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America's 10 Deadliest Cities 2012

There has been a lot of media attention recently focusing on Chicago’s 2013 murder rate, and for good reason. In the first six days of 2013, 12 people were murdered in the city. At a rate of two murders per day, this puts Chicago on a pace for 730 murders for the 2013 year. Compare that with 2012, where there were 506 murders in the city, or 18.7 murders for every 100,000 citizens. While these numbers are certainly alarming, the number of murders for every 100,000 citizens is significantly lower in Chicago when compared to a number of American cities. In fact, Chicago doesn’t even come close to making the cut for being one of America’s 10 deadliest cities in 2012. Here’s a breakdown of the cities that made the cut this year:

1: Flint, Michigan

With 66 murders, or 64.9 murders for every 100,000 citizens, Flint’s homicide rate far exceeded its competitors, making it America’s deadliest city of 2012. This year’s murder rate has also tied with the city’s all time high in 2010. Flint is one of the poorest cities in the state, and 38.2% of the city’s population is below the poverty line, making the city poorer than Detroit. Like other major cities with a high murder rate, Flint is plagued by illegal guns that have wound up in the hands of young people involved with the illegal drug trade.

2: Detroit, Michigan

In Detroit, there were 386 homicides, or 54.6 murders for every 100,000 citizens in 2012 - up 10% from 2011. With a homicide rate that's the highest among the nation’s top 20 most populous cities, Detroit residents are more likely to be killed today than when the city was known as the Murder Capital 40 years ago. With its population dwindling, this is also the highest murder rate since the crack cocaine epidemic of the late 1980's, when it was about 60 per 100,000 residents. Detroit has suffered from a consistently high murder rate, due to the high level of poverty, drug, and gang crime.

3: New Orleans, Louisiana

Despite the fact that in 2012 New Orleans saw a slight decrease in the murder rate from 2011, it still ranks third on the list of America’s deadliest cities. There were 193 murders in 2012, or 53.5 murders for every 100,000 citizens. Over the years, New Orleans has continued to struggle with the use of illegal guns that has been typically associated with the pervasive problem of drug and gang crime in the city. Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas says that over 50% of those arrested for murder in 2012 “have already been arrested for illegally carrying or using a firearm.”

4: St. Louis, Missouri

In 2012, there were 113 murders in St. Louis, or 35.5 murders for every 100,000 citizens - the same number as 2011. There wasn’t a clear pattern in the homicides that were committed and some seemed absurd. Take for example an 18-year-old homecoming queen and co-valedictorian that was strangled to death, a 23-year-old former SLU volleyball player murdered in broad daylight, or a 42-year-old man who was allegedly murdered in a dispute over a bag of Cheetos. The strategy of hot-spot policing will be employed by police in 2013 in an attempt to deter homicide.

5: Baltimore, Maryland

The city saw a 10% jump in the murder rate for 2012, with 217 homicides, or 35 murders for every 100,000 citizens. Despite the 10% jump from last year, Baltimore’s murder rate for 2012 is considerably below the city’s average over the last 20 years. Baltimore has consistently been one of America’s deadliest cities and most homicides can be attributed to drug and gang violence.

6: Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham saw 72 murders, or 33.7 murders for every 100,000 citizens, a rate up 21.4% from last year. Birmingham has had a persistently high crime rate, much of which can be attributed to the drug trade and its high poverty rate, which is 27% versus 17% for the state as a whole. Birmingham Police Deputy Chief Herman Hilton says most of the city’s homicides are difficult to prevent because 30 of the 72 murders occurred “in someone’s residence.”

7: Newark, New Jersey

There were 92 murders in Newark in 2012, or 33.1 murders for every 100,000 citizens, making it tied with Oakland for 7th deadliest city in America. In Newark, the number of homicides has risen over the last several years. However, the murder rate remained the same between 2011 and 2012. Police Director Samuel DeMaio accredits this stable number with an increase in police productivity.

7: Oakland, California

In 2012, Oakland saw its highest number of murders since 2006, with 131 murders, or 33.1 murders for every 100,000 citizens. Police Lt. Drennon Lindsey said police have seen more planning in gang killings in the past year, which has ben a disturbing trend. City officials recently hired William Bratton as a consultant to help curb violence. Bratton was once a former police chief in Los Angeles, Boston, and New York City, and was responsible for significant crime drops in the cities.

8: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

There was a 4.7% rise in the murder rate for Baton Rouge, with 67 murders, or 28.9 for every 100,000 citizens in 2012. According to sources, Baton Rouge has been gaining notoriety as one of the most dangerous cities in the country. The city-parish was recently awarded a $1.5 million federal grant to help combat their rising murder rates.

9: Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland has seen its fair share of violence and 2012 was no exception. The murder rate climbed from 75 in 2011 to 97 in 2012, or 24.6 murders for every 100,000 citizens. Despite the increased number of homicides, Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath says he doesn’t think policies need to be changed and stresses the importance of community involvement in lowering the crime rate. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 33% of Cleveland’s population is living below the poverty line, whereas the average for the state is 14.8%.

10: Memphis, Tennessee

The murder rate in Memphis has continued to climb for three consecutive years, with a total of 157 people killed in 2012, or 24.1 murders for every 100,000 citizens. Memphis police director Toney Armstrong said around 90% of last year's homicides involved individuals who knew one another and that African American males under the age of 25 commited most of the city's homicides.

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