Analysis: For second straight year, Jackson’s homicide rate ranks highest in U.S. among major cities

The Capital City edged out Memphis, New Orleans and St. Louis for deadliest city when ranked per capita
Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 7:48 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Despite a drop in killings last year, the capital city’s homicide rate still managed to surpass every other major city in the U.S. for the second straight year, according to a 3 On Your Side analysis of dozens of municipalities across the country.

Jackson ended 2022 with 138 homicides, a 14 percent drop from the year before, when 160 people lost their lives to violence.

That year would end up being the deadliest in the city’s history, according to records from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Jackson Police Department, and the Murder Accountability Project.

For this analysis, 3 On Your Side calculated per capita rates of killings for cities with a population of at least 130,000, including major ones like Chicago, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, as well as cities that had previously been ranked for high homicide rates, such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

The number of homicides calculated for each city came from the latest available data from news media sources in that respective market or crime statistics from that city’s police department.

RankingCityHomicides for YearRate Per Capita
2New Orleans28074.3
4St. Louis20068.2
6Baton Rouge11551.8
8Cleveland, OH17146.5
9Memphis289 (as of 12/22/22)46

Calculating the per capita rate of killings means that a city with more homicides than Jackson could still have a lower rate, depending on the population.

For example, 695 people have been killed in Chicago, according to the city’s PBS station; because nearly 2.8 million people live in the Windy City, the rate per capita for that major city is 24.8 per 100,000 residents.

In other words, the rate of killings in Jackson is more than three times greater than in Chicago.

“The risk of you being a victim of a homicide, right, like the city of Jackson with the current rate where it’s at, is higher, you know, in general, relative to the risk of another city that has a lower per capita rate,” criminologist and Ole Miss criminal justice department chair Wes Jennings said.

The low number of JPD officers plays a role in that, too, Jennings added, though the actual number of active-duty officers has not been disclosed in months.

“It’s not a function of just adding five more officers will reduce five more crimes. But when they have historically low numbers relative to where they should be, it takes away officer time,” Jennings said. “Ideally, you’d want them to be to have more time to focus more on, you know, violence prevention and intervention.”

Jennings said true community policing is difficult to implement when departments barely have enough officers to keep up with 911 calls.

He also says population changes - people leaving Jackson - have affected how a community fights against crime, too.

“If I own a home, and the homeowner next to me, I see their windows broken, I’m going to call the police, and I’m going to help call my neighbor. But if I’m in an area where I’m renting a property, and I see a broken window across from a unit across from me, I might be like, I’m glad it wasn’t my unit. And just keep quiet,” Jennings said. “And then as soon as I get enough resources to move out. So you don’t have a stake in the people or in the area.”

The city of Jackson is implementing an Office of Violence Prevention in the coming months to help with those efforts.

Jennings says more comprehensive community policing - having enough officers that they can go into gas stations and restaurants, increasing visibility - and curfews combined with more activities for young people can also help tremendously.

WLBT’s data also shows homicide victims are trending younger.

Two years ago, the average age of a person killed in Jackson was around 33 years old.

The average age now is 29.

Author’s note: an earlier version of this analysis ranked Louisville, Kentucky’s homicide rate fifth among the cities listed above, based on U.S. Census data. However, that governmental data did not reflect Louisville consolidating its borders with Jefferson County, resulting in a larger coverage area for its police force and larger population to analyze. The resulting homicide rate for Louisville is much lower.

Additionally, in March 2023, the Jackson Police Department supplied WLBT with information on additional homicides it had never disclosed publicly. Total numbers of homicides in 2022 and 2021 -- as well as Jackson’s 2022 homicide rate per capita -- have been adjusted to reflect that new information.

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