tell me that something isn’t being done differently in New York to produce such stunningly better results.

The FBI cautions against taking these initial numbers as definitive in terms of trends for the entire year and that’s a valid point. Murder rates tend to go up in hotter weather and decline during miserable, snowy times. But still, as I said above, the trends are useful. A closer examination of this data could allow the mayors of various cities to find out who has really figured out the solution to violent crime and see if they can’t replicate those results in their own towns.