Archive for the ‘Crime Data’ Category

Violence in the Heartland, Part VI: Cities Within the City

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

My most recent posts in this series have compared violent crime data from different cities.  However, focusing on a single crime-rate number from a city may mask wide neighborhood-to-neighborhood variations within the city.

Consider Milwaukee.  A helpful on-line data tool permits interesting comparisons among the city’s seven police districts.  The data reveal that rates of violent crime vary within the city by about as much as they do across cities.  Here, for instance, are the homicides per 100,000 district residents since 2010:

District 5, encompassing the north-central portion of the city, has easily had the highest homicide rate each year, while Districts 1 (downtown and northeast) and 6 (far south) have easily had the lowest.  (District boundaries are described in more detail here.)

Robbery rates reflect a similar pattern:  (more…)

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Violence in the Heartland, Part V: Wisconsin’s Cities

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Since 1985, Wisconsin’s seven largest cities have followed markedly different paths in their rates of reported violent crime.  Two, Waukesha and Appleton, have consistently had lower rates than the state as a whole, while two others, Milwaukee and Racine, have typically had rates that are two to three times higher than the state as a whole.  Kenosha and Racine have significantly reduced their rates of violence since the 1980s, while the other five cities have experienced sizable net increases.

Here are the overall trends, in the form of reported violent crimes per 100,000 city residents:

Cities year by year

In recent years, as you can see, Waukesha has easily had the lowest rates and Milwaukee the highest.  Earlier, Appleton used to compete with some success for lowest and Racine for highest.

Here are the net changes in the cities’ crime rates from 1985-1987 to 2010-2012:   (more…)

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Violence in the Heartland, Part IV: The Biggest Losers (and Gainers)

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Among the eleven biggest Midwestern cities, Chicago has experienced the largest drop in homicide rates over the past quarter-century, while Cincinnati has experienced the largest increase.  The other nine cities are scattered between the biggest loser and the biggest gainer, reflecting a range of markedly different urban experiences with lethal violence since the mid-1980s.

This rather messy graph indicates the annual number of homicides (murder and other nonnegligent manslaughter) per 100,000 residents for each of the eleven Midwestern jurisdictions with a population of more than 250,000:

homicides by 11 cities

Other than Detroit’s position as the region’s perennial homicide champ, it is hard to discern any patterns in the mass of lines.

The following table provides a clearer picture of each city’s trajectory.   (more…)

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Violence in the Heartland, Part III: City Trends

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

In earlier posts (here and here), I have explored state-level violence trends since 1960 in the seven midwestern states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  This post focuses on the data from the largest city of each of these states.  Since Chicago does not report its rape numbers in conformity with FBI standards, it is omitted from the analysis.

Here are the city trends since 1985 (reported violent crimes per 100,000 residents):

city data

What stands out most is the very wide, persistent gap between Detroit at the top of the chart and Des Moines at the bottom.   (more…)

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Violence in the Heartland, 1960-2012–Part One

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Despite their geographical proximity and economic and cultural similarities, the states of the Midwest have had very different rates of violent crime over the past five decades.  Moreover, through periods of dramatic increases and decreases in violent crime, the relative positions of the states have remained fairly stable.  The low-violence states in 1960 remain at the low end today, while the high-violence states in 1960 remain at the high end today.  However, the gap between the high states and low states has been slowly diminishing for many years.  In another decade, the state that has historically had the highest rate of violence, Illinois, may conceivably fall to about the same level as the state that has historically had the lowest, Iowa.

Readers of this Blog may know that I have previously written a series of posts on crime and punishment in three midwestern states, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (e.g., here and here).  With this post, I begin a new series that will explore regional trends more broadly.  With violent crime such a staple of local news coverage, I think it’s helpful to be able to place the crime du jour within a wider spatial and temporal context; perhaps this bigger-picture view may lessen the tendency to adopt hastily conceived policy responses to whatever happens to be the latest outrage.

Here are the rates of reported violent crime (per 100,000 residents) in the midwestern states and the U.S. as a whole since 1960:   (more…)

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Thoughts on Imprisonment in Wisconsin: Past, Present, and Future

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Public Opinion

  • Wisconsin voters do not favor indiscriminate harshness in the treatment of criminal offenders, but rather believe that the costs and benefits of imprisonment should be carefully weighed in each case.  In the July 2013 Marquette Law School Poll,[1] a clear majority of Wisconsin voters (55.3%) expressed support for the idea that “prisons are a government spending program, and just like any other government program, they should be put to the cost-benefit test. States should analyze their prison populations and figure out if there are offenders in expensive prison cells who can be safely and effectively supervised in the community at a lower cost.”[2]
  • An overwhelming majority of Wisconsin voters (85%) agree that “criminals who have genuinely turned their lives around deserve a second chance.”[3]
  • An overwhelming majority of Wisconsin voters (86%) say that they “feel safe walking alone at night” in their neighborhoods.”[4]  Although fear and outrage have sometimes dominated public discussion of criminal justice policies, Wisconsin is ready for a more balanced conversation that considers what policies will deliver the greatest benefits to the state at the least cost over the long run.

Imprisonment and Crime Trends


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Milwaukee Arrest Trends, 1980-2011 — Part III: Chicago Comparisons

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Chicago’s population is about 4.5 times larger than Milwaukee’s, but, surprisingly, the arrest totals in the two cities have been slowly converging for many years.  Here are the numbers reported to the FBI since 1980 (omitting a handful of years in which one city or the other did not report arrests):

two city totals


To some extent, the convergence may result from underlying crime trends in the two cities.


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Arrest Trends in Milwaukee, 1980-2011 — Part Two

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

In the first post in this series, I compared black and white arrest rates in Milwaukee over time. In this post, I present arrest data by offense type.

In 2011, the seven leading arrest offenses were disorderly conduct, “other assault” (i.e., not aggravated assault), drug possession, theft, vagrancy, vandalism, and weapons possession.  Together, these seven offenses accounted for more than 53 percent of all Milwaukee Police Department arrests.  This amounts to almost exactly ten times the number of arrests for the violent “index crimes” — the most serious violent offenses that dominate media coverage of the criminal justice system (homicide, robbery, forcible rape, and aggravated assault).  To get a more realistic sense of the day-in-day-out work of the system, it may be helpful to appreciate that for every homicide arrest you see in the news, there are 123 arrests for disorderly conduct and 47 arrests for simple drug possession — nearly all of which fly well below the media radar screen.  It is an interesting question to what extent these lower-level arrests contribute to public safety.

These offense distributions do not differ much by race.  The first pie chart below indicates the distribution of the Big Seven arrest offenses among blacks; the second provides the distribution among whites.   (more…)

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If You Build It . . . .

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

The paths followed by crime and incarceration in the United States have been mirror images of one another over the past two decades.  This can be clearly seen in the graph below, which I prepared for an upcoming conference presentation.

crime and imprisonment

The graph depicts year-by-year rates of imprisonment, homicide, and violent crime (the latter based on results from the National Crime Victimization Survey), indexed to 1992 rates. The mirroring effect is most pronounced if you compare imprisonment (green line) with homicide (red): between 1993 and 1999, imprisonment goes up at almost precisely the same rate that homicide goes down; in 2000, there is an abrupt leveling off in both areas; and neither has seen a lot of change since.  The violent victimization line (blue) mostly tracks the homicide line, save for an additional three years of rapid decline (1999-2002) and a notable uptick between 2009 and 2011.

The mirror-image paths might seem counterintuitive.  Shouldn’t less crime translate into less imprisonment?  Let me suggest three theories to account for what has happened.   (more…)

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Milwaukee: The Most Dangerous Size

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a new report compiling nearly two decades of data on gun crime, Firearm Violence, 1993-2011No doubt, many readers will pore over the report’s abundant tables and graphs looking for support for their views on gun control.  However, I was most struck by a breakdown of firearm violence based on population size (table 5).  Among the six size-based categories, the most dangerous places were cities of 500,000-999,999 — the category containing Milwaukee (pop. 597,867).  These mid-large cities not only have rates of gun crime that are about four times higher than cities of less than 100,000, but they are also forty-four percent higher than cities of one million or more.

More specifically, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, there were 4.6 nonfatal firearm victimizations per 1,000 persons age twelve or older in the mid-large cities in 2010 and 2011.  (Nationally, homicides constitute only two percent of all gun-related crimes, so the NCVS numbers would not change much if fatalities were included, too.)  The second-highest rate was 3.9, for cities with 250,000-499,999.

The numbers look very different today than they did in 1996-1997, when the Milwaukee-sized cities were tied for second place with 7.3 victimizations per 1,000, and the medium-sized cities (250,000-499,999) led with 10.3.

I have two reactions to the data.  First, the relationship of community size to gun violence is in some respects predictable, and in others quite puzzling.  (more…)

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