NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Murder Rate Drops Again In 1997

December 30, 1997

With two days to go in 1997, the number of murders is down again in nine of the nation's 10 largest cities -- Detroit being the exception. Overall, the drop has been about 10 percent from 1996 rates.

If the rest of the nation follows this trend, 1997 will be the fourth straight year that murders have decreased in the U.S.

  • There have so far been 756 murders in New York -- a 23 percent decrease since last year, a 30-year low and a staggering improvement since 2,262 people were slain in 1992.
  • The homicide rate in Los Angeles fell 20 percent from the previous year, and was the lowest in 20 years.
  • While the rate in Dallas fell this year by less than 4 percent, the numbers are down by more than 50 percent since the peak year of 1991.
  • But the rate in Detroit increased by nearly 8 percent.

Police say there are a number of possible explanations for the declines, but have no definitive answer as yet. California authorities credit the state's three-strikes law -- which sends felons convicted three times to prison for life -- and community policing.

Some criminologists believe demographics explain the decrease, since there are fewer 17-to-25-year-olds, the group most likely to commit murders. Others credit a drop in violence linked to crack cocaine. Nevertheless, the rate of homicides is still twice as high as it was in 1985, before the crack epidemic hit the streets, they point out.

Source: Gary Fields, "Murders in 10 Largest Cities Down 10 Percent," USA Today, December 30, 1997.


Browse more articles on Government Issues