Posted on October 1, 2021

Detroit Remains Among Nation’s Most Violent Big Cities

George Hunter and Hayley Harding, Detroit News, September 27, 2021

With assaults, shootings and homicides on the rise across the country, Detroit continued last year to be among the most violent big cities in America, according to FBI statistics released Monday.

Detroit in 2020 had a rate of 2,248.4 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, behind only Memphis, Tennessee, as the highest rate in the country among cities with more than 100,000 residents. St. Louis, Missouri, Little Rock, Arkansas, and South Bend, Indiana rounded out the top five. Lansing, Michigan was ranked No. 9.

Alabama, Maryland and Pennsylvania reported limited data to the FBI in 2020, so cities with more than 100,000 residents that often appear high in crime rankings, such as Birmingham, Baltimore and Philadelphia, are not included in this year’s data.


In 2020, 14,370 violent crimes — which include assault, robbery, rape and criminal homicide — were reported by Detroit police, according to FBI data. That’s a 10.25% increase from 2019 when 13,034 violent crimes were reported.

Homicides nationally jumped 29.4% from 2019 to 2020, the FBI data showed. Violent crimes also were up 5.6% in 2020 over the previous year across the country.

In Detroit, murders rose 19.3% and aggravated assaults increased 21.7%, leading to the city’s big jump in overall violent crime rate even though the number of reported rapes fell by 29% and robberies fell by 21.2%. The city reported 328 murders, including non-negligent manslaughter, 676 rapes, 1,848 robberies and 11,518 aggravated assaults, according to FBI data.


Those numbers are also how Detroit ranks higher in violent crimes per capita than cities like Chicago and St. Louis, where high numbers of homicides regularly make national news.

Chicago’s violent crime rate rose from 943.16 per 100,000 people in 2019 to 967.9 in 2020, an increase of about 2.6%. FBI data shows the number of murders in Chicago increased significantly, from 492 in 2019 to 771 in 2020. Like Detroit, the number of reported rapes and robberies fell. But with a population of nearly 2.75 million in 2020 compared to Detroit’s tally of just under 640,000 people, Chicago doesn’t even rank in the top 25 cities in terms of violent crime when numbers are adjusted for population.

St. Louis is just less than half the size of Detroitwith a population of 301,578, but with 263 murders in 2020 and more than 4,200 aggravated assaults, the city nearly matches Detroit in terms of violent crime for its size. Its crime rate rose about 4.6% this year.

Memphis, which had 633,104 people in 2020, and Portland, Oregon, population 652,503, are the two cities city closest in size to Detroit that reported data. Portland reported only 53 murders, less than a fifth of what Detroit saw last year. The city also had 2,343 aggravated assaults, about a fifth of what was reported in Detroit. In total, its crime rate fell about 3.6%. Memphis, meanwhile, led the nation in violent crime. Thanks largely to a big rise in murders and assaults, its violent crime rate rose 27.3% from 2019 to 2020.

Detroit Police Chief James White pointed out that while nationally homicides jumped about 30% last year over 2019, Detroit’s increase was 19%, making it “on the low end of the uptick compared to other major cities, which saw higher increases.”


For some, including Detroit resident Sandrew King, the situation feels worse in the neighborhoods than the numbers show.

“Whatever you see as far as statistics go, it’s worse than that on the street level,” he said. “There are a lot of people who don’t have hope, and when you get that situation, you’re going to get people committing crime because they just don’t care. When people don’t have hope, your neighbor is no longer your friend; he’s your enemy.”