In the latest update of what has become the broadest real-time tally of U.S. crime trends, the Council on Criminal Justice issued its mid-year crime trends report, this time showing across-the-board declines in key crimes except for an explosion in auto-theft rates.
The report shows a drop of more than 9% in homicides, but with wide variations among cities, from increases of 28.2% in Memphis and 10.8% in Washington to drops of 21.4% in Philadelphia, 7.9% in Chicago, 21.6% in Los Angeles and 7.3% in St. Louis, and even larger drops in smaller cities.
As with its previous reports since 2020, CCJ bases its figures on a study of monthly crime rates for 10 violent, property and drug offenses in 37 American cities. Not all crimes are tracked in all those cities; the homicide numbers, for example, come from 30 cities, and the gun assault figures are based on only 10 cities.
Although the decline in homicides is shaping up to be one of the largest annual decreases in history, violent crime remains "intolerably high" and substantially higher than before the pandemic, the report states. There were 24% more homicides in the study cities in 2023's first half than in the corresponding months of 2019.
The major outlier remains auto theft, which rose by one-third over last year and has more than doubled since 2019's first half. Cities showing the greatest increases included Rochester (355%), Cincinnati (162%), Chicago (130%), Memphis (120%), and Washington (116%). A couple of large cities showed auto-theft declines, including Los Angeles (down 10%) and St. Paul (down 41%).
Other key crime-trend comparisons of the first six months of 2023 to the same months in 2022:
Gun assaults were down 5.6%
Robberies were down 3.6%
Residential burglaries dropped 3.8% and nonresidential burglaries by 5%
Larcenies were down 4.1%
Drug offenses and domestic violence showed marginal increases
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the New York Times that his city's huge homicide decline, while obviously good news, should not distract from longer-term trends or from the department's 1,000-officer deficit compared to 2019.
“We are still not done with getting back to crime levels, community safety levels, that we saw just four years ago,” Moore said, adding: “We’re not home free because of the persistence of gun violence, and the persistence of too many guns in too many hands.” Moore said the department was relying on overtime and on focusing resources on the most serious violent and property crimes. He said that the department was not responding as quickly as it used to for lesser issues, like neighborhood disputes or loud, late-night parties.
University of Missouri-St. Louis professor Richard Rosenfeld chairs CCJ's Crime Trends Working Group and was co-author of the report. His co-authors were CCJ research specialist Ernesto Lopez and doctoral candidate Bobby Boxerman.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct an error in the original, which incorrectly stated that the report was by CCJ's Crime Trends Working Group.