DataViz: 217 Years of Homicide in New York City

NYC Murder Rates

As of Dec. 29, 2013, the number of homicides recorded for New York City for 2013 stood at 332. It’s a drop of 20% below the homicide rate of 2012 (419 murders) and the first time in over half a century that the city saw less than one murder a day on average. The historical data for homicide rates come from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data.

The reasons behind the dramatic decline of the past two decades will continue to spark fierce debate. Was the drop in the 1990s due to police commissioner William J. Bratton’s focus on broken windows, or the impact of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, as famously argued in Freakonomics? And did more recent declines happen as a result of “proactive policing”—programs such as “stop and frisk” and “Operation Crew Cut“—or in spite of it?

NOTE: Readers of the original article on Quartz have commented that the above chart is misleading because it doesn’t take changes in population into account. That is true in general, but it in this particular case, adjusting for population does not do much to change how the data look and takes away from the chart’s simplicity—the point is to express the total number of murders that took place in a given year.

Nonetheless, it’s a fair point, so here is a chart of murders in New York City on a per capita basis going back to 1900.

NYC Murder Rates Scatter Plot
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Source: Ritchie King, Onwards and upwards, 217 years of homicide in New York, Quartz, December 31, 2013, http://qz.com/162289/217-years-of-homicide-in-new-york/.

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