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Most Crime Totals Fell Last Year In Big Cities; Chicago Robberies Rose

Loch Earn/ Shutterstock

With a few exceptions, many major U.S. cities are continuing to report declines in crime rates during 2023.

In New York City, overall reported crime fell slightly though the number of felony assaults and car thefts remained stubbornly high, the New York Times reports.

The city saw significant drops in the number of shootings and murders, as well as in robberies, burglaries, sexual assaults and grand larcenies.

The drop in gun violence and homicides occurred as cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Los Angeles also saw sharp declines in the number of murders and other major crimes.

While Chicago has followed the national trend of lowered gun violence, it has stood nearly alone in seeing a spike in robberies — nearly 40% more victims than the year before.

More robbers are carrying guns, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab. In 2019, about 40% of robberies involved a gun. That surged to 60% in 2023.

Other violent crime was also up in the city the past year: a 17% increase in aggravated battery and an almost 7% rise in assaults, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

While there were fewer carjackings, car thefts were way up, more than three times higher than before the pandemic.

Experts have theories for 2023’s trends in Chicago: criminals turning to other crimes, more potential victims on the street after the pandemic, continued proliferation of firearms.

There is also debate over solutions as Mayor Brandon Johnson rolls out a safety plan that targets some, but not all, of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods with more resources.

At least 632 people were killed in Chicago in 2023, down 15% from the year before, slightly better than the national average of 12%. Shootings were down 13%.

Driving that change was a decrease in victims in their 20s, the age range of people who are historically most likely to be wounded or killed. 

The city closed the year with more than 11,700 robbery victims, a nearly 40% increase over the previous year’s 8,485. In 2020, there were more than 7,000.

It’s unclear why Chicago had more robberies, bucking a national trend that saw that crime fall by 9%.

It may simply be because more people are out and about, three years after the pandemic lockdown, according to David Olson, a professor who studies crime trends at Loyola University Chicago.

In Baltimore, after a 20% drop in homicides last year, Mayor Brandon Scott said that his administration would carry 2023’s momentum forward and work on “sustained, long-term” reductions in violent crime.

Scott said last year’s decline in homicides and slight decline in nonfatal shootings is not cause for celebration, even if it is “meaningful progress.”

The city is poised to combat the “disease of gun violence” plaguing Baltimore communities, said Scott, a Democrat running for reelection this year in a primary race where public safety is expected to play a pivotal role, reports the Baltimore Sun.

“Now’s not the time to allow those with personal agendas to take us back to the old, broken ways of the past,” he said. “Baltimoreans’ lives and the future of our city are on the line, and as this coalition showcases, no single entity can do it alone.”

The city’s 263 homicides last year kept Baltimore below the 300 mark for the first time since 2015, and marked a roughly 20% drop from 2022.

Daniel Webster of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University said contributing factors to Baltimore’s recent success could be a combination of anti-violence initiatives such as Safe Streets and the city’s expanding Group Violence Reduction Strategy, known as GVRS, alongside a new prosecutor’s administration, statewide changes to gun laws and a better job by police of apprehending shooters.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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