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NYC Crime Changes
Homicide down, automobiles stolen up.
Homicide down but…
Articles such as “The Murder Rate Is Suddenly Falling” from The Atlantic and “Multiple U.S. cities experiencing decline in homicides, research firm says” from the Washington Times highlighted the reduction in the number of homicides that have occurred in the United States. From at the Atlantic
Murder is down about 12 percent year-to-date in more than 90 cities that have released data for 2023, compared with data as of the same date in 2022.
The declining homicide rate is a positive trend that needs to be acknowledged. But how about we take a moment and explain everything that's going on here?
NYC as an example.
From the NYPD May 2023 crime statistics
Overall index crime stayed flat in May 2023 compared to the same period a year ago, increasing by 0.1% (10,610 v. 10,603).
In the report, five of the seven categories have shown a decrease in the time period between May 2022 and May 2023 (see Figure 1). These include murder (-33.3%), rape (-21.0%), robbery (-11.1%), felony assault (-1.4%), and burglary (-11.8%). Grand larceny (1.7% increase) and grand larceny auto (32.5%) are the two categories that have seen an increase.
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Counts or percentages?
Compare the data presented in Figure 1 and Figure 2, which both contain the same information but present it using different units (percents vs. counts, respectively). In this instance, the rate of murder (Figure 1) decreased by the same amount that the rate of grand theft auto increased. In terms of the numbers (Figure 2), this represented a decrease of 16 homicides, going from 48 to 32, while simultaneously representing an increase of 336 stolen cars, going from 1033 to 1369. It is possible that the news could have reported an average of one murder per day throughout the month of May, as well as an increase of ten stolen automobile reports per day, reaching a total of 44 per day.
In the end, the psychological aspects of this situation are fascinating. The likelihood of being murdered dropped from 0.00025% to 0.00017%, with 19 million people living in New York City. On the other hand, residents of New York City own around 2 million cars. As a consequence of this, the likelihood of a vehicle being stolen increased from 0.05% to 0.07%. It’s highly unlikely that any of these changes are perceptible.
The media may focus on the falling number of homicides, but it would not take much effort to present a more accurate picture of crime in its whole. Given the two graphs here, it becomes clear how a story can be spun to fit a narrative and still be technically correct. In the end, New York City and perhaps other cities do not feel significantly safer this year compared to the previous year, despite decreasing homicides.
I worked with data from May. The data for the year to date can be accessed here, and it is very similar. As of June 11, 2023, the number of homicides had decreased by 12.5%, going from 192 to 168, while the number of cases of grand theft auto had increased by 17.6%, going from 5,650 to 6,645. That completes the NYC crime statistics briefing.
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