Chicago Top Contributor to Murder Spike in America’s Big Cities

September 5, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

Violent crime is dogging Chicago so severely, the city is dragging all big cities down in this year’s murder statistics. 

The violent crime numbers for 61 large police departments in the first half of 2016 were recently released by the Major Cities Chiefs Association. And the numbers look grim.

Robberies are up, as are aggravated assaults, shootings, and homicides. Only rapes are slightly down.

The homicide stats stood out, with a 15 percent increase compared to the first half of 2015.

But when one looks closer, the hike mostly stems from a handful of cities, with Chicago leading the trend.

A big uptick in murders in the Illinois metropolis represented almost 30 percent of the overall homicide surge. The city saw 316 homicides in the first half of 2016, versus 211 for the same period last year. Chicago had almost double the number of homicides as New York City—a city with a population more than three times the size of Chicago’s.

Eight other police departments also experienced increases and, together with Chicago, accounted for almost 95 percent of the overall rise in homicides.

Unusual Suspects

What seems unusual is that the biggest increases in homicides didn’t come from some of the expected places.

Baltimore, for example, recorded a small decrease in homicides. So did Cleveland, St. Louis, and Cincinnati.

Milwaukee’s murder numbers went down by over 26 percent and Oakland’s dropped almost by a third.

So where did the surge come from?

  • Prince George’s County, Maryland: Up over 71 percent.
  • Memphis: Up over 63 percent.
  • Las Vegas metro area: Up over 60 percent.
  • Louisville metro area: Up over 54 percent.
  • Phoenix: Up 50 percent.
  • San Antonio: Up over 37 percent.
  • Los Angeles County: Up over 29 percent.

Additionally, Orlando saw an increase of over 712 percent—primarily due to the Pulse nightclub massacre on June 12 that left 49 dead. Yet, even without the tragedy, homicides still doubled in the city (from 8 to 16).

The Chiefs Association data provides a timely look at crime in major cities. However, it only compares the first half of 2015 with the first half of 2016 and such short-term statistics can be misleading.

Prince George’s County, for example, has experienced a significant drop in violent crime over the past decade, so it may be too early to tell if the trend is really swinging the other way, or if the 71 percent increase is a blip.

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