Locating the Vanguard in Rising and Falling Homicide and Robbery Rates

Steven F. Messner, University at Albany
Glenn D. Deane, University at Albany
Luc Anselin, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
Benjamin Pearson-Nelson, University at Albany

The purpose of this paper is to examine the trends in homicide and robbery rates for major cities during the 1979-2001 period. Using UCR data for cities with populations of 250,000 or more in 1975, we apply polynomial spline regression techniques to locate the number and timing of "knots" that signify structural breaks. Our substantive focus is to identify cities that first experienced the rising violent crime rates associated with the well-known boom in the 1980s and those that first exhibited the declining crime rates signalling the "bust" in the 1990s. Consistent with past research, we hypothesize that the structural breaks appeared earlier in the larger cities, especially those with populations of a million and more. We also search for additional characteristics of cities that distinguish vanguard cities from "followers," including geographic location and socio-economic and demographic characteristics. Finally, we explore whether the location of the structural breaks are similar for these two types of violent offenses.

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Updated 05/20/2006