Study reveals murder concentrated to two percent of US counties

April 27, 2017

A Crime Prevention Research Center study reveals 54 percent of U.S. counties in 2014 had zero murders with two percent of counties having 51 percent of reported killings.

The study, analyzed from the most recent year that a county level breakdown was accomplished, says the United States can be virtually divided into three categories: places where there are no murders; places where there are a few murders and places where murders are very common.

The study points out 54 percent of counties (with 11 percent of the population) have no murders. Sixty-nine percent of counties have no more than one murder, and about 20 percent of the population.

These counties account for only four percent of all murders in the country.

The worst one percent of counties have 19 percent of the population and 37 percent of the murders. The worst five percent of counties contain 47 percent of the population and account for 68 percent of murders. The study show, more than half of murders occurred in only two percent of counties.

According to the study, murders used to be even more concentrated. From 1977 to 2000, on average 73 percent of counties in any give year had zero murders. Possibly, this change is a result of the opioid epidemic’s spread to more rural areas. But that question is beyond the scope of this study. The study cites a book titled, “More Guns, Less Crime” showing how dramatically counties within states vary dramatically with respect to murder and other violent-crime rates.

The study says in the concentrated counties … the murders are concentrated within specific areas.

When you look at individual counties with a high number of murders, you find large areas with few murders. The study uses Los Angeles County as an example saying with 526 murders in 2014, the most of any county in the U.S., the county has virtually no murders in the northwestern part of the county. There was only one murder each in Beverly Hills, Hawthorne, and Van Nuys. Clearly, different parts of the county face very different risks of murder.

The study also highlights the distribution of murders in Indianapolis … with 135 murders. Although the city extends well beyond the 465 Highway that encircles downtown Indianapolis, there are only four murders outside that loop. The northern half of the city within 465 also has relatively few murders.

According to the study, Washington, D.C., has large areas without murder. 14th Street NW divides the eastern and western parts of the district, with murders overwhelmingly limited to the eastern half. The area around the Capitol Region is also extremely safe.