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. These crimes have become less common across the country, but in some metropolitan areas, the decline has been much more pronounced. In Bend-Redmond, Oregon, the violent crime rate fell by 46.6%, from 331 reported incidents per 100,000 people in 2011 to 177 incidents per 100,000 people in 2015 — one of the lowest rates in the country. Based on figures published by the FBI, these are the metropolitan areas where the violent crime rate is plummeting.
Violent and nonviolent crimes do not always have the same root causes, and factors driving down burglary and theft may have little impact on murder and assault. Still, there appears to be some relationship, as all 15 cities on this list where there was a decline in violent crime also reported a decline in property crime. In all but four of the 15 metropolitan areas, property crime declined faster than the national decline of 11.7% over the five year period.
The cities that reported large five-year decreases in violent crime rates tended to relatively safer to begin with. Of the 15 metro areas on this list, all but four had violent crime rates below the national rate of 387 reported incidents per 100,000 Americans in 2011. Of the remaining four, in two the violent crime rates declined to below the national rate of 373 per 100,000 by 2015. The exceptions to this are Farmington, New Mexico and Flint, Michigan. Flint had the worst violent crime rate in the country in 2011 among major metropolitan areas, at 841 incidents per 100,000 residents. The metro’s current rate of 581 incidents per 100,000 is now 27th worst.
In Flint, and in many of the other cities on this list, the declines in violent crime are likely due to a recovery from the effects of the recession. This includes the Bend metro area. The city had a dramatic spike in violent crime between 2007 and 2011 as its economy suffered from the effects of the recession
The relationship between economic prosperity and crime in cities like Bend is complicated. 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 socioeconomic measures. 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.
Many of the cities on this list that reported sharp increases in violent crime during the recession were forced to find creative solutions to bring crime back down to pre-recession levels. Bend, for example, hired a crime analytics officer and developed a new records system to engage in predictive crime mapping. Other cities on this list hired officers to serve as neighborhood resources and develop community relationships, which can be a highly effective preventative strategy.
Based on figures published by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 15 metropolitan statistical areas where crime rates declined 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 plummeting.