Homicides Dropped by More Than 10% in America’s Biggest Cities in 2023, Including Chicago

Homicides in the US declined in 2023 compared to the year prior, including in cities like New York. (Theodore Parisienne / For NY Daily News / Getty Images)Homicides in the US declined in 2023 compared to the year prior, including in cities like New York. (Theodore Parisienne / For NY Daily News / Getty Images)

(CNN) — After three years of distressingly high levels, homicides in the U.S. declined significantly across the board in 2023 – even as the public’s concerns about crime remained at its highest in over two decades.

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In particular, the five biggest cities in the US – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix – each saw homicides fall by over 10%, according to the latest data from those police departments.

Further, national data from the FBI covering January to September 2023 showed an 8.2% drop in all violent crime, including a 15.6% drop in murders, compared to the same period in 2022. These declines were seen in cities over 1 million people and those under 10,000, and across all four regional quadrants of the US. The full year of data won’t be released until this fall, but the trend is clear.

Taken together, the broad decline in crimes in 2023 suggests societal disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 police murder of George Floyd have faded, policing experts say.

Read More: Shootings, Homicides in Chicago Drop 13% in 2023 and Returned to Pre-Pandemic Levels, But Violence Numbers Remain Among Highest in Recent Decades

Those years were marked by the closures of schools, courts and social services, a rise in gun sales and a dysfunctional community relationship with police. Now, officials say the decline in the homicide rate is a credit to reopened services, focused crime-fighting tactics, improved partnerships within the law enforcement community, and a significant reduction in the backlog of criminal court cases.

“We’re kind of looking at a return to where we were pre-pandemic,” said Alex Piquero, a criminology professor at the University of Miami who recently served as the director of the US Bureau of Justice Statistics. “If you were to take and draw a line between where we were in ‘18-19, with respect to most crime types, and where we’re going to be at the end of ’23, it’s almost going to be like a straight line except for that aberration between ‘20, ’21, ‘22.”

Adam Gelb, the president and CEO of the Council on Criminal Justice, a criminal justice think tank examining crime and law enforcement trends, cautioned that homicides still remain above pre-pandemic levels.

“Homicide is trending down but it’s dropped from a big spike,” he said. “It’s good news that we’re headed back in the right direction but there still may be 4,000 to 5,000 more people slain in 2023 than prior to the pandemic.”

Some cities have seen homicide numbers fall to historic lows. Detroit recorded 252 homicides in 2023, an 18.4% drop from the year before and the fewest homicides since 1966.

“We are seeing record drops in gun violence in Detroit because every single part of the criminal justice system is getting past Covid obstacles and is now working again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement. “I have never seen such a high level of cooperation.”

There are exceptions, too, including cities like Washington DC, which saw a 35% increase in homicides, and Memphis, which saw a 42% increase in murders.

In a statement to CNN about the latest figures, DC’s Metropolitan Police Department said, “The homicides that occurred during the past year represent a wide variety of circumstances, but our detectives work tirelessly to investigate each case and work with our local and Federal partners to ensure we do everything we can to bring justice to the victims.”

Even with the national crime declines this year, public opinion on crime has gone in the other direction. According to recent Gallup polling, 63% of Americans describe crime in the US as “extremely serious” or “very serious,” the highest recorded figure since the organization began asking the question in 2000.

And while most violent crime types have fallen over the past few years, there is one notable exception: Motor vehicle thefts increased 10.1% in the period of January to September 2023 compared to the same period a year earlier, FBI data show. In cities over 1 million people, motor vehicle thefts increased 35%, the data show.

Much of this increase stems from the brazen thefts of certain vulnerable Kia and Hyundai models. These thefts increased 10-fold over the past three years in the wake of a series of social media posts showing people how to steal the vehicles.

Homicides Rate Down From Coast to Coast

America’s five largest cities by population saw double-digit declines in homicides in 2023 compared to the year before, the latest data show. (The statistics for Houston and Phoenix only go through November.)

• In New York, homicides fell 11.9%, from 438 in 2022 to 386 last year, a significant drop after four consecutive years of homicide increases, according to the NYPD. Shootings dropped almost 25%, from 1,294 in 2022 to 974 last year, the data show.

Still, complaints of felony assault and grand larceny auto showed increases, meaning overall crime complaints declined 0.3% in 2023 compared to 2022, the data show.

• Los Angeles’ homicide rate is down 15.4% from 2022, with murders falling from 382 to 323, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. In the city, overall violent crime is down 3.5%.

• In Chicago, the number of murders dropped 13% from 2022 to 2023, falling from 709 to 617, and shooting incidents similarly fell by 13%, according to Chicago Police data. Overall crime complaints, though, increased 16% from year to year, spurred by a major 37% jump in motor vehicle theft and a 23% rise in robbery, the data show.

• In Houston, murder and non-negligent manslaughter fell 22% at of the end of November 2023 compared to a year prior, according to police data. Overall, crimes against persons and against property declined 3.1%, the data show.

• Phoenix’s homicide rate was down 14% in 2023 compared to 2022, according to the Phoenix Police Department. There were 174 murders in the city of Phoenix in the first 11 months of 2023 compared to 223 homicides the year prior.

In Philadelphia, the sixth-largest city in the US, the homicide rate is down 20.2% compared to 2022, falling from 514 homicides to 410, according to the Philadelphia Police Department.

Some Potential Explanations

So why has the country seen such a widespread drop in homicides? There are a number of potential explanations.

Piquero, the criminology professor, said the pandemic caused vast societal disruptions, including the closure of schools, businesses, childcare and community programs – the bonds that tie society together. With infusions of local, state and federal dollars, those programs have since returned and made a difference, he said.

“That was that pause for about a year where basically all the stuff that we know works with respect to crime prevention and crime intervention really was just put on a shelf,” he said. “And now it’s kind of opened back up.”

Gelb, the head of the Council on Criminal Justice, said the increase in crime during the pandemic was due to more stress and more guns along with less policing, less public trust and disruption of social support services. But now that most restrictions have been removed, some of the crime statistics have started to subside.

“The pandemic and the social justice protests of 2020 were a massive disruption of society and now we’re seeing many things return to normal,” Gelb said.

Detroit officials touted a number of factors, including $10,000 raises used to put 200 additional police officers on the streets, neighborhood violence prevention tactics, a crackdown on drag racing and drifting, the expansion of shotspotter technology, as well as closer partnerships with federal, county, court, state and community leaders. The courts also reduced a backlog of thousands of felony gun cases, the city said.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Joe Kenny credited the significant drop in homicides to the creation of new enforcement zones, where cops flood high-crime areas that are then changed and redirected along with crime trends.

“We haven’t done that in quite some time,” Kenny said, highlighting the summer months where cops flooded the streets. “We used to have impact zones. We got away from that years ago.”

Kenny said detectives had a homicide clear rate was over 70%, which was the second-best number since they’ve kept statistics. Last year, the NYPD had over 12,000 arrests for homicides and nonfatal shootings.

“A majority of those incidents are from shootings and homicides that occurred outside of 2023, which shows that the precinct, detective squads and our borough homicide squads, come December 31, we don’t stop working,” Kenny said.

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