Violent crime is dropping nationwide, report shows

The MCCA’s findings confirm other reports showing a downward trend in violent crime.

A crime scene with detectives and officer in background
Getty images

The incidence of violent crime dropped in the first three months of 2023 relative to the same period in 2022, according to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a consortium of law enforcement agencies from the 70 largest cities across the country.

The drop represents a deviation from a three-year trend that saw crime spike around the time the coronavirus arrived in the United States. The trend persisted even as the virus started to recede, flummoxing policymakers and law enforcement experts.

Good numbers…

Major Cities Chiefs Association
Major Cities Chiefs Association

The MCCA’s data is uniformly encouraging, showing that four categories of violent crime are experiencing declines nationwide:

  • Homicides fell by 7.7%

  • Rape fell by 8.4%

  • Robbery fell by 7.9%

  • Aggravated assault fell by 2.8%

MCCA executive director Laura Cooper pointed to especially encouraging declines in Houston and Fresno, Calif. “Members of law enforcement who continue to serve their communities with professionalism and positivity need to be acknowledged and commended for their hard work,” she said.

On Tuesday, a House resolution honoring police officers killed in the line of duty faced resistance from only two members, Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Cori Bush of Missouri, who said the move was intended to “advance Republicans’ false narrative around supporting law enforcement.”

Democrats including President Biden have strenuously denounced the police-defunding movement that caught on during the social justice protests of 2020, but Republicans have sought to tie — with varying effectiveness — the crime spike to progressive policies and proposals.

…but still well above pre-pandemic levels

Major Cities Chiefs Association
Major Cities Chiefs Association

“While this is excellent news for those communities,” Cooper told Yahoo News of places like Houston and Fresno, “the chiefs will tell you more work can and will be done to get back to pre-COVID levels.”

Although crime rates are falling, they remain higher than they were before the pandemic. In the first quarter of 2019, for example, there were 1,264 murders among 65 responding municipalities, 644 fewer than during the same period in 2023.

During the first quarter of 2019, there were 53,246 aggravated assaults — 20,145 fewer than in the first three months of 2023.

Cooper acknowledged that many agencies are “struggling to recruit and retain qualified individuals,” a factor that likely contributes to elevated levels of criminal activity.

Some cities continue to struggle

Law enforcement responds to an alleged shooting in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 2022
Law enforcement responds to an alleged shooting in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 2022. (Bryan Dozier/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Violent crime has continued to rise in Washington, D.C., as well as in Memphis, Milwaukee and some other cities.

The District of Columbia’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, was called by House Republicans to testify last week about what her administration has done to curb violence in the nation’s capital, which is desperate to convince tourists and commuters to return downtown.

Earlier this year, Bowser received a surprising assist from Biden in blocking a City Council revision to the district’s criminal code, which would have lowered penalties for some crimes.

Last Monday, Bowser introduced a new plan to increase penalties for gun possession and other crimes.