FAQ: Murder Capitals of America

How We Rank the Murder Capitals of America

What the research reveals

Our research reveals the 30 cities in America with the highest number of murders per 1,000 residents. Murder, most often referred to as homicide, is the willful (non-negligent) killing of one human being by another. We limited our research to cities with 25,000 or more people. Data used for this research are 1) the number of murders reported to the FBI to have occurred in each city, and 2) the population of each city.

Why NeighborhoodScout’s analysis is more comprehensive than others.

Thousands of cities nationwide – both large and small – have multiple agencies with law enforcement responsibility. These include municipal police, county sheriff, transit police, campus police, public school police, park and port police, tribal police, and more. Since many cities are served by more than one law enforcement agency, our exclusive analysis includes crimes reported by all agencies. We accomplish this by collecting reported crime data from all 18,000-plus law enforcement agencies in America. Then we use a relational database built from the ground up to assign reported crimes from each agency to the city where it has law enforcement responsibility. This method provides an accurate representation of the complete number and types of crimes that truly occur within any city or town, not just crimes reported by a single municipal agency.

We do this same process for every city in the United States, due to the agency-centric way that crimes are reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, rather than reporting crime in a location-centric way.  That is, our analysis is not to find the agencies who report the most murders, but rather the cities which have the highest rates of murder in their cities, as reported by all of the agencies with law enforcement responsibility in the city or town.

Once we have this complete and accurate count of reported murders for every city in the nation, our analysis takes the murders for each city with 25,000 or more people, and divides them by the population of the city, divided by 1,000.  This establishes a murder rate per 1,000 population that is used to compare every city.

Where we get our data and its time frame

City population data we use are the latest available directly from the US Bureau of the Census at the time of each analysis. For instance, the 2017 list population uses 2015 population figures. The 2016 list uses 2014 figures, and so forth.

Crime data we use are the most recent data the FBI classifies as ‘Final, non-preliminary.’  It is the most up-to-date and fully vetted data with complete national coverage that is available.  We insist on using Final, Non-Preliminary data for our analyses and analytics, rather than basing our research on preliminary data that may need to be updated or have errors in it.

The FBI releases these data approximately 10 months after the close of a calendar year. For example, our 2017 list is based on the 2015 year total data which was released in Final, Non-Preliminary form in November, 2016. The 2016 year total crime data is not complete.  The FBI is still working through data issues and reporting issues before that data can be considered Final, and Non-Preliminary.

The 2016 list was based off of the 2014 calendar year data which was released in Final, Non-Preliminary form in November, 2015. The 2015 list was based off of 2013 data, and so forth. We use the latest Final, Non-Preliminary data for our analyses to assure the best quality information and to treat every neighborhood equally.

The 2016 data will be considered Final, Non-Preliminary sometime in the fall of 2017. When it is, we will build the new crime data into our models and produce a new list, approximately 2 months after the FBI’s release. Until then, what we are using is the most recent Final Data with complete national coverage as per the FBI.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I see the raw crime data for the cities on this list?
Q. How can a small city have a higher murder rate than a large city?
Q. How can a city be on your list that I believe to be a safe city?
Q. I don’t see a city on this list that I think should make the list. Why is that?
Q. When I click through to see the crime details for a city, NeighborhoodScout’s overall Crime Rating doesn’t show the city as one of the most dangerous. Why is that?
Q. The map on the city page looks like it covers a broader area than the city. Does this mean the crimes used for this list come from a broader area than the city limits?
Q. What is the definition of murder / homicide?
Q. I see crime data on a city’s website or the FBI’s website that is different than the data here. Why is that?
Q. Why rank cities on safety even though the FBI cautions against it?
Q. Crime has been going down in a city, so how can it have a high murder rate?
Q. Can I get a Crime Report specific to my business address?
Q. I like what I see. Can I get your crime data via an API for Corporate use?

Q. How do I see the raw crime data for the cities on this list?

A. Click on any city name in the list.

Q. How can a small city have a higher murder rate than a large city?

A. While a large city may have more murders than a smaller city, the smaller city may have more murders per 1,000 population, meaning it has a higher murder rate and a resident’s chance of becoming a murder victim in the city – all things being equal – is higher. Imagine the example of New York City vs. St. Louis. New York City has far more murders than St. Louis, but its population is so much higher that its murder rate is far lower than St. Louis’.

Q. How can a city be on your list that I believe to be a safe city?

A. Some cities have reputations for safety that are not supported by crime statistics. Click on any city in the list to see a complete breakdown of murder counts and rates for that city compared to the national average.

Q. I don’t see a city on this list that I think should make the list. Why is that?

A. The list is based on the most recent final, non-preliminary data and is very comprehensive and carefully developed. You can see the murder rate for any city not on the list by typing the city name into the Reports Tab at the top of any page on the site. Once on the city page, click on its crime tab to see its murder count and murder rate which is the data used to build this list. You may find that the city has a deserved reputation for high crime, but perhaps for something like robbery or assault, and not across all violent crimes, therefore its murder rate isn’t high enough to make the list as one of America’s murder capitals. Or it could have a high rate of theft or burglary, both non-violent property crimes.

Importantly, some places people think are cities are actually neighborhoods within a city, For example, Hollywood is not a city, but rather a neighborhood of Los Angeles. Conversely, West Hollywood is a city. This research report is for cities, not neighborhoods.

Q. When I click through to see the crime details for a city, NeighborhoodScout’s overall Crime Rating doesn’t show the city as one of the most dangerous. Why is that?

A. The Crime Index is based on the crime rate per 1,000 population for all crimes in the city including property crimes, not just murder. Since property crimes are often far more prevalent than violent crimes, and certainly are much more prevalent than murder, they can influence the overall Crime Index. The list of the 30 murder capitals of America is based on the murder rate per 1,000 population – not property crimes and not all other violent crimes. Look to see the murder rate shown on the city crime page for the data used in developing this list. Note that the list is limited to cities of 25,000 or more people.

Q. The map on the city page looks like it covers a broader area than the city. Does this mean the crimes used for this list come from a broader area than the city limits?

A. Our map may show census tracts assigned to a city for visual purposes, based on a spatial overlay of census tracts to municipal boundaries.  But rest assured, the crime data used on our site and for the development of this list is purely as depicted above:  the murders reported to have occurred within the city, along with the population of the city.

Q. What is the definition of murder / homicide?

HOMICIDE The willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another.

Q. I see crime data on a city’s website or the FBI’s website that is different than the data here. Why is that?

A. The data used here is the most recent Final, non-preliminary data available at the time of the research. Sometimes a city law enforcement agency will post preliminary data to its website which would not match our data. Other times cities only show year-to-date crimes, which by their nature, are only for a partial year. For example, only January – September. Also, our data are for the city overall, not just a single law enforcement agency in the city. FBI reporting is agency-focused and only shows crimes by agency. Similarly, individual city agencies will almost always show only the crimes from their single agency, not all agencies that have law enforcement responsibility in the city. Our analysis includes all crimes reported by every agency in a city, and is therefore comprehensive.

Q. Why rank cities on safety even though the FBI cautions against it?

A. This report and/or our data cannot and should not be used as a measure of the effectiveness of law enforcement due to the myriad factors that can contribute to crime in a community. Demographics, transience, household structure, education, poverty, and many other social and economic factors work in concert to create or mitigate criminal activity in any particular community. As such, NeighborhoodScout’s research on the safety of communities illuminates the relative crime risks of communities across America, but should not be used by public officials or members of the public or the media to evaluate or measure the effectiveness of local law enforcement.

NeighborhoodScout’s data and this research report is a fair and objective assessment of the crime risks and safety in a community, regardless of the variables that drive those risks. But these findings are silent on and should not be used to judge the effectiveness of local law enforcement. Regarding community safety from crime, the public has a right to know how dangerous or safe any city or community is, just like they have the right to know how safe a car is, regardless of what goes into making a car more or less safe. NeighborhoodScout supports public discourse on issues of crime and public safety, and we support the right of the public to know the true and objective facts that contribute to their safety from crime. We stand behind the accuracy of our data, and the findings of this report.

Q. Crime has been going down in a city, so how can it have a high murder rate?

A. Crime has recently been going down nationwide. If other areas have crime that is going down faster than another city, then that city will still be more dangerous. A city may be getting safer, but other places may be getting safer faster.

Q. Can I get a Crime Report specific to my business address?

A. Yes. Crime varies far more between neighborhoods within a city, than between most cities. Our data are also built to provide address-specific crime risk information. You can get an instant, objective, and quantitative Crime and Security Assessment Report for any address by going here: www.SecurityGauge.com

Q. I like what I see. Can I get your crime data via an API for Corporate use?

A. Yes. Please go to www.LocationInc.com to see our data products and to contact us to discuss your needs.