Cities across the United States are reporting a spike in gun violence and homicide during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first six months of 2020, there was a nearly 15% increase in murders nationwide, and across a sample of 59 cities tracked by the FBI, the number of murders was up 28% from January through July, compared to the same period in 2019.
The increase reflects a sudden reversal of a long-term trend, as violent crime had fallen in the United States for four consecutive years. In 2019, 367 violent crimes were reported for every 100,000 people in the United States, a low not seen since 2014, as well as a far cry from the highs of the early 1990s that topped 750 violent crimes per 100,000 people annually.
While a complete picture of the incidence of violence in the United States in 2020 remains to be seen, dozens of cities across the country already were plagued by violence before this turbulent year.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime rates in the 295 U.S. cities tracked by the FBI that are home to at least 100,000 people to determine the 25 most dangerous cities in America. Violent crime rates are population-adjusted figures calculated using the number of rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and homicides committed in 2019 per 100,000 people.
Violent crime is a difficult social phenomenon to explain. Certain factors, however, may affect the incidence of violence, especially employment. Higher employment rates among at-risk groups have been shown to reduce the likelihood of violent crime, and some experts are pointing to the ongoing unemployment crisis to help explain the current surge in violence nationwide. Indeed, many of the cities on this list were struggling with widespread joblessness even before the COVID-19 recession. Here is a look at the cities with the worst COVID-19 unemployment crisis right now.
The relationship between income and crime is complicated, but cities with high poverty also often have higher crime rates. In the vast majority of cities on this list, the poverty rate exceeds the comparable 14.1% national rate. Here is a list of America’s poorest cities.
Detroit ranks as the most dangerous city in the United States, with 13,040 violent crimes reported in 2019. That is 1,965 for every 100,000 people. Aggravated assaults account for the largest share of violent crimes in the city, followed by robberies. The city reported 275 homicides in 2019.
Detroit’s 2019 population was 663,502 and has fallen for decades from a peak of 1.85 million in 1950.
Violence tends to be more concentrated in lower-income areas with limited economic opportunity. In Detroit, 36.4% of the population lives below the poverty line and 8.8% of the labor force is unemployed. That compares to the 14.1% national poverty rate and 3.7% annual jobless rate.
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To determine the 25 most dangerous cities in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed violent crime figures in cities with at least 100,000 people from the FBI’s 2019 Uniform Crime Report. Violent crime includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, and property crime includes burglaries, larceny and motor vehicle theft. Violent crime figures were adjusted for population using data from the FBI.
Annual unemployment rates for 2019 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median household income, poverty rates and the percentage of households earning less than $10,000 a year came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and are five-year averages for the period 2014 to 2018.
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