Dec 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Homicides in U.S. set to drop by record numbers this year

Police in New York City on scene in Central Park, where a man with multiple lacerations was pronounced dead on Dec. 11.

Police in New York City on scene in Central Park, where a man with multiple lacerations was pronounced dead on Dec. 11. Photo: Theodore Parisienne/NY Daily News via Getty Images

The U.S. is on course to end 2023 with one of the largest annual drops in homicides on record, according to preliminary figures from AH Datalytics, a data analysis firm.

Why it matters: The findings appear to be at odds with Americans' perception of crime both in their communities and in the rest of the country.

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of Americans believe crime has increased in the U.S. since last year, according to a Gallup survey of 1,009 adults released last month.
  • A majority (55%) also said crime was rising in their local area.
  • "Both figures are similar to what Gallup measured last year and rank among the most pessimistic readings in the respective trends," the company said.
Annual rate of homicides in the U.S.
Reproduced from Datalytics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Driving the news: "Murder plummeted in the United States in 2023, likely at one of the fastest rates of decline ever recorded," writes Jeff Asher, co-founder of AH Datalytics, which tracks homicide numbers across the country.

By the numbers: Preliminary public data from 177 cities analyzed by AH Datalytics indicates that the country could see at least a 12% decrease in murders from last year.

  • Declines have been seen in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and other large cities.
  • The firm expects homicides overall to fall from 21,156 last year to around 18,450 this year, representing a 12.8% decline.
  • Other forms of violent crime — rape, aggravated assault and robbery — are set to see a decline as well, according to preliminary quarterly data published by the FBI earlier this month.
  • However, motor vehicle thefts are set to rise, which may be the result of defects within specific models — such as some Kia and Hyundai vehicles — that make them easier to steal.

What they're saying: It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes crime to decline in the U.S., but Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told ABC News in a recent interview that she believes increased federal assistance to local law enforcement agencies is partially responsible for the decrease.

  • "We're using tools like crime-gun intelligence, the ability to trace the gun and the spent shell casing from a crime scene to identify who's that shooter, how many violent crimes have they been involved with," she said in the interview.
  • Detroit Police Chief James White told ABC News that he thinks the Motor City's homicide decline is partly the result of increased foot and bike patrols and community engagement tactics.

Yes, but: While there has been an overall decline in homicides, thousands were still killed or affected, and some cities saw steep spikes compared to last year.

  • Murders rose in Washington, D.C., (+36%), Memphis (+31%) and Dallas (+14%), among others.
  • The nationwide drop also follows the roughly 30% increase in murders in 2020. That means that despite this year's drop, homicides remain slightly elevated compared to 2019.
  • And considering that the data AH Datalytics used to create its estimates is preliminary, the eventual official homicide statistics for 2023 will likely be slightly different.

The big picture: Other data sources show a decline in violence, too, including the Gun Violence Archive (GVA).

  • Currently, the number of homicides, murders and unintentional killings it has cataloged stands just above 18,600, which is roughly 1,785 lower than the amount it recorded in 2022.
  • However, GVA has recorded more mass shootings and mass murders this year than it did last year.

Between the lines: Gallup notes that the public perception that the country is experiencing a fresh wave of crime could be a reaction to "the sharp rise in the murder rate nationally as well as news stories about car theft and shoplifting."

  • Public views on crime can also be influenced by politics, especially as the country gears up for election season and some candidates lean into "tough on crime" rhetoric that doesn't necessarily match reality.
  • "Republicans are far more likely than Democrats and independents to rate the U.S. crime problem as very serious and to say crime is increasing, both locally and nationally," per Gallup.
  • Media, too, can influence how the public perceives crime by regularly highlighting certain individual crimes without providing a wider context.

Go deeper: Courts take action as police reform stalls

Methodology: The Gallup survey interviewed 1,009 adults from all 50 states and D.C. between Oct. 2 and 23 and has a margin of error of ±4 percentage points.

Go deeper