Crime Trends in U.S. Cities: Mid-Year 2023 Update
Research Specialist, Council on Criminal Justice
Chair, Council on Criminal Justice Crime Trends Working Group
Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Graduate Research Assistant, University of Missouri-St. Louis
- This study updates and supplements previous U.S. crime trends reports by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) with additional crime data through June 2023. It examines monthly crime rates for 10 violent, property, and drug offenses in 37 American cities. The 37 cities are not necessarily representative of all cities in the United States. Not all cities reported data for each offense (see Appendix), and the data used to measure the crime trends are subject to revision by local jurisdictions.
- This snapshot suggests that levels of nearly all offenses are lower, or have changed little, in the first six months of 2023 compared with the same period in 2022. The most notable exception is the large increase in motor vehicle theft.
- The number of homicides in the 30 study cities providing homicide data was 9.4% lower—202 fewer homicides—during the first half of 2023 than in the first half of 2022.
- There were 2.5% fewer aggravated assaults in the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2022. The number of gun assaults also dropped (-5.6%) over the same period, but this trend is based on data from just 10 cities and should be viewed with caution.
- Robberies, residential burglaries, nonresidential burglaries, and larcenies all decreased in the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2022. Robberies fell by 3.6%, residential burglaries by 3.8%, nonresidential burglaries by 5%, and larcenies by 4.1%.
- Motor vehicle thefts continued their upward trend through the first half of 2023. There were 33.5% more motor vehicle thefts from January through June 2023 compared to the first half of 2022. The number of drug offenses increased by 1% over the same period.
- Domestic violence incidents increased by 0.3% in 11 cities during the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2022.
- Violent crimes remain elevated compared to 2019, the year prior to the COVID pandemic and racial justice protests of 2020. There were 24% more homicides during the first half of 2023 than during the first half of 2019 in the study cities. Property crime trends have been more mixed. There were fewer residential burglaries and larcenies and more nonresidential burglaries in the first half of 2023 than during the same period four years earlier. Motor vehicle thefts more than doubled (+104%), while drug offenses fell by 39%.
- The authors conclude that crime patterns continue to shift as the nation has emerged from the COVID pandemic and that policymakers and communities must act urgently to adapt their strategies to meet the new challenges. Though the level of serious violent crime is far below historical peaks, it remains intolerably high, especially in poorer communities of color. Research has identified strategies that work to reduce violence and improve the fairness and effectiveness of policing. Intensive efforts on both fronts are essential to help cities achieve lasting reductions in homicide and other crime.
Support for this report comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Arnold Ventures, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Southern Company Foundation, and Stand Together Trust, as well as #StartSmall, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and other CCJ general operating contributors.
This report updates CCJ’s previous studies of crime changes that began during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, extending the analyses with data through June 2023. The 37 cities included in this study were selected based on data availability (see Appendix for full list). They range from Chattanooga, TN, the smallest, with 179,690 residents, to New York, the largest, with more than 8.4 million residents. The mean population of the cities for which crime data were available is approximately 900,000, while the median population is roughly 465,500.
This report assesses monthly changes between January 2018 and June 2023 for 10 crimes: homicide, aggravated assault, gun assault, domestic violence, robbery, residential burglary, nonresidential burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and drug offenses. As in the previous reports, this analysis focuses special attention on the trend in homicides. The crime data were obtained from online portals of city police departments that provided monthly incident-level data for the period between January 2018 and June 2023. Offense counts were converted to monthly crime rates per 100,000 city residents for analysis of trends.
Offense classifications varied somewhat across the cities, and not all cities reported data for each crime. The number of cities reporting crime data ranged from a high of 33 for robbery to a low of 10 for gun assaults. An Appendix table shows how many cities reported data for each offense.
The crime incident data for this report were obtained within days of the end of the study period to provide a timely snapshot of crime across the nation. Cities that had not posted June 2023 crime data on their websites by CCJ's data collection cutoff date (July 12, 2023) could not be included in this report. As a result, these figures may—and often do—differ from data subsequently published by individual police departments. The findings also may differ from other counts released later by the FBI, as part of its national crime reporting program. In addition, they may differ from those in previous CCJ reports because they are based on a different number and mix of cities. Finally, the city sample used for this report is not necessarily representative of all large American cities or the nation as a whole.
CHANGES IN VIOLENT OFFENSES
CHANGES IN PROPERTY AND DRUG OFFENSES
This study is the eleventh in a series of reports for CCJ exploring crime changes since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic and establishment of the Council’s National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice. Updating the earlier analyses, this study reveals both increases and decreases in crime rates in a sample of U.S. cities through June 2023.
The overall results suggest that some offenses in the sample cities are returning to pre-pandemic levels and others are not. Homicide is receding from its peak in 2021, but even if it were to fall back to pre-pandemic levels, the 2019 homicide rate (5.1 per 100,000 U.S. residents) was still 15% higher than the 2014 rate (4.4 per 100,000), which is the lowest level since World War II. While a 5.1 per 100,000 homicide rate is roughly half the modern peak of 9.8 recorded in 1991, the United States should not accept a homicide rate that claims thousands of lives each year—lives that can be saved by implementing effective violence-reduction strategies. Motor vehicle theft is another offense that exceeds pre-2020 levels. It is likely that much of this increase is the result of thefts of Kia and Hyundai models, but rates were already trending upward before these vehicles became popular targets.
Figure 23 shows the yearly percentage change in each of the 10 crimes studied from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2023. The figure provides a comparison of where these cities stand today compared to 2019. Most violent offenses rose in 2020 and 2021, and then began trending downward. The picture of property and drug crimes is more mixed, as many offenses remain below or around pre-2020 levels. Motor vehicle theft is a striking exception. As noted here and covered in detail in a prior CCJ report, many offenses experienced large shifts during the summer of 2020. Reexamining these trends at year’s end will provide a more comprehensive picture of crime patterns after the emergence of a global pandemic and widespread social unrest.
The recent uptick in crimes committed to acquire money or property could reflect a return to normal living conditions and daily routines. Another factor may be the emergence of new, destabilizing economic conditions. Inflation accelerated sharply in 2021 and early 2022. But the inflation rate has fallen during the past year. The Consumer Price Index increased by just 3% in May 2023 from the year before. The reduction of enforcement actions against certain property offenses may also have contributed to the increase in property crime in some cities. However, systematic research is lacking on enforcement and specific property crimes. Additionally, it is too early to tell whether the reduction in inflation contributed to the decrease in burglaries and larcenies during the first half of this year.
Reducing homicides and gun violence should continue to be the nation’s top public safety priority. Evidence-based strategies are available to address high rates of homicide and gun violence in the short and medium term. CCJ’s Task Force on Policing and Violent Crime Working Group highlight numerous essential reforms to improve policing and strengthen the overall effectiveness of violence reduction efforts in the U.S. In addition, CCJ is currently investigating trends for multiple offenses and exploring ways to improve the nation’s crime data infrastructure through its recently formed Crime Trends Working Group.
The cities listed below publicly reported data for the following offenses from January through June 2023.
1 - Homicide
2 - Aggravated Assault
3 - Gun Assault
4 - Domestic Violence
5 - Robbery
6 - Residential Burglary
7 - Nonresidential Burglary
8 - Larceny
9 - Motor Vehicle Theft
10 - Drug Offenses