Dead Wrong

Miami's murder rate is going up, up, up, right?

Although not designed for use in city-to-city comparisons, the latest U.S. Department of Justice murder figures show Miami has dropped well below the number-one position it held fifteen years ago. Two dozen other metropolitan areas now have much higher murder rates, including smaller cities such as Little Rock, Memphis, and Richmond, Virginia. (New Orleans is the new heavyweight champ, with a murder rate two and a half times Miami's.) The Magic City's fatal reputation lives on, however, and not just in the minds of out-of-towners.

"Even myself, I find it hard to believe the murder rate is down, because of what I see on TV," says Green, the Miami homicide detective. "Starting at ten o'clock, all you see is one killing after another. Look at the last few days: We had another murder-suicide, we had a drive-by on the 112 expressway, we had the Pizza Hut killing. What we have in Dade County are these high-profile cases, these atrocious whodunits and vicious killings by young people. Then there are tourist killings: They're an incredibly small percentage of the murders, but they get the highest percentage of headlines."

Says Wilbanks, the FIU criminologist: "If you walked up to a crowd of people and told them Dade County homicide rates are at a twenty-year low, 99 percent would say, 'I don't believe you, where'd you get that?' We haven't let go of the myth. Maybe the myth has some utilitarian purpose. It almost seems that we want to believe we're horrendous.

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