Understanding St. Louis: Homicide and Index Crime Totals and Rates 1943-2012

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City of St. Louis Homicide and Index Crimes 1934-2011

There's been quite a lot of talk lately about crime in the City of St. Louis and using arbitrary dates and measures to claim the city is becoming safer, or not. The nextSTL City of St. Louis Homicides by Neighborhood 2005-2012 map showed that while many city neighborhoods are very safe, many are not and that homicides in particular are heavily concentrated in north city. Perhaps it's instructive to take the long perspective? The above graphic shows homicide and index crime counts and rates per 100,000 residents from 1934-2011 (full data table including 2012 below).

What does it show? The 1960's and 1970's were a terrible time for crime in the city, as it was for just about every city in the nation. Rates and counts climbed to historically high levels. And while the raw numbers fell in the later 70's and in the 1980's, so did the city's population and crime rates generally increased. The mid to late 80's saw rates fall again, before sharply rising in the early 1990's. Where the city sits now is somewhere between the post-1967 historic highs and lows.

To take a closer look at the past decade in St. Louis, specifically, Mayor's Slay tenure beginning with his first full year in office (2002), through 2012, we see mixed numbers. Index crimes have continued to drop to a substantial degree, as has the index crime rate. The five worst years for index crimes in the city were the mayor's first five full years in office. Homicides show a slightly different story, with four of the five worst years being 2007 to 2010. The 2011 and 2012 numbers (there were 113 homicides in the city in 2012) have returned to a level similar to the mid-2000s. Calculated rates for 2011 and 2012 assume a population loss of ~0.9% per year, the rate of loss experienced over the past decade.

City of St. Louis Homicide and Index Crimes 2002-2011

Data table for 2002-2012:

City of St. Louis Homicide and Index Crimes 2002-2011

Data table for 1943-2012:

City of St. Louis Homicide and Index Crimes 1934-2011

As the result of a comment from a reader, I'm included a very basic measure of ttrends in a handful of cities. The graphic is a snap shot of one posted on the Atlantic Cities blog. I've added St. Louis as it was not originally included. The graphic below shows the annual homicide rate during each city's peak year, in 2001 and in 2010 and the bottom graphic show the annual homicide rate for the US from 1960 to 2011 (from the same Atlantic Cities post).

12 metro homicide rates from height to 2011

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  • STLrainbow

    With 191 homicides through November, getting back down to the numbers from 2012-2013 would be a huge accomplishment. (But it’d still be one of the higher per capita rates in the nation.)

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  • TM B33

    I would like to see racial composition of the city for all these data points.

  • GBN

    Definitely something worth thinking about. I’d be interested to look at other types of crime in St. Louis as well during this period. Where did you get all the statistics (per year) in St. Louis from before 1995?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Index crimes cover quite a number of things – burglary, car theft, assault, etc. etc. Breaking them out into type of crime could be interesting, but I don’t have that level of detail. Statistics before 1995 can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_St._Louis

  • Excellent comparable statistics. Thanks for putting together.

  • JAE

    Environmental lead might be playing a role here, like elsewhere: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/lead-and-crime-linkfest

  • stlhistory

    Cool, especially the long view graphic showing index crimes, rates, population, etc. I’d only add that the 1960s and 1970s were not just a terrible time for crime in our fair city, but for most of the country (both rural and urban), just as the early 1990s was an awful period for urban crime nearly everywhere in the country. Deviations from that generally are due to 1) our statistical separation from the county and 2) a sharp outflow of a generally law-abiding population that skews the rates.

  • matthb

    I’d like to see the crime rate compared against a national or some other composite rate as a baseline. It seems like there are national trends that are difficult to counteract, so deviations would be more indicative of the performance of local law enforcement efforts. More work for you of course.

  • Thanks a lot, this is great. Good things to think about.

    The 2002-2010 callout is a bit noisy, hard to know what to make of those data, but still something to think about.