Posted on October 23, 2013

Detroit Again Tops List of Most Dangerous Cities, as Crime Rate Dips

Daniel Fisher, Forbes, October 22, 2013

It should be no surprise Detroit tops the Forbes list of the Most Dangerous Cities this year for the fifth year in a row. What is encouraging is the violent crime rate in the Motor City actually declined last year, despite crushing financial woes that drove Detroit into the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Make no mistake: Detroit is still a very dangerous place. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s crime database reports Detroit had 386 murders last year, up from 344 in 2011 and essentially unchanged from 2000–when the city had 200,000 more residents. The steady outflow of residents has driven Detroit’s murder rate up to 54.6 per 100,000, more than 10 times the national average and the highest in the country among large cities. Equally troubled Stockton, Calif., fifth on this year’s Most Dangerous list, has less than half the murder rate of Detroit.

To compile the list, we start with the FBI’s Crime Statistics database, screening for cities with populations above 200,000. That eliminates cities like Flint, Mich., with its record-busting murder rate of 63 per 100,000, but allows us to focus on major American cities that presumably have full-fledged police departments.


Detroit’s problems are typical of many of the cities on this year’s list. While national crime statistics have fallen dramatically since the early 1990s–murder and violent crime rates are both down more than 50%–the rates in cities like Detroit; Oakland, Calif.; and St. Louis remain stubbornly high.

“It’s a story about segregation, integration and gentrification,” said John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and lecturer in criminology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Cities that have seen large influxes of immigrants, like New York and Los Angeles, have also enjoyed declining crime rates as those immigrants first stabilize the neighborhoods they move into, then draw in opportunistic new residents who invest in housing and gentrify the area, Roman said. Even in Washington, D.C., once considered a murder capital, killings have fallen by more than two-thirds since the year 2000 as the city’s immigrant population rose.

More effective policing helped, Roman said. {snip}


Crime, Roman said, is about “dense clusters of low-skilled young men.”


The No. 2 city on this year’s list is going the opposite direction from Detroit. Oakland’s violent crime rate rose 16% to 1,993 per 100,000 residents, more than triple the national average. The city across the bay from San Francisco had a much lower murder rate than Detroit’s however, at 32 per 100,000, putting it below murder hotspots like Detroit, New Orleans at 53, and Newark, N.J. at 34.

More effective policing and more foreign immigrants appear to help drive down crime rates, Roman said. It’s still not clear that more aggressive policing, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy, work over the long term. Get-tough drug laws incarcerated generations of black males and probably aggravated the breakdown in African-American families, he said.