Well-said. The two biggest takeaways from this are not only the good news of this year, but also that the so-called "good old days" were far more violent than many people seem to think. And given today's high levels of economic inequality approaching Gilded Age levels, it's surprising that the murder rate isn't much higher than it is. (And while we have much better lifesaving medical treatment now making assaults less lethal, we also have more efficient and more readily available killing machines now at the same time.)

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getting some concern of a 60 year cycle punctuated by 30-40 year 'violent phases' followed by 20-30 year periods of tranquility based on this graph.

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Another major factor is early childhood lead poisoning, as Rick Nevin famously noted. We had lots of lead paint in the late 19th and early 20th century, which was then phased down and out, followed by leaded gasoline starting in the 1930s, exploding after WWII (when the Baby Boomers were born), peaking in the mid 1970s and phased out by the 1990s. And possible transgenerational effects too.

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Indeed, it seems to work in cycles, like every third or fourth generation.

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Good article. Thanks!!!

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Are homicide rates dropping or is trauma care improving?

During Covid trauma care suffered due to overstressed ER staff. Now that staffing is returning to normal trauma care is improving.

Aggravated assaults are increasing and within the aggravated assault statistics are assaults with a deadly weapon and attempt murders. And even while there’s a slight drop in gun violence - knife violence and other assaults are up. Perhaps look at trauma care centers and overlay homicides on the same map. Maybe compare Kern Co which has only 4 with LA that has 11. Maybe also look at air ambulance service. Kern has a higher official homicide rate. But does it really? Or does LA just so a better job of saving lives ?

In short I think murderous intent is far higher than the homicide numbers show and that were trauma care not as good as it now is the homicide numbers would be much higher.

This also means would be murderers are getting far shorter sentences than they would otherwise deserve.

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It's an interesting idea. But I looked at the homicide (assault deaths) trend vs the covid trend and the trend for all deaths to see if there's any related pattern. I couldn't really find one, as the periods when covid was surging and overwhelming healthcare systems really don't look that different, in terms of homicide death, from the periods when covid had mostly abated (like spring / summer 2021). Ditto with transport / traffic accidents.

You can check in the below link. Maybe I overlooked something, and there's probably a more granular way to look than this national, birds-eye view that I'm taking:


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Why is murder down so much especially when cities have been losing police at near record levels? Are there any compelling explanations?

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Aggravated assaults are up. Which includes ADW and attempted homicides. We’re just dying less

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It could also be that people are calling the police more frequently when violent assaults occur and / or the police are making arrests more frequently for assaults. Reporting and recording for most crimes beside murder is so low that it's always hard to tell whether the violence is changing or if it's simply the recording of the violence that is changing.

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Yes I agree. And I’m from Wigan sorta. Goose Green

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Where are you getting those numbers regarding attempted homicides and aggravated assaults from? Can we have a source please?

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I started from Jeffs list. Although I didn't check all 114. Took a quick look at Oakland, Spokane, Baltimore and a couple others. All had decreasing homicides and increasing aggravated assaults.

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because the police who left those cities weren't doing anything to prevent murder, perhaps

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You can find the timing of the homicide rise (deaths by assault) here:


And the specific demographic breakdowns of who is most affected by murder and the increases in murder here:


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The big staffing declines occurred in mid-2020 and through early 2022. Since then they've begun to level out as cities have increased pay and launched special recruiting efforts to bring officers out of retirement or poach officers from other jurisdictions (at great expense).

But if there's a 3.5 + 13% = 16.5% drop in homicides over 2022-23 then homicides would still be up significantly from early 2020 overall, especially in bigger metros where the increase in victims of homicide was most concentrated and among Black people who were already suffering from the highest rate of violence. From 2018-19 to 2021 the homicide rate increased 43% in big cities and among Black victims it rose a terrifying 48.7%.

It's a horrible, tragic health crisis and I find it depressing that the people with BLM signs in their yards are snarkily ignorant or indifferent to this vast loss of life. It's worth mentioning that the impact of police presence on reducing crime is one of the most well-studied and agreed upon research conclusions in the field of criminology.

All this is to say that of course the loss of 35,000 officers (which is about the cumulative loss) probably resulted in a few thousand people tragically losing their lives.

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Police *presence* effect on *homicide* is truly not clear cut in the way you're suggesting. You might be thinking about focused deterrence or hot spots, each of which come with drastic collateral consequences for the policed population. I do expect, however, that if we had a reliable measure for police use of force, we'd find that reductions in police headcount reduced population prevalence of police violence.

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1) I have not seen evidence that police staffing levels have leveled out in any meaningful sense. We still see how some of the largest police departments in the country are at or near the lowest staffing levels they've been in decades.

2) Yes, many criminologists agree that increasing police presence may lower crime but an even *greater* number of them agree that increasing spending in housing, health and education would also lower crime. We should pursue solutions that offer the benefit of reduced crime while also not having the disastrous results of violent over policing that disproportionately affects Black Americans.

Some very interesting results below that overwhelmingly conclude other important factors for reducing crime in the 90s and since which have absolutely nothing to do with police presence.




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1) See link:


"Reported that in January 2023, sworn staffing was 0.9 percent lower than in January 2022 and 4.8 percent lower than in January 2020".

2) Yes, other things may impact crime rates. We could open more pre-K and K centers and wait 15 years to see if that works or have more abortions and wait 20 years to see if that does anything and it's always good to take lead out of the environment.

But this all feels like distraction from your original question and my response to it. Crime spiked in May 2020 and only started drifting down in late 2022, despite no changes in abortion laws or lead exposure. Schools were closed but then reopened. Unemployment spiked but then fell to record lows, and the job market is especially strong for the lowest income Americans, who during covid saw their incomes rise due to covid relief checks.

So my point is that from May 2020 we saw an annual increase of 6,900 victims of homicide(!), a similar annual increase in traffic deaths and a 32,000 increase in drug overdose deaths(!!). All of these tragedies were disproportionately experienced by Black people. And of course fatal assaults, accidents and ODs are just the tip of an iceberg of suffering, which is emotionally and financially draining to communities involved as well. Crime is so enormously costly that virtually no community can build wealth if it is an outlier in terms of crime.

So if you want to convince me more police leads harmful over-policing then that's the bar you have to clear. There are about 14,000 Black victims of homicide every year now, versus about 180 annual deaths of Black people due to police. And the latter victims were, in the majority of cases, attempting to harm or kill a member of the public or the police themselves.

You also have to clear the economic bar. If you claim to care about Black Americans, you probably should care about the economic costs. One estimate of the damage of homicides tallies each individual murder as costing society 17 million dollars. Imagine if a cop patrolling in a Black neighborhood prevents just 1 or 2 shootings in his or her career.

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Of course crime has a terrible impact on a community - economically, physically and psychologically. Agreed that a community cannot build wealth when crime is widespread. And yes also agreed, crime is bad and we need to reduce it, this is not a controversial position.

However, your statements in the previous comments intended for folks with BLM signs in their yard is deeply unfair and extremely cynical because no community advocate or BLM supporter wants crime to increase or is "snarkily ignorant" or "indifferent" about crime that they want to do nothing about the high crime rate in those areas.

The place where we seem to disagree is how to reduce crime and improve public safety. I am siding with criminologists and community advocates who have said that improving social services improves public safety and reduces crime as opposed to *only* increasing police presence, which studies and lived experiences have shown has harmful effects on the people, particularly Black Americans, in those communities.

The problem is that in this country, we only seem to do the latter (hiring more cops and have them police and possibly abuse the people in those areas) while doing virtually nothing to improve social services. Now if we really cared and not just pretended to care about improving their lives and reducing crime, we would do more of the former and less of the latter.

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I think clap / salute emoji responses to "the police who left weren't doing anything to prevent murder" is pretty snarky, and disrespectful of the fact that plenty of the 700,000 LEOs in this country are showing up to work, in part, to prevent murder, which seems like a difficult and thankless job.

I don't know what this siding thing you're talking about is. There may be some near consensus from academia on vague ideas about community building or preferring democrats, but when you translate them into "what should NYC do with it's budget next year?" there's no such consensus, and thankfully, no politicians are relying solely on academic research on social services. We try things, and sometimes they work, more often they don't.

In 2020, we tried a massive experiment in de-policing, and it was such an obvious enough failure to everyone but the true believers, that near-every city is scrambling to reverse mistakes. At the same time we raised spending on social services and were lucky to benefit from a strong labor market for low-income Americans. That all proved great for some things, but did not decrease violent crime.

I'm not against all social services by any stretch of the imagination, but I think they have to be evaluated case-by-case and the aggregate track record is not great on reducing crime over the past several decades. LBJs big life in welfare spending coincided with one of the biggest crime waves in history and the 2008 recession coincided with falling crime. The geography of crime is similarly unconvincing - factors beyond social safety net and education seem to have more influence. Social safety net programs and ed might be worth it on their own merits, but their not a substitute for actually directly addressing crime, partially because so little crime is economically motivated or economically rational.

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Aug 18, 2023·edited Aug 18, 2023

In your own words, "Crime spiked in May 2020 and only started drifting down in late 2022". Why did this drop take place in late 2022, followed by an even more dramatic drop in 2023 if police staffing levels were lower in 2022 and 2023 than pre-pandemic levels? To be frank, the only distraction I see is your refusal to provide a convincing explanation for this dramatic drop in crime because if less police equals more crime, then we should not observe the "largest annual percent changes in murder ever recorded" (words borrowed from Jeff's article in the Atlantic in June).

Using another statement you made - "Yes, other things may impact crime rates" - No, it is not that these "other things" *may* impact crime; if anything criminologists believe that improving these "other things" (social services) improves public safety much better than police presence especially because of the deleterious and violent effects that police over presence has on black communities.

To be clear, I am not saying that we need to abolish the police but if we really cared about reducing the 14,000 black victims of homicide AND reducing the number of black people killed or routinely harassed by an unaccountable police force, then we would invest in these "other things" that criminologists clearly believe are better at improving public safety.

I also find it rather cynical that people who claim to care about Black Americans can easily dismiss the lived experiences of thousands of Black people who are regularly brutalized by an unaccountable police force and then turn around and blame the people wanting police accountability as somehow not caring enough about black people and crime in their neighborhoods.

Case in point, it seems like almost every large city PD currently has or has had a consent decree with the DOJ after investigations revealed widespread abuse. If that doesn't "clear the bar" to convince you that more police leads to harmful over-policing then I'm not sure what will.

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"In your own words..." well no one wants read a book here. Spikes in crime (and other social data) can often be explained mono-causally. May 2020 was one such spike that coincided with a massive amount of de-policing. Trends are much harder to pin on single sources. I don't why crime has drifted steadily lower for most of the past 30 years, but most of the causes are likely still in motion, reversed only by occasionally spikes that have mostly timed to BLM protests and DOJ investigations (like the late 2015 / early 2016 homicide spike).

Here's a list of consent decrees, there seem to be 14 over the last ten years:


These consent decrees don't rule that the agencies were doing more harm than good, only that they saw things that should change. That's good. Let's change them and improve. And then apply the same levels of oversight to teachers unions, government construction projects, the dmv, etc.

"but if we really cared about reducing the 14,000 black victims of homicide AND reducing the number of black people killed". You left out that the latter number is only 180, most of whom were trying to kill someone else. If we really care about lives, we'll focus on the number that is 100x larger. If we really care about secondary effects, we'll focus at least as much as the 17 million dollar bill per murder as on harder to measure vibes in the community.

Also - Black people have as much variety in their viewpoints as any other group. You seem to either think you are their spokesperson, or that they are unanimously agreeing with you or that their views in aggregate as we might find in polling, are somehow sacred. By the time the median person of any communities views are filtered up to twitter / the media / academia it's like a long game of telephone has been played. I hear the views you're expressing from left-wing academic/journalist types but much, much less from regular people of whatever race.

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