Monday, January 2, 2012

Murder: A Tale of Eight Cities

As 2011 came to a close cities began to celebrate or lament their homicide rates.  From coast to coast, north and south, I found eight cities with very different results in terms of managing homicide rates. 

For the first time in five years there has been an increase in the death toll in Oakland, California.  The city had 110 homicides in 2011, up from 95 in 2010, reported the Oakland Tribune.

The number of homicides in Washington D.C. declined in 2011 for the third straight year, a downward trend that has seen deadly violence in the city drop by more than half from just a decade ago.

Police reported 109 homicides last year, the lowest total in the city since 1963 and an 18 percent decrease from the 132 killings in 2010. Officials say community cooperation and good detective work are factors in the declines, which with each passing year seem to build on historic reductions, reported the Washington Times.

New Orleans saw homicides jump by 14 percent last year, ending the year with 199 killings. For the previous three years, the murder rate in New Orleans had stabilized at around 175 killings a year. Even that number was a staggering amount that gave New Orleans the highest per-capita murder rate in the country by a comfortable margin. The uptick this year will likely place New Orleans far ahead of other cities with serious crime and homicide problems.  New Orleans is the nation's deadliest city, according to The Times-Picayune.

Houston will likely finish 2011 with the lowest murder count the city has seen in nearly 50 years, preliminary Houston Police Department figures show.

HPD recorded 195 murders for the year as of December 30th, a 27.5 percent decrease from the previous year's total of 269.  As long as the 2011 total remains below 200, it would be the lowest since 1965, when 139 people were killed, reported the Houston Chronicle.

Murders are up again this year in Philadelphia, and the city still has the highest homicide rate of the nation's 10 most populous cities. At the same time, fewer murders are getting solved. The city's homicide tally stood at 324 December 28th, including the eight victims allegedly killed in previous years by West Philly abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Last year, 306 people were killed, and the year before, 302, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

The annual number of killings in Baltimore has fallen below 200 for the first time in more than three decades. Though Baltimore is still among the most deadly cities per-capita, the drop extends an overall downward trend in gun violence since 2007, the year Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld took office. The 196 slayings in 2011 were the fewest since 1977; in 2010, 223 people were killed, reported the Baltimore Sun.

A hot summer of shootings led to an increase in homicide cases in Cleveland in 2011. The city had seen 88 slayings as of Thursday, up from 77 last year but the number had reached beyond 300 in some years in the 1970s, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

For the first time in more than four decades, Los Angeles is on track to end the year with fewer than 300 killings, a milestone in a steady decline of homicides that has changed the quality of life in many neighborhoods and defied predictions that a bad economy would inexorably lead to higher crime.

As of the last week of the year, the Los Angeles Police Department had tallied 291 homicides in 2010. The city is likely to record the fewest number of killings since 1967, when its population was almost 30% smaller, reported the Los Angeles Times.

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