How Rising Violence in Just 10 Cities Drove Up the US Murder Rate

A third of last year’s 10.8% murder increase in the US, the biggest single-year leap in decades, was driven by rising violence in just 10 cities, according to FBI data released this week.

Together, these 10 cities suffered an additional 524 murders last year, part of an estimated increase of 1,500 additional murders nationwide.

The 10 cities did not all have the largest percentage increases in murder. Other large cities, including Aurora, Colorado, and Anchorage, Alaska, saw more dramatic percentage jumps, but only small changes in actual murder numbers.

In some of the 10 cities that saw the largest number of additional murders, law enforcement officials have attributed blame to a “viral video effect” or the “Ferguson effect”, the supposed consequence of decreased police morale and assertiveness in the wake of widespread protests over police killings of black Americans.

An alternate theory suggests the increase could be linked to a crisis in police legitimacy, murders rising as citizens’ trust in and willingness to cooperate with law enforcement drops.

Almost all of the 10 cities that saw steep increases in violence in 2015 have continued to see high levels of violence this year. Chicago has seen an even more dramatic increase. In 2015 it saw a 16% rise in murders. This year, it has seen an additional increase of 44%.

Almost all of the 10 cities that saw big increases in murders last year have not dropped back down to lower levels of violence this year. Year-to-date homicides or murders are up 15% in Houston and 13% in Kansas City, according to local police department data. Philadelphia and Nashville have seen increases of 5% and 6%.

Baltimore, Washington DC, Milwaukee and St Louis have seen slightly fewer homicides or murders in 2016, but not enough to put them back on track towards lower murder numbers.