Bloody Murder

One of the great benign facts of today’s America is that crime of most sorts has dropped dramatically over the last two decades. There’s plenty of argument over causes. Some significant role goes to the end of the major crack wars of the 80s and early 90s. Different law enforcement strategies play a role. My own take is that the biggest factors are social trends we are only dimly able to understand or analyze. One day, certainly. For now we’re largely limited to measuring the effects rather than isolating causes.

But far all that, your chances of getting murdered remain wildly different in different parts of the country.For years I’ve written about murder rates. And I’ve been most interested in regional differences which deep historical roots. But today there are dramatic differences which don’t line up so clearly.

I was just reminded of this when I saw this article about the murder rate this year in Detroit. So far this year, there have been 375 homicides in Detroit. But you can’t really make sense of that number without putting it into the context of population. In those terms, there were 53 homicides in Detroit per 100,000 people.

In New York City, there were 5 homicides per 100,000 residents. 10 times more. That’s just breath-taking — not terribly surprising if you follow crime statistics but still breath-taking.

Chicago, to get some perspective is currently at about 20 per 100,000.