Raleigh has the 15th highest homicide rate problems of major cities in the country, a recent study by WalletHub found. This ranking places The City of Oaks’ homicide issues above other notably crime-ridden cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, putting Raleigh’s crime issues into noteworthy company.
More specifically, during Q3 2023, Raleigh had a per capita homicide rate of 3.03, meaning that for every 100,000 residents, 3.03 homicides occurred. Though Raleigh’s homicide rate was 0.22 lower than Q3 2022’s recording, the Q3 2023 number was still 0.87 higher than Q3 2021, meaning Raleigh had the 7th worst change in homicide cases over that period. This ranking seemingly demonstrates Raleigh’s lack of improvement in policing and crime prevention over the past few years, calling into question many of the city’s current approaches to the problem.
Despite this seemingly bleak outlook for the capital city, some scholars believe WalletHub’s methodology possesses some critical flaws. Namely, Philip Cook, a professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, stated in an interview with WNCN that “It sounded to me like they had developed a completely arbitrary ranking system, and the truth is, it just didn’t make any sense to me about what they were doing.”
These complaints are not entirely unfounded, especially when considering how WalletHub’s formula heavily weighs current homicide rates and changes in homicides from year to year. Such a methodology skews the data, favoring cities with consistently medium to low rates. It penalizes those experiencing abnormally high periods of homicide. This critique could supported by the data, evidenced by the fact that Raleigh had “49 homicides in all of 2022” but only 33 in 2021, suggesting the city’s current issues are not as problematic because they are statistical outliers.
As valid as these critiques may be, Raleigh has not had consistently low homicide rates. For example, from 2014 to 2022, Raleigh experienced a relatively steady increase in homicides. Whenever an abnormally high number of homicides were committed during this period, the number of homicides would maintain the new, higher total instead of reverting to the previous tally. Namely, in 2014 and 2015, Raleigh had 17 homicides, but by 2017, the number ballooned to 27. In the years since the “abnormally high” 2017 total, Raleigh has consistently experienced more significant numbers of homicides, indicating that the 2023 homicide total may not be an outlier
For the country at large, WalletHub found that “blue cities have higher homicide rate problems than red cities.” Specifically, red cities earned an average ranking of 26.80 compared to blue cities’ average of 19.06, with lower rankings reflecting higher homicide rate problems.
Speaking to this political discrepancy in homicide rates during an interview with WalletHub, Professor Dennis Mares, Director of the Center for Crime Science and Violence Prevention, SIU Edwardsville, remarked, “As our nation’s politics has polarized, crime and violence are in need of pragmatic, centrist policies. Regardless, homicides will eventually move downwards, and early indicators for 2023 suggest they are already receding in many cities. That said, we have a long way to go to get back to the trajectory we were on 5-10 years ago.”
The jury is out on whether Raleigh’s authorities can meet Professor Mares’ expectations.