Spikes in homicides in Baltimore, Chicago and the District of Columbia accounted for more than half of the national increase in killings in the 30 largest cities in 2015, according to a final analysis of yearly crime data by New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice
"These serious increases seem to be localized, rather than part of a national pandemic, suggesting that community conditions remain the major factor. Notably, these three cities all seem to have falling populations, higher poverty rates, and higher unemployment than the national average," the center said in its report, released Wednesday. "This suggests that economic deterioration of these cities could be a contributor to murder increases there."
The report did not mention the unrest and rioting seen in Baltimore last spring following the death of Freddie Gray, which precipitated a large increase in homicides in the city.
There were 344 homicides in Baltimore in 2015, accounting for the highest per-capita homicide rate on record — 55.2 per 100,000 residents — and representing a 63 percent increase over the 211 homicides seen in 2014, the center found.
Chicago saw 465 homicides last year, compared to 411 in 2014, representing a 13.1 percent increase. The much larger city's per-capita homicide rate was way below Baltimore's, at 17 per 100,000 residents.
The District of Columbia had 162 homicides in 2015, compared to 105 in 2014, a 54.3 percent increase. The city's per-capita homicide rate was 24.1 per 100,000 residents.
The analysis noted that while both Chicago and the District of Columbia saw increased kilings last year, the 2015 rate "is still far lower than what it was in the 1990s and early 2000s."
It then notes that "the story is different" in Baltimore, where the homicide rate is closer to that seen in the early 1990s.
"The average person in a large urban area is safer walking down the street today than he or she would have been at almost any time in the past 30 years. That does not mean there is not variation across cities," the analysis found. "In some cities, murder is up. However, there is not yet sufficient evidence to conclude these levels will persist in the future or are part of a national trend."