Special Report

America's 25 Murder Capitals

Source: Thinkstock

5. Newark, New Jersey
> Murder rate: 35.5 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 100
> Violent crime rate: 936.9 per 100,000
> Population: 281,450

There were 36 murders per 100,000 Newark residents in 2016, nearly three times as many as any other city in New Jersey and the fifth most of any U.S. metro areas. While the relationship is complex, crime is often highest in cities with limited economic opportunity. In Newark, 7.9% of the workforce is unemployed, and 29.7% of residents live in poverty — far higher than the respective 4.9% and 15.5% national rates.

Like most large cities, much of Newark’s violent crime is concentrated in its poorest areas. According to a 2016 report by the Safer Newark Council, most violent crime in Newark occurs on just 20% of city streets, primarily in the city’s West and South Wards. The report also found that a vast majority of homicide in the city — approximately 75% — is gang or drug related.

Source: Thinkstock

4. New Orleans, Louisiana
> Murder rate: 43.8 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 174
> Violent crime rate: 1,069.7 per 100,000
> Population: 397,208

New Orleans has the highest homicide rate in the South and the fourth highest homicide rate of any city in the nation. There were 44 murders per 100,000 residents in New Orleans in 2016, about nine times the national rate and a slight uptick from the 41 murders per 100,000 residents reported the year prior.

One factor that may keep crime rates high in New Orleans is the city’s understaffed police department. While the city’s population rose 41% from 2008 to 2016 — the sixth highest growth rate of any city — the number of sworn police officers fell by nearly 300. There are currently 295 officers per 100,000 residents in New Orleans, down from 514 officers  per 100,000 residents in 2008.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Detroit, Michigan
> Murder rate: 45.2 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 303
> Violent crime rate: 2,046.5 per 100,000
> Population: 669,673

Detroit is one of the several major metropolitan areas that largely contributed to the increase in violent crime nationwide last year. As the number of violent crimes in Detroit rose 15.7% from 2015 to 2016 — far more than the 4.1% national increase and one of the sharpest spikes of any U.S. city — Detroit surpassed St. Louis as the most dangerous city in America. There are 2,047 violent crimes for every 100,000 Detroit residents, the most of any city and far more than the national rate of 386 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans. The increase was partially driven by a rise in homicide. There were 303 murders in Detroit in 2016, eight more than the year prior and the third most of any city when adjusted for population.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Baltimore, Maryland
> Murder rate: 51.4 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 318
> Violent crime rate: 1,780.4 per 100,000
> Population: 618,385

There were 51 murders in Baltimore per 100,000 residents in 2016, the most of any city other than St. Louis and more than 10 times the national rate of 5 homicides per 100,000 Americans. Baltimore also has a high prevalence of robberies. There were 857 robberies per 100,000 Baltimore residents in 2016, the most of any U.S. city.

Like many large metro areas, most of the gun violence in Baltimore is concentrated in the city’s poorest areas. According to a Baltimore Sun investigation, some 80% of gun-related homicides in Baltimore since 2011 have occurred in just 25% of the city’s neighborhoods.

Source: Thinkstock

1. St. Louis, Missouri
> Murder rate: 59.8 per 100,000
> No. of murders: 188
> Violent crime rate: 1,913.2 per 100,000
> Population: 314,507

There were 60 homicides per 100,000 St. Louis residents in 2016, by far the most of any city. While the number of murders per capita in the city leveled off in 2016, the St. Louis homicide rate has risen in recent years, even as gun violence in other high-crime cities leveled off. One difference between St. Louis and similar areas is the city’s relatively tolerant gun control legislation. For example, individuals in St. Louis are allowed to carry a gun in a car without a permit, an illegal act in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, and New York City, according to state laws.

St. Louis also struggles with a high prevalence of rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In total, there were 1,913 violent crimes per 100,000 St. Louis residents in 2016, the second most of any city.

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