As promised, the FBI has released its 2015 crime data the morning of the first presidential debate. The top-line results will not be surprising to those who’ve been paying attention: the murder (and nonnegligent manslaughter) rate rose from 4.4 to 4.9 per 100,000, about 11 percent, in a single year. There were an estimated 13,594 murders in 2014 but 15,192 in 2015. Overall violent crime also was up 4 percent in 2015, though property crime declined 3 percent.
This is a huge percentage change in murder, even if we are nowhere near where we were a quarter-century ago, when the rate neared 10 per 100,000. It erases about five years of the crime decline, nearly matching the rate from 2009. Murders seem to be up substantially in 2016 as well.
As I’ve been pointing out for about a year now (and as Philip Jenkins discusses in his TAC piece today), the 2015 murder increase was not evenly distributed throughout the country. It was concentrated in poor, heavily black neighborhoods—suggesting there might be something to the “Ferguson Effect” theory, which posits that racially themed anti-police protests embolden criminals and cause cops to back off. As I’ve noted before, these protests are often (though not always) inspired by real, horrifying police brutality, as in the case of Laquan McDonald in Chicago.
About 8 percent more whites were killed in 2015 than in 2014, but murders of blacks rose 15 percent. (These include Hispanics, an ethnic rather than racial category.) Unlike the CDC, the FBI doesn’t provide race-specific death rates, but some back-of-the-envelope math with Census numbers suggests the white murder rate rose from 2.2 to 2.4 while the black rate rose from 15 to 17 per 100,000.
Also unlike the CDC, the FBI does have some data on offenders as opposed to victims—though unfortunately, it’s limited to cases where information about the offender is available. (Many murders go unsolved, and murders of blacks are somewhat less likely to be cleared. The national clearance rate fell from 64.5 percent in 2014 to 61.5 percent in 2015.) The FBI was aware of 9 percent more black offenders and 6 percent more white offenders in 2015 than in 2014.
The increases were also concentrated in certain cities. Murders rose nearly 1,600, and more than 350 of those were in Chicago, Baltimore, Houston, Washington, DC, and Milwaukee.
As I said in July, I’m not sure America is craving a law-and-order candidate yet—we remain much, much safer than we were in the 1980s and early ’90s. But these are troubling trends and deserve attention from local and national leaders.
Robert VerBruggen is managing editor of The American Conservative. Follow @RAVerBruggen