Explaining the 2015 Homicide Rise

When media reports indicated that there was an increase in the number of homicides across U.S. cities in 2015, NIJ commissioned a white paper by Dr. Richard Rosenfeld to examine the size and scope of the homicide increase based on data collected from police departments in 56 U.S. cities. The paper explores several possible explanations to this rise and identifies what further data and research is needed to confirm which explanations contributed to the increase in homicides. 

In a "Director's Corner" blog post on the NIJ website, NIJ Director Nancy Rodriguez wrote, "Research can help us better understand fluctuations in homicide rates and provide context to better inform policymaker responses to those changes. Dr. Rosenfeld examined whether there was a historically unexpected rise in homicides and presents possible explanations for the increase across U.S. cities."

Rosenfeld—Founders Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a leading authority on criminal violence, crime statistics, and crime control policy—identified three primary explanations for the homicide increase:

1) The expansion of urban drug markets fueled by the heroin epidemic;
2) Declining imprisonment rates;
3) De-policing and the crisis of legitimacy between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Rodriguez reports that Rosenfeld found the 2015 homicide increase to be "real and nearly unprecedented."

You can download a PDF of the paper here.

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