The sociologist Patrick Sharkey and some of his colleagues recently launched a project American Violence.org, which provides information and statistics on the numbers of murders in the U.S. As noted on the site, "the project is designed as a public resource that will make data on violence accessible to public officials, journalists, researchers, and the public at large, allowing users to visualize and analyze trends in violence at multiple geographic levels (neighborhoods and cities) and over different timeframes (month to month, year to year, decade to decade)."
The site is really useful for refuting inaccurate claims about violence in American cities, like when Donald Trump claimed that the murder rate was the highest it has been in 45 years. The American Violence site offers specific information about the numbers of murders and the murder rate per 100,000 people in cities. The site contains data from 1990 - 2017.
That 27-year period allows for considerations of violence over an extended period of time, which is important. In an interview with City Lab, Sharkey noted that, "The most common mistake in interpreting trends in violence is to focus on very short timeframes of a few months or a year, instead of considering the bigger picture of how violence is changing over long periods of time and in different places across the country. We wanted to start by simply describing how urban violence has changed over the short-term and the long-term."
I live in St. Louis and work in southern Illinois, where the majority of my black students are from Chicago. Thus, I've been inclined to think quite a bit about violence in those two cites. The American Violence site gives me even more perspective, as I now get specifics on what has occurred over decades, rather than just recent times.
Here's a look at St. Louis:
While we're far more likely to hear about violence in Chicago in national news, St. Louis deserves more attention than it's received. I'm curious on what led to the drop in murders in Chicago and how that could be replicated in St. Louis.
In coming weeks, I'll take more looks at the American Violence site and jot down a few notes.
• Gun Violence