Crime Statistics: City Homicide Rankings

Gentlereaders: The data presented below are offered from well known and respected criminologists using US Department of Justice funding.  Their data is included in “City Crime Rates-Top Ten Cities” on this site at or simply go the the headings above.

City Homicide Rankings Adjusted for Differences in Socio-Economic Factors

Researchers with the Improving Crime Data (ICD) Project today released rankings of 63 large US cities based on rates of homicide (number of homicides divided by the city’s population) in 2008 and of 60 cities in the first six months of 2009.  The rankings reflect (1) the raw rates per 100,000 population and (2) the rates adjusted for differences across the cities in socio-economic factors. The adjusted rates result in important changes in the ranking for several cities (See Table-1 for a list of the 63 cities in 2008 and Table-1A for the 60 cities in 2009; see Table-2 for an alphabetical listing of the 2008 cities and Table-2A for the 2009 cities).  

The FBI discourages ranking cities by their crime rates because cities differ in poverty, unemployment, and other crime-producing factors beyond their control. Criminologists Richard Rosenfeld, Alfred Blumstein, and Robert Friedmann applied a statistical model that adjusts each city’s homicide figures by differences across the cities in poverty, median income, unemployment, race composition, and female-headed households.  The researchers maintain that the model produces a more meaningful comparison of city homicide levels, especially for providing insight into the effectiveness of criminal justice policies and programs. 

Several cities fall or rise substantially in rank when socioeconomic differences are statistically controlled.  In the 2008 data, Detroit falls from number 2 in the unadjusted homicide ranking to number 53 after statistical adjustment.  Cleveland drops from number 8 to number 56.  Atlanta falls from number 11 to 58.  By contrast, Albuquerque, New Mexico jumps from number 44 to number 11 and Colorado Springs, Colorado rises from number 52 to 22 after statistical adjustment. 

In the six-month 2009 data, Cleveland drops from number 7 to number 53, and Memphis falls from number 10 to 58.  San Jose, California rises from number 56 to 21; Mesa Arizona rises from number 59 to 28.  Tables 1 and 2 present the rankings for all cities.  

A drop in rank indicates that a city has a lower homicide rate than would be expected based on its level of socioeconomic disadvantage.  An increase in rank means that a city has a higher homicide rate than would be expected based on its level of disadvantage. Cities with roughly the same ranking after the statistical adjustment have homicide rates that would be expected given their level of disadvantage.  Such cities include St. Louis and Baltimore, which rank near the top in both the unadjusted and adjusted rankings, and El Paso, Texas, which is near the bottom of both rankings.  

The 63 cities in the study contain about 17% of the nation’s population but accounted for 38% of the homicides committed in the U.S. in 2008. 

The homicide study was conducted for the recently completed project “Improving Crime Data” (ICD).  ICD was funded by the National Institute of Justice.  Technical details on how the city homicide rates were adjusted can be found on the ICD website (Improving Crime Data). 

Robert Friedmann, Ph.D., of Georgia State University and Richard Rosenfeld, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri-St. Louis were principal and co-principal investigator on the project.  Alfred Blumstein, Ph.D., served on the ICD Advisory Board.


Richard Rosenfeld
Curators Professor
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice
University of Missouri-St. Louis
(314) 516-6717
Alfred Blumstein
J. Erik Jonsson University Professor of Urban Systems and Operations Research
Carnegie Mellon University
(412) 268-8269
Robert Friedmann
Professor and Distinguished Chair of Public Safety Partnerships
Department of Criminal Justice
Georgia State University
(404) 413-1035  
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