Special Report

Cities Where Crime Is Plummeting

Evening shot at the Mary Ross Waterfront Park in Brunswick, Georgia
Source: Thinkstock

10. Brunswick, GA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -29.1%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 505.1 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 358.2 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 3

Multiple closely-related socioeconomic conditions are improving considerably in Brunswick, Georgia. Most significantly, the metro area’s violent crime rate is falling more rapidly than most other U.S. metros. In 2011, there were 505 violent crimes for every 100,000 Brunswick residents, well above the 387 per 100,000 national violent crime rate. Following a 29.1% dip, Brunswick’s violent crime rate stands at 358 incidents per 100,000 residents, lower than the national 373 per 100,000 violent crime rate.

Economic development and violence reduction go hand in hand, and in addition to a falling violent crime rate, Brunswick’s population is growing rapidly. The metro area’s population has increased 7.7% since 2011, one of the largest growth rates in the country over the time period. The local economy is adjusting to the rapid growth well. The unemployment rate has declined in Brunswick from 10.8% in 2011 to its current level of 5.5%.

Farmington, New Mexico
Source: Thinkstock

9. Farmington, NM
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -29.1%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 625.1 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 443.0 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 5

Farmington is one of two metro areas in New Mexico to report significant five-year declines in the violent crime rate. Just five years ago, the Farmington metro area ranked among the 20 most violent metros in the country. Since then, the violent crime rate has fallen 29.1%. Still, with 443.0 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents, Farmington remains more dangerous than the vast majority of U.S. metro areas. It is one of only two metros on this list where, despite a significant decline, the violent crime rate remains above the U.S. rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 residents.

One factor likely related to the area’s still-high violent crime is its struggling economy. Economic prosperity can have a cyclical relationship with criminal activity, as people are more likely to turn to crime in areas with fewer opportunities, and crime can often hinder economic growth. Farmington’s unemployment rate of 8.7% is well above the national unemployment rate of 4.7%, and one of the highest in the country.

Rome, Georgia
Source: Wikimedia Commons

8. Rome, GA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -29.6%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 498.0 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 350.5 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 11

Violent crime in the Rome metro area fell in the past five years. The metro’s violent crime rate in 2011 of 498 incidents per 100,000 residents was far higher than the national rate of 387 incidents per 100,000 Americans that year. By 2015, the area’s violent crime rate fell to 351 incidents per 100,000 residents, below the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000.

Rampant job losses in most U.S. cities during the Great Recession led to near-record high levels of crime and unemployment. In 2011, an estimated 12.1% of Rome’s labor force was unemployed, far higher than the 8.9% national unemployment rate at the time. Over the past five years, however, Rome’s unemployment rate fell to just 5.7%, one of the largest improvements of any city nationwide. As economic conditions continue to improve, Rome’s crime rate may continue to decline.

Flint, Michigan 2
Source: Thinkstock

7. Flint, MI
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -30.9%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 841.2 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 581.4 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 53

Low violent crime levels help foster economic growth, which in turn helps lower the incidence of violence. This cyclical relationship is difficult to break, and many areas with falling crime rates were already relatively safe five years ago. Flint is an exception. There were 841 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Flint residents in 2011, the highest rate of all major metro areas that year. Since then, despite the 31% decline, the current rate of 581.4 violent crimes per 100,000 people remains among the highest in the country. The reduction is still remarkable, however. Recent research has shown that community programs, like the ones implemented by the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center, have played major roles in Flint’s crime drop.

Still, Flint continues to struggle with problems that can lead to greater violence, like segregation. Based on a standard measure of segregation — the dissimilarity index — Flint is the eighth most racially segregated large metropolitan area in the country.

Black Rock Harbor Light - Bridgeport, Connecticut
Source: Thinkstock

6. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -31.4%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 293.6 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 201.5 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 23

Between 2011 and 2015, the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk violent crime rate fell from 294 incidents per 100,000 residents to 202 per 100,000. The 31.4% decrease was the sixth largest of any metro area, as the city reached its lowest level of crime in nearly 40 years. A news release from the Bridgeport government website attributes the improvement to a “growing economy,” and “efforts to crack down on gun and gang violence.” While Bridgeport’s median household income of $86,414 a year is the third highest of any metro area and rising, the city also has the largest income gap between rich and poor.

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