The violent crime rate in the United States rose slightly in 2015, from 362 incidents per 100,000 people in 2014 to 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans. Still, the long-term trend of violent crime nationwide has been one of steady improvement. In 1996, there were 637 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans, and the rate has declined nearly every year since.
Violent crime is a broad category that includes rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and murder. While these crimes have become less and less common nationwide, some metro areas have reported a dramatic spike in violent crime. In Monroe, Louisiana, the violent crime rate increased from 640 reported incidents per 100,000 people in 2011, which was 16th highest at the time, to 1,160 incidents per 100,000 people in 2015 — the highest. Based on figures published by the FBI, these are the metropolitan areas with the greatest increases in the violent crime rate.
Violent and nonviolent crime rates can move independently from one another, as factors driving up burglary and theft may have little impact on murder and assault. Still, there appears to be some relationship, as the majority of the 15 cities on this list where violent crime soared either reported a similar rise in property crime, or property crime was already a serious problem in the area. While property crime nationwide fell by 11.7% over the past five years, it increased in 11 of the 15 metropolitan areas on this list.
Large five-year increases in violent crime rates tended to be more common in metro areas that started as relatively safe places. Of the 15 metro areas on this list, nine had violent crime rates below the national rate of 387.1 reported incidents per 100,000 Americans in 2011. Each metro area on this list reported at least a 37% spike in violent crimes since, and now all but two have a higher violent crime rate than the nation as a whole.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., John Roman, senior fellow at the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, explained that violent crime rates go hand in hand with several other socioeconomic measures. Roman explained that violence and poor economic conditions are cyclical and can feed into each other. There is much evidence that in areas without economic opportunities, residents — young men in particular — are more likely to turn to drug dealing and other kinds of crime.
Roman added that the relationship between economic development and crime is not one-way. Businesses and potential residents are less likely to choose to locate to a high crime neighborhood. “[You] really need to do something about crime and violence before you can see economic growth in a city,” Roman said.
Perhaps counterintuitively, violence reduction is often not the product of increased policing and crime repression strategies. According to Roman, safe cities such as New York “have introduced hundreds of programs and policies — all of which are designed to improve the community instead of trying to improve the community by suppressing violence.”
Community improvement is crucial in crime reduction. “Cities with less segregation, with more diverse income growth and economic growth, and more gentrification” are the same cities reporting declines in violence, Roman explained. Meanwhile, economically and racially segregated cities report persistent higher levels of violence.
Based on figures published by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 15 metropolitan statistical areas where crime rates rose the most from 2011 to 2015, the most recent available year of data. In order to be considered, areas had to retain the same geographic boundaries during the period covered, and they had to retain consistent reporting practices. Additionally, we reviewed annual unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2011 and 2015, as well as unemployment figures from December 2016. We also considered data from the Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey on household income, educational attainment rates, and poverty.
These are the 15 U.S. cities where violent crime is soaring.