5. Memphis, Tenn.
> Violent crimes per 1,000: 15.8
> Population: 652,725
> 2011 murders: 117
> Median income: $37,045
> Unemployment rate: 11.1%
In 2011, Memphis defied the national trend of declining crime rates in major U.S. cities. The rate of violent crimes per 1,000 people increased, from 15.4 to 15.8. This was the product of increases in murders, which rose from 89 to 117 cases, and aggravated assault incidents, which rose by 100 cases. A rising unemployment rate, which grew 1.2% to 11.1% in 2011, likely has not helped to reduce criminal behavior. With a current budget deficit of $45 million, Mayor Wharton says he may need to consider “taking boots off the street,” by laying off members of the police force in the near future.
4. Oakland, Calif.
> Violent crimes per 1,000: 16.8
> Population: 395,317
> 2011 murders: 104
> Median income: $49,190
> Unemployment rate: 15.6%
Oakland historically has been among the most crime-ridden cities in California, with a violent crime rate this year of 16.8 per 1,000 people. There were 14 more murders in 2011 than in 2010, causing Oakland to maintain the ninth-highest murder rate in the country two years in a row. Oakland is the number one city for both robbery and motor vehicle theft rates in the country. Oakland city councilmember Desley Brooks, who wants to allocate $11 million in revenue to the police force, acknowledges the increased violent crime, saying, “we cannot ignore that we have had an increase in violent crime, and so we cannot continue to do the same thing the same way and expect that it’s going to be a different result.”
3. St. Louis, Mo.
> Violent crimes per 1,000: 18.6
> Population: 320,454
> 2011 murders: 113
> Median income: $32,688
> Unemployment rate: 11.7%
Although the total number of murders in the city has decreased by 31 since 2010, crime in St. Louis did not improve overall last year. Violent crime rates in St. Louis have risen dramatically, from 17.5 to 18.6 cases per 1,000 people. And the city’s murder rate is still the fourth highest in the nation, its robbery rate is the fifth highest in the nation and its aggravated assault rate is third highest in the nation. Despite these troubling facts, the St. Louis Police Department recently faced potentially drastic budget cuts, that may require the elimination of 100 street-patrolling officer positions through attrition.
2. Detroit, Mich.
> Violent crimes per 1,000: 21.4
> Population: 713,239
> 2011 murders: 344
> Median income: $25,787
> Unemployment rate: 19.9%
Long regarded as one of the poorest cities in the U.S., with a 32.3% poverty rate and nearly 20% unemployment in 2010, Detroit has the second-highest violent crime rate in the country. Homicide increased by 11% in 2011, while robbery and aggravated assault are fourth and second highest in the country, respectively. Nonviolent crime is also an issue, with burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson rates in the top 10 rankings in the country. In response to an 18% decrease in the Detroit police budget, which will result in the elimination of 380 positions through attrition and early retirement, the city has begun taking steps to decrease police funding by introducing “Virtual Precincts.” The plan, which closes police stations between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m, requires citizens to report non-emergency crime to a call center, and frees up more patrol officers to respond to 911 emergency calls.
1. Flint, Mich.
> Violent crimes per 1,000: 23.4
> Population: 102,357
> 2011 murders: 52
> Median income: $22,672
> Unemployment rate: 18.9%
According to the FBI examined, no city with more than 100,000 residents had a higher violent crime rate than Flint. In 2011, there were 2,392 incidents of violent crime in Flint, which has a population just above 100,000. That same year, there were just 1,246 violent crimes in all 10 of the safest cities in America — which have 13 times as many residents as Flint among them. Flint has the second-highest murder rate and the highest rates of aggravated assault, burglary and arson in the nation. According to Flint Mayor Dayne Walling: “there are too many guns on the street and it’s easy for individuals with evil motives to take another human being’s life.” Though the violent crime has long been a problem in Flint, in 2010 the city laid off 20 of its 140 police officers, a decision that diminished both the police’s street presence and response times to crime.
Michael B. Sauter, Douglas A. McIntyre, Ashley C. Allen, Alexander E. M. Hess, Lisa Nelson and Samuel Weigley
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