With only a few days remaining in 2015, we now have a pretty good idea that New Orleans will finish the year with between 159 (the total as of December 26th) and perhaps 161 murders. This total will be the highest we have had since 2012, but still represents a drop of 15-20 percent from where we were in 2011 (199 murders) and 2012 (193).

Now that our murder tally for the year is starting to clarify, we can begin to make a fairly educated guess on where New Orleans’ murder rate will rank nationally in 2015.  First, for some context I pulled NOLA’s national ranking in terms of murder rate for every year since 1985 in the below table.  This table highlights the city’s “stubbornly high” murder problem, as Mayor Landrieu recently called it.

Murder Rate RankThese numbers are startling. New Orleans has been the “murder capital of the United States” in 13 of the last 22 years. New Orleans has finished below third exactly once in the last 22 years (a fifth-place finish in 1999). New Orleans has not placed outside the top five nationally in murder rate since 1986.

Turning to 2015, a murder total of between 159 and 161 will produce a murder rate per 100,000 residents of roughly 40 assuming a population of 400,000 people this year. To estimate where New Orleans will most likely finish nationally, I first looked at the top 10 cities from 2014. The table below shows the 2014 murder rate for each of the top 20 cities nationally and the change in rate in 2015 that would be needed for each city to pass New Orleans in the rankings.

City Rank by 2014 Murder Rate and Change Needed to Surpass New Orleans in 2015. Source: FBI.

St Louis would need a nearly 20 percent drop in its murder rate in 2015 in order to fall below New Orleans’ expected rate of 40.25. According to  St Louis police, the city is on pace for a 17 percent increase over last year, suggesting St Louis will retain its position as the country’s murder capital in 2015. Detroit’s murder total is a little less clear, but their Open Data portal showed 289 homicides as of Dec. 22. This would translate to a murder rate of around 43 per 100,000 in Detroit, the same as 2014 and ahead of New Orleans.

Baltimore has seen a huge spike in gun violence in 2015 and will almost certainly pass New Orleans and Detroit in the national rankings. One tally showed 336 murders in Baltimore in 2015 as of Dec. 20. Baltimore will likely move up to second place this year with a murder rate around 53.9 per 100,000.

Of the other candidates to pass New Orleans, Newark (ranked fifth in 2014) is looking at a 4 percent jump in murder, which will not be enough to pass New Orleans. Milwaukee, which was No. 20 last year, is looking at a nearly 70 percent increase in its murder rate from 2014 to 2015, but they still won’t crack the top five nationally this year even with that increase.

There does not appear to be a city ranked below New Orleans (other than Baltimore) that will pass it in murder rate in 2015. Based on this analysis, therefore, New Orleans will most likely rank fourth nationally in murder rate this year.

This ranking, if realized, would be the city’s first foray outside of the top three nationally since 1999 and only the seventh finish outside the top three in the last 30 years.

New Orleans obviously has a long way to go in its effort to quell the stubborn tide of violent crime. That having been said, it is a positive step to see the city move further and further away from the top of the national murder leader board.

This post was originally published by The New Orleans Advocate.