US mur­der rate on track for a big drop

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY JEFF ASHER

The mur­der rate in the United States in 2018 is on track for the largest one-year drop in five years.

The num­bers are not fi­nal, and the FBI will not for­mally re­port 2018’s mur­der fig­ures un­til Septem­ber 2019.

But based on a com­pari- son of 2017 data and 2018 data for 66 large Amer­i­can cities ( pop­u­la­tion over 250,000), we can ob­serve the trend as it is oc­cur­ring and of­fer a rea­son­able fore­cast.

Mur­der rose 23 per­cent na­tion­ally be­tween 2014 and 2016 be­fore lev­el­ing off in 2017. Ma­jor in­creases in mur­der in Chicago and Bal­ti­more re­ceived much of the na­tional at­ten­tion, but the in­crease oc­curred through­out the coun­try.

In the cities in which data is avail­able, mur­der has been down about 7 per­cent on av­er­age this year rel­a­tive to the same point in 2017.

Es­ti­mat­ing na­tional trends from a sam­ple of cities can be tricky be­cause big cities tend to over­state na­tional trends. If mur­der is up sub­stan­tially in big cities, you can typ­i­cally ex­pect that the na­tional mur­der rate is also up, but a lit­tle less so. And if mur­der is sub­stan­tially down in big cities, you can usu­ally ex­pect a smaller drop na­tion­ally.

The Bren­nan Cen­ter in 2017, for ex­am­ple, found a 4.4 per­cent de­cline in 29 large cities for which data was avail­able. Yet the FBI’s na­tional mur­der count was essen­tially un­changed in 2017 rel­a­tive to 2016. (It was of­fi­cially down 0.7 per­cent, but that was be­cause the FBI re­vised 2016’s mur­der to­tal up­ward, to 17,284 from 17,250.)

The sam­ple of cities we are us­ing in this ar­ti­cle ac­cu­rately pre­dicted the move­ment of the na­tional mur­der change every year but 2002, when mur­der was down 1.4 per­cent in the big cities but up 1.1 per­cent na­tion­ally. On av­er­age, the sam­ple of cities over­stated the na­tional trend by 2.4 per­cent­age points.

If these big cities end the year down about 7 per­cent from 2017, and if big cities tend to over­state the na­tional trend by about 2.4 per­cent­age points on av­er­age, mur­der should be down by around 4 per­cent to 5 per­cent na­tion­ally this year.

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