Fort Worth police investigated 66 murders in 2016, the most since 2001, and 2017 is on pace to go even higher.
Yet caution and perspective is needed before declaring a crime wave is upon us: A quarter-century ago, crime levels were much higher while the city’s population was half of what it is now.
Both Fort Worth and Arlington saw upticks in violent crime in 2016, following a national trend in which violent crime increased for a second consecutive year, according to the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report released earlier this week. FBI figures show the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation rose 4.1 percent in 2016 when compared with 2015 data.
However, violent crime rates still remain near historically low levels.
Fort Worth has mostly mirrored the national trend. From 1985 to 1995, an average of 138.5 murders occurred each year, including a high of 200 in 1986. In 10 of those 11 years, no fewer than 108 murders (1995) occurred. The outlier, 1987, saw 97 murders, a number that hasn’t come close to being matched since homicides in the city dropped dramatically in 1996.
In 1986, Fort Worth’s population was 432,342. By 2016, it had bulged to 851,849.
The 66 murders last year marks just the third time of at least 60 murders in a single year since 2002. However, a worrying trend could be in the works. The Fort Worth Police Department reported 54 homicides so far this year, putting the city on pace to surpass 60 murders in consecutive years for the first time since 2000 and 2001.
Arlington experienced 21 murders in 2016, a significant increase after just eight in 2015, and the most in the city since 22 in 2011. Since 1985, Arlington has had six years with at least 20 murders, and five years with single-digit murders. Arlington’s population since 1985 grew by fewer than 175,000. Arlington police spokesman Chris Cook said the city has had 19 homicides this year.
FBI Uniform Crime Reporting categorizes violent crime as four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. They are offenses that involve force or threat of force. The compilation of information is reported to the UCR program by more than 16,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide.
The Department of Justice used the report to bolster its belief of a dangerous crime wave taking hold, stating it “reaffirms that the worrying violent crime increase that began in 2015 after many years of decline was not an isolated incident.”
The report showed there were an estimated 17,250 murders in the United States last year, an 8.6 percent increase from 2015. In his inauguration speech, President Donald Trump spoke of “American carnage” in major cities and “the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”
Though violent crime numbers rose from 2015 to 2016, the trends show a 2.6 percent increase from 2012, but still a 12.3 decrease from 2007, according to the FBI’s figures.