For those who follow urban-American history, the most remarkable story of the 20th century’s last decade has to be what’s now widely known as the Great Crime Decline. While 2020 most assuredly will be remembered for the global coronavirus pandemic, it also will go down as a year marked by resurgent criminal violence that may end up spelling serious trouble for American cities — especially if they botch their responses to it.
In 1991, the U.S. saw almost 25,000 homicides — a rate of 9.8 per 100,000. The country’s deadly crime problem was then (as it is now) heavily concentrated in cities. New York City alone accounted for almost 10 percent of all homicides in 1991. Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., together accounted for another 10 percent. Representing one of the greatest victories by the turn of the century, annual homicides were down by more than 9,000 — a decline concentrated heavily in and around America’s urban centers.
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