Homicide in America last year was a tale of two cities: those where it plummeted and those where it soared.
declined in some places with which it was once (sometimes recently)
synonymous, such as Chicago (down 17% from 2012), Philadelphia (down
25%), Los Angeles (16%) and New York (20%).
Chicago's total was
the lowest since 1965, Philadelphia's the lowest since 1967, L.A.'s the
lowest since 1966. New York logged the lowest total at least since 1963,
when its current system of keeping records was established.
declined in some of the nation's most troubled cities, including
bankrupt Detroit (from 386 to 333) and Camden, N.J. (from 67 to 57),
where the local police department was dissolved and replaced by a
Homicides increased in other cities, including Washington (even if
the 12 victims of the Sept. 16 Navy Yard massacre are not included);
Baltimore, whose Western District, infamous in the TV series The Wire,
saw the most murders in a decade; and Newark, where the bloodiest year
since 1990 culminated with police charging a 15-year-old boy in a
Christmas Day shooting that left two teenagers dead and a third
Overall, homicide declined dramatically around
the turn of the century, but experts say it's unclear exactly where it's
"It wasn't a bad year, especially compared to 15
years ago,'' said Thomas Reppetto, former president of the Citizens
Crime Commission of New York and an author of several books on policing,
"but it's not clear what the long-term trend will be, even five years
Chicago's decline to 415 murders, he said, merely took
the city down to what he called "a normal level'' and offered no
guarantee that the city's anti-crime plan was really working or that
homicide would not spike this year. The city still had more murders than
New York in 2013, with a third of the population.
it takes several years "to see a clear pattern,'' like one in Boston,
where 2013 was the fourth straight year when murder declined.
Last year's homicide victims ranged from anonymous foot-soldiers in
drug and gang wars to the likes of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old
honor student who was gunned down a mile from President Obama's home on
Chicago's South Side, and John Wood, a former trash collector and
inspiration for the 1990s TV show Roc,who died in Baltimore at age 80 after he was punched and hit his head on the ground.
Officials in cities where murder dropped offered various explanations:
• Summer and after-school youth programs.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said last month that a record 20,000 young
people were involved in a jobs program: "Not one of those kids was
affected by gun violence this summer, and I don't believe for a minute
that if they didn't have jobs they would be safe."
• Anti-gang initiatives.
"Operation Crew Cut,'' New York's attempt to prevent retaliatory gang
violence by younger members, focused in part on monitoring what
then-police commissioner Ray Kelly called "the new battleground of
• "Data-driven" policing. The Los Angeles
Police Department concluded that street crime, generally thought to peak
in the hottest months, actually crests between August and October. The
LAPD made its patrol assignments accordingly.
• Better emergency care. More shooting victims survive their
wounds in Boston, officials have said, because of a new emphasis on
rushing emergency medical technicians to crime scenes and victims to
When crime goes down, Reppetto said, "there are many answers to 'why?' America is so huge, and there are so many variations.''