Hot Spots and Cold Spots of Criminal Homicides in Philadelphia, 2023

Using open data from Philadelphia and the US Census, as well as some R programming, we can quickly see where the “hot spots” and “cold spots” for criminal homicides were in 2023.

René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

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Map of Philadelphia census tracts with locations of criminal homicides reported in 2023.

Introduction

According to data reported in the open data portal for the City of Philadelphia, there were 408 criminal homicides reported in 2023. (As is the case with most data, these numbers should be considered provisional, as some cases may be reclassified later.) Those 408 homicides translate to 2.6 homicides per 10,000 residents. By comparison, the US national homicide rate is 0.78, and Pennsylvania’s homicide rate is 0.92, according to CDC.

The causes for higher homicide rates in cities are complex and beyond the scope of this blog post. Suffice it to say the United States is awash in firearms, we’ve been through a tough pandemic that affected many in different ways, and people with issues generally lack the social and legal tools to deal with their adversaries other than violence.

In this post, I will show you where homicides have clustered in Philadelphia, where a statistically significant “hot spot” of homicides is located, and where a statistically significant “cold spot” also exists. The latter may surprise you, as it did me… But it makes complete sense once you look at the census tract where that cold spot is located.

Where Are the Homicides?

Map of Philadelphia census tracts with locations of criminal homicides reported in 2023.

As you can see, the homicides in Philadelphia seem clustered around Upper and Lower North Philadelphia, and around West Philadelphia. Of course, we could just be looking at where most people live in Philadelphia. So, to get a better sense of what we’re seeing, let us calculate a homicide rate per 10,000 residents of each census tract:

Map of Philadelphia census tracts with locations of criminal homicides reported in 2023 and the tracts shaded from white to red depending on their rate of homicides per 10,000 residents.

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René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

DrPH in Epidemiology. Associate/JHBSPH. Adjunct/GMU. Epidemiologist. Father. Husband. (He/Him/His/El)