In 2022, while the number of homicides and the per-capita homicide rate decreased slightly in Rochester, the city ranked higher than ever among cities tracked by Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Public Safety Initiatives.
The working paper has been published annually since 2016 by the research institute to create cross-city comparisons that are “essential in understanding violence on a national scale,” the report states. The 24 tracked cities were selected when the report first started in order to have a variety of geographical locations and population levels for those comparisons.
“We do it annually as a way to provide insight into Rochester’s trends,” said Libnah Rodriguez, an RIT graduate student and author of the report, in a previous interview. “We hope it encourages local leaders and policymakers to embrace evidence-based strategies when shown the numbers.”
Since the official count cannot be determined for more than six months into the following year, 2022 homicide data was collected from local news outlets and individual agency websites instead of the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer tool. As a result, discrepancies will occur, CPSI notes, but they are small in scale and do not detract from the report’s findings.
Overall, the report on 2022 found that over half of the tracked cities experienced a decrease in homicides, including Rochester, where the number declined from 81 to 76. However, at 36 homicides per 100,000 people, the city’s homicide-rate ranking rose–in 2021, it was fifth highest; in 2022, it ranked fourth. (Last month, the city recorded six homicides–the most for January in at least a decade.)
In its population category of up to 250,000 people, Rochester was the highest in total homicides and homicides per capita, jumping over the previous year’s highest city, Richmond, Va.
Compared with Upstate New York neighbors Buffalo and Syracuse, Rochester continues to have the highest homicide rates as well. While all three cities followed relatively similar patterns from 2015 to 2020, Rochester’s overall and per-capita rates spiked in 2021 and remained at that level in 2022.
These factors suggest that other cities’ decrease in violence was more significant than Rochester’s.
Nationally, New Orleans and St. Louis continue to have the highest homicide rates, trading top spots between this report and the previous year’s. Detroit also continues to have consistently high homicide rates in the years CPSI has published the report.
While Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles all had high homicide totals, their per-capita rates are markedly lower. Chicago and Washington, D.C., saw big year-to-year increases, however, growing by more than 70 percent from 2021 to 2022.
By contrast, the report points to Compton, which saw a significant year-to-year rate decrease of 64.7 percent, which bucks a trend of increasing homicide levels noted previously. Syracuse saw the next largest decrease, 39.3 percent, in the year-to-year homicide rate, dropping from 31 to 18 total homicides.
While the overall decrease in homicide rates for 2022 across all cities is encouraging, Rodriguez cautions against basing conclusions on year-to-year fluctuations. Outliers can be created due to low populations or extremely high or low rates in a single year. The report uses five to 10 years of homicide data as a pool for determining overall trends.
“While (decreasing rates of violence) is certainly good news for the community, it still leaves more to be desired. Current homicide reduction efforts may need revision and it is still incredibly necessary to support the development of new initiatives to reduce homicides in American cities,” Rodriguez writes. “We hope this report serves as a valuable tool for local agency leaders and policy makers in their attempts to evaluate current strategies to decrease violence in our city.”
Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].
I’m glad to hear that Rochester’s homicides decreased. However, I’m sure everyone will agree that 76 is unacceptable. Jacob’s article is excellent because he backs it up with detailed analysis. I can’t imagine how much time he must spend composing such an article. I want to thank him and the others for similar contributions on other topics. I’d like Jacob to address the same detail to the number of non homicide assaults by guns, stabbings, etc. What about robberies, burglaries, shootings that missed, carjackings, assaults, etc? PS Jacob how much time do you spend on a typical article?
Very informative and verifies what I believed to be true.
While a well written report, something is missing. That missing item is, why and by whom? The answer can be attained by digging a little deeper. What is the average age of the criminal, how much education did they have and were they employed. I am quite sure that you will find a correlation between the level of education and the crime. That would make perfect sense because Rochester has a considerable drop-out rate. The RCSD system has failed the urban population for decades. That is clearly visible in, not only the crime/homicide rate, but the child poverty, generational poverty and all the other misery that comes from a lack of education. Think about it, if you don’t have a high school diploma and you don’t have any skill, you have nothing to offer in the job market. Job opportunities are few and most are not living wage careers. It is so very simple, yet so very difficult for Rochester to figure this out. It can be altered, we can graduate kids with a relevant education, but for some reason we don’t. The current School Board and the teachers union leadership, as in Adam Urbanski, either will not or just doesn’t care to address the problems associated with educating our kids. It’s beyond sad to see kids, who have innate skills/gifts, leave the K-12 journey without discovering it. While the kids mis out, the salaries that are suppose to teach our kids just keep coming. You want to talk criminal….that’s criminal and it needs to be addressed.
The RIT report on annual homicide rates is valuable. I want a study that gives us a better handle on which segment of our population is most likely to perpetrate a homicide. We need facts about: age, race, zip code of residence, zip code where the crime occurred, the highest level of education, gang affiliation, type of weapon used, where the weapon was obtained, type of firearm, where ammunition was obtained, and family description, etc. (these are just examples of the kind of data that could be useful in targeting successful interventions. Other data, such as was the perpetrator previously arrested, and convicted, did previous conviction involve a firearm, was the individual on parole? Most of this information would be obtained through an interview with the suspect and arresting officers by RIT students and staff.
The next level of data should identify any intervention that may have been conducted before the commission of the homicide. Did the suspect participate in school or community-based programs? Where and for how long? Was the convict/suspect involved in either using or selling drugs? Was the victim/s known to the suspect/convict? Were there any mental health evaluations done? Then collect data on the victim, their location, and circumstances. All this data would be secured in a confidential database managed by RIT.
Before creating effective anti-crime strategies, we must dive deeply into as many data points as possible. The current narrative from progressive reformers that poverty and mental health issues were causes of violent crime is circumstantial and led to bail and prison reform and the “defund the police movement.” Although reformers provide some data, I don’t believe it is peer-reviewed and is often at odds with law enforcement and district attorneys.
Institutions of higher learning, which can be more objective, should be tasked with ongoing, deep analysis of as much granular detail as possible to make rational decisions and provide funding at the appropriate and most effective point of intervention. There’s too much money spent on “feel good” politically driven programs and not enough thoughtful programs based on detailed hard data.