St. Louis has highest murder rate in U.S. in 2020; other crimes decreasing

Missouri

ST. LOUIS– Homicides in the U.S. in 2020 increased nearly 30% over the previous year according to new FBI figures and St. Louis City is reportedly the U.S. city with the highest murder rate.

St. Louis City had 263 homicides in 2020 with a homicide rate of 87 per 100,000 people.

The murder rate hit a 50-year high for the city but fell short of its all-time record of total homicides of 267 in 1993. The city’s population has declined since 1993 so the homicide rate was higher in 2020.

It’s not just murders, nationwide violent crimes in 2020 went up by a more moderate 5.6% over the previous year. In St. Louis, the increase was less than the national average at 3.8%.

Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri- St. Louis, points out that while the homicide and violent crime rate are up, those crimes are rare. He stressed it is important to note the rate of other, more common crimes dropped.

The FBI data shows property crimes continued a nearly two-decade decline, falling 7.8% between 2019 and 2020. St. Louis saw a 6.3% drop in those types of crimes as well.

Nationwide, robbery and rape dropped 9.3% and 12% respectively between 2019 and 2020. In St. Louis, robberies dropped 16% and rapes dropped 11.6% during that same time period.

Dr. Rosenfeld says Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, and St. Louis are often the cities with the highest homicide rates in a year. According to the latest FBI data in the Crime Data Explorer system, St. Louis has the highest murder rate among those cities. The New York Times also reported St. Louis had the highest murder rate in the country.

CityMurders in 2020Population in 2020Murder Rate in 2020
Baltimore299*585,70851/100,000 people
Detroit328639,11151/100,000 people
New Orleans201383,99752/100,000 people
St. Louis263301,57887/100,000 people
Data according to FBI Crime Data Explore database and U.S. Census Bureau
*Other reports state Baltimore City had 335 homicides with a murder rate of 57/100,000

Dr. Rosenfeld says there are a few things to point out about St. Louis’ murder rate.

He says he doesn’t want to diminish the level of lethal violence in the area but if we are going to compare murder rates you have to keep in mind St. Louis city’s borders are quite constricted.

Dr. Rosenfeld said St. Louis has a shrinking population and a larger metro area and that impact the murder rate. He says the city of St. Louis is about 11 percent of the entire St. Louis metro area where a city like Memphis makes up about 65 percent of its metro area.

He also points out that not all the homicide victims in St. Louis city actually live in the city. He also explained that about 33% of people arrested for a crime in the city live outside the city.

When it comes to the overall violent crime rate St. Louis comes in third according to the FBI data. There were 6,017 violent crimes last year according to the FBI. That is up from 5,792 incidents in 2019 but down from the 10-year high of 6,461 in 2017.

The Detroit News calculated the following data when it comes to the most violent crime rates in the U.S.:

CityNumber of Violent Crimes in 2020Rate per 100,000 people
Memphis, TN15,3102,418
Detroit, MI14,3702,248
St. Louis6,0171,995
Little Rock, AR3,6571,805.11
South Bend, IN1,7651,706
Cleveland6,2811,685
Milwaukee9,4071,629
Kansas City, MO7,9191,558
Lansing, MI1,6991,508
Springfield, MO2,5451,504

So how should St. Louis tackle the area’s crime problem?

Dr. Rosenfeld said when it comes to tackling crime in downtown St. Louis, placing 30 police officers in downtown areas as part of the city’s new public safety initiative is a good start. However, he says he hopes it doesn’t take away from crime-fighting efforts in other parts of the city.

He also believes people experienced in social services could play a key role in reducing overall violence downtown. He also thinks that would improve the quality of life for those living and visiting the area.

For example, Dr. Rosenfeld explains social service workers could accompany police to the scene to help with the homeless. He says often, non-housed people aren’t violent but are acting out because they are troubled physically or mentally. He says that is where a social service professional is needed to connect them with the right resources.

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