Thursday, June 16, 2016

Homicide rate in Colorado near 50-year low

There's been a lot of talk on homicide in the United States recently, so I thought I'd add in a little factual information about the picture in Colorado.

As I've noted on several topics before, it rarely makes sense to speak of a nationwide statistic when discussing the United States. That may make sense for Finland where nearly the entire population of five million lives within one or two metro areas, but it makes no sense for a country as large and diverse as the United States.

Colorado is the size of several smaller European countries (including Norway and Finland) and it makes more sense to look at the US as a collection of political entities, rather than one. After all, no one lives "in the United States." People don't even live "in Colorado." People tend to live, work, and play within a single metropolitan area, most of the time.

In a future article, I may take a look at homicide rates separated out by metro areas in Colorado. But, for now, let's look at the state overall.

The graph shows the homicide rate in Colorado since 1960, as reported by the FBI:

In 2014, the homicide rate was 2.8 per 100,000. That's up from the 50-year low reached in 2010 (when the rate was 2.5). In fact, the homicide rate in 2010 was the lowest recorded in more than 50 years. The FBI data here does not go back before 1960, but based on national data before 1960, its a good bet that homicide rates in Colorado during the 50s — which was a period of very low homicide rates nationwide — were even lower than today in Colorado.

Since the 1972 peak in Colorado, when the homicide rate was 8.1 per 100,000, the homicide rate has fallen 65 percent. Since 1981, when the rate again went up to an unusually high level of 8.0 per 100,000, the rate has fallen by 64 percent.

Most of the public, however, is unaware that homicide rates have been declining in Colorado and nationwide over the past 20 years. The Pew Research Center has noted this in terms of national statistics.  The Colorado trend is a little different from the national trend, and you will notice the national homicide rate tends to be higher than the Colorado rate:

This data shows trends over time. But how does Colorado compare to other states right now?

In this map, we can see that Colorado is generally a low-homicide state, and similar to numerous other states in the northern US and provinces in central Canada:

Here's another graph that shows where Colorado falls:

The red bars are Canadian provinces, and the blue bars are US states. This is all based on the most recent data from the FBI and the Canadian government.

If you're interested in comparisons to Mexican state-by-state data, I completed an earlier analysis on that here.

(The rates were calculated using homicide totals from FBI sources, which I then adjusted to Colorado resident population for each year.)