America's 25 Murder Capitals
20. Syracuse, New York
> Murder rate: 20.8 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 30
> Violent crime rate: 738.6 per 100,000
> Population: 143,925
Syracuse is one of several Rust Belt cities where the decline in manufacturing activity over the past several decades has coincided with an increase in poverty and violent crime. Today, 17.2% of Syracuse households earn less than $10,000 a year, and approximately 35% of Syracuse residents live in poverty, the 10th and seventh largest shares of any city.
While the city’s violent crime rate fell slightly over the last year — from 792 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2015 to 739 per 100,000 in 2016 — the incidence of murder increased. There were 30 homicides reported in Syracuse in 2016, a 36% increase from the year prior. As a result, Syracuse’s murder rate rose from 33rd highest in the country to 20th.
19. Little Rock, Arkansas
> Murder rate: 21.1 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 42
> Violent crime rate: 1,531.2 per 100,000
> Population: 198,800
There were 21 murders reported per 100,000 residents in Little Rock in 2016, far more than the national rate of 5 homicides per 100,000 Americans. The city’s 2016 murder rate was also 31% higher than the 2015 rate. Little Rock’s homicide rate is now the 19th highest in the country, and the city ranks even higher in overall violent crime. There were 1,531 violent crimes — which also include rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — per 100,000 residents in the city last year, the ninth most of any U.S. metro.
As part of an effort to combat rising crime, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced in July 2017 the creation of an investigative joint task force that will assist the Little Rock Police Department respond to the uptick in criminal activity. The announcement came less than a week after a shootout at a nightclub in downtown Little Rock left 28 people injured, a shootout police believe was potentially gang related.
18. Shreveport, Louisiana
> Murder rate: 21.4 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 42
> Violent crime rate: 949.3 per 100,000
> Population: 196,467
The number of homicides in Shreveport nearly doubled last year, from 22 in 2015 to 42 in 2016. In addition to an uptick in murder, there was a 23% increase in rape, 7% increase in robbery, and 16% increase in aggravated assault over the same period. In total, there were 949 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Shreveport residents in 2016, up 16% from 819 per 100,000 residents the year prior. By comparison, the national violent crime rate climbed 3% over the same period. While the prevalence of crime rose substantially in Shreveport last year, crime levels are still down substantially from their late-1980s peak, and 2014 was the least violent in about four decades.
17. Salinas, California
> Murder rate: 22.1 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 35
> Violent crime rate: 633.2 per 100,000
> Population: 158,729
There were 22 murders reported per 100,000 residents in Salinas in 2016, the most of any city in California other than San Bernardino. While violent crime is often most common in areas with widespread poverty and little personal wealth, just 4.6% of households in Salinas earn less than $10,000 a year, one of the smallest shares of any city.
According to Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin, gang activity in Salinas is on the high end compared to other cities in California and is responsible for much of the area’s violent crime. Witnesses in gang-related cases often fear retaliation and are reluctant to speak to police, and as a result many cases go unsolved. Just 13 arrests were made in the 40 homicides that occurred in the city in 2015. Others blame the high homicide rate on low police staffing levels, the result of budget cuts in recent years. Today, there are just 84 officers per 100,000 city residents, far fewer than the 123 per 100,000 in 2008 and a third of the national police-population ratio.
16. Atlanta, Georgia
> Murder rate: 23.5 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 111
> Violent crime rate: 1,083.6 per 100,000
> Population: 472,579
Atlanta is one of many large cities that contributed the most to the increase in the national homicide rate over the past year. There were 111 murders in Atlanta in 2016, versus the 94 reported homicides in the city in 2015. The increase escalated Atlanta’s homicide rate from 17th highest in the country to 16th. While murders in the city increased in 2016, the number of violent crimes — which also includes rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — fell overall. There were 1,084 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in Atlanta in 2016, down from 1,120 incidents per 100,000 residents the year prior.
Crime is often more prevalent in areas with widespread poverty and high unemployment and Atlanta is one of the poorest major cities. Some 24.6% of Atlanta residents live in poverty, far more than the 15.5% of Americans. Additionally, 5.8% of the Atlanta workforce is unemployed, more than the national unemployment rate of 4.9%.