FBI: Chicago passes New York as murder capital of U.S.

September 18, 2013

The city of Chicago registered more homicides than any city in the nation in 2012, surpassing even New York — despite the fact that the Second City has only one third as many residents as the Big Apple.

In new crime statistics released Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported 500 murders in Chicago in 2012, up sharply from the 431 recorded in 2011. New York reported 419 murders last year, compared with 515 in 2011.

But residents of Chicago and New York were much less likely to be victims of a homicide than residents of Flint, Mich. Sixty-three murders occurred in 2012 in Flint, a city of 101,632, meaning one in every 1,613 city residents were homicide victims. Detroit, which experienced 386 homicides in 2012, was almost as unsafe; that’s enough murders to account for one in every 1,832 residents.

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Violent crime dropped in the Northeast and the South (Graphic credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Violent crime dropped in the Northeast and the South (Graphic credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Altogether, violent crime rose by 0.7 percent across the nation, the FBI reported. That’s a modest rise after a decade in which violent crime declined precipitously; the 2012 estimated violent crime total was 12.9 percent below 2008 levels and 12.2 percent below 2003 levels. Violent crimes fell by 1.2 percent in the Northeast and 0.3 percent in the South, the data show, but violent crime was up 3.2 percent in the West and 1.5 percent in the Midwest.

While the number of murders and aggravated assaults rose across the nation, the number of robberies declined slightly. And the number of property crimes declined by 0.9 percent, the 10th straight year property crimes have fallen.

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The murder rate rose by 9.7 percent in cities with populations between 500,000 and 1 million, the FBI reported. And while the murder rate fell by 5.2 percent among metropolitan counties, it rose 4.7 percent in non-metropolitan counties.

And firearms were used in the vast majority of murders. According to FBI data, 69.3 percent of all homicides involved a gun.

More than 40 percent of all violent crimes took place in the South, which accounts for 37.4 percent of the country’s population. Violent crime was less likely to be reported in the Northeast and Midwest, the data show.

Fifteen cities reported more than 100 murders in 2012. Alongside Chicago, New York and Detroit, Philadelphia (331), Los Angeles (299), Baltimore (219), Houston (217), New Orleans (193), Dallas (154), Memphis (133), Oakland (126), Phoenix (124), St. Louis (113), Kansas City (105) and Indianapolis (101) had the busiest homicide departments.

Washington, D.C., which once suffered some of the worst crime rates in the nation, reported 88 murders in 2012.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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