Tagged: violent crime

Comparing nationwide violent crime estimates: Summary-based vs. incident-based reporting

The FBI released official 2021 crime statistics last month, but the data leaves major gaps in our understanding of national-level crime rates. Unfortunately, the numbers are incomplete this year because 36% of U.S. law enforcement agencies, some of them major cities, failed to submit their crime reports. This is largely because the FBI made major changes to the way that it collects crime data, making the submission process much more complicated. Rather than following the arduous process, many agencies simply declined to participate in last year’s data collection. In comparison, 2020 crime statistics included data from 85% of U.S. law enforcement agencies.

This post briefly reviews agency participation rates and discusses what that means for our current understanding of national-level crime. Then, using data from the years 2017-2020 (all of the years for which data from both systems are available),  I examine whether the two systems produce similar violent crime estimates. Continue reading . . .

Violent crime is a key issue for U.S. midterm election

Crime has become a big issue in the U.S. midterm elections. According to a recent Gallup poll, crime ranked as the second most important issue among voters, with 71% of registered voters saying it was either “extremely” or “very” important to their vote. This came second after the economy, which 85% of voters said would be extremely or very important to their vote. According to a different Gallup survey released a few weeks ago, more than half of Americans (56%) said there was more crime in their area compared to a year ago. According to Gallup, “That’s up a whopping 11 points from 2021 and 18 points from 2020, and is the highest mark ever measured.” This issue was a concern across party lines, with 73% of Republicans, 51% of Independents, and 42% of Democrats all agreeing that crime is getting worse (in 2020, these percentages were 38%, 38%, and 37%, respectively).

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2021 national crime rates are a mystery as FBI transitions to a new data system

Earlier this month, the FBI released the national-level crime statistics for 2021. According to that data, violent crime, particularly murder, remained a major issue in the United States. Crime remained relatively consistent from 2020 to 2021 with no statistically significant changes between years, though violent crime was still elevated compared to 2019 levels. From 2020 to 2021, national levels of violent crime decreased slightly (-1.0%), largely driven by decreases in robbery (-8.9%). Murders, however, increased (+4.3%). The data is available for download via the Crime Data Explorer, or it can be accessed using a new tool called the Law Enforcement Agency Reported Crime Analysis Tool (LEARCAT). But the data this year may be lower quality than years past, limiting our ability to draw inferences about national-level crime rates.

Policymakers and researchers rely on these data to understand state and national crime trends, but that may be more challenging this year. Unfortunately, the FBI’s plan to modernize its reporting of crime data has not gone according to plan, so it’s hard know how accurate these 2021 estimates are. The new system has advantages over the old system, but it is much more cumbersome and time-consuming to use, which has negatively impacted law enforcement agencies’ willingness to submit their data. And because of these low participation rates, there are huge gaps in nationwide crime statistics for 2021.

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Crime trends in California: 2021 rates show increase in violent crime

A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) reviews some of the recently released state-level data on 2021 California crime rates. Once again, it seems like the authors are overselling the fact that crime rates are lower than the 1990s crime peak, although their findings are similar to what I found when I analyzed the data last month. Indeed, crime rates are lower than they were in the 1990s. But keep in mind that the 1990s saw a historic crime peak. If “success” means having crime rates that are lower than the historic peak, then that’s a pretty low bar for success. It’s almost like saying that the 2008 recession wasn’t that bad because it was still better than the Great Depression.

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Philadelphia murder rates rise due to lenient sentences sought by progressive prosecutor Larry Krasner

As the progressive prosecutor movement grows in popularity, we see more and more policy changes that reduce penalties for certain crimes. One of the common themes is de-prosecution, or the discretionary decision to not prosecute certain criminal offenses. Another aspect of de-prosecution involves reducing the severity of punishment for individuals who are prosecuted. The movement came about due to the belief of many progressives that mass incarceration actually increases crime through supposed “criminogenic” effects. That is, they believe that people who serve long periods of time in prison will adapt to that culture and learn certain behaviors that will make them worse criminals. However, opponents argue that de-prosecution policies don’t hold offenders sufficiently accountable, and will only encourage more crime as offenders learn that there are little to no consequences for their behavior.

In Philadelphia, de-prosecution began in 2015 with District Attorney Seth Williams. This resulted in a substantial decline in both new cases prosecuted and sentencings (particularly for drug possession, drug trafficking, and felony possession of firearms), a trend that accelerated when District Attorney Larry Krasner took office in 2018. At the annual Federalist Society Convention last year, Krasner boasted that his policies are “on the side of the data,” vehemently denying that de-prosecution increases crime. However, a 2022 study published in Criminology and Public Policy refuted Krasner’s claims. The study, conducted by Thomas Hogan, revealed a causal link between de-prosecution and increased homicides in Philadelphia.

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BJS releases 2021 victimization statistics

The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released information on 2021 victimization rates derived from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). There were no statistically significant changes in violent victimization or property victimization rates from 2020 to 2021. However, the violent victimization rate increased in urban areas, from 19.4 to 24.5 per 1,000. The percentage of violent victimizations reported to police increased (+6%), as did the percentage of violent crime victims who sought assistance from victim service providers (+3%). The percentage of property victimizations reported to police decreased (-2%), which was mostly due to a decrease in reporting for “other theft” (-3%). This post outlines the major findings from the report, while more detailed information can be found via the NCVS’ interactive data dashboard.

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Violent crime is up in 2022, according to MCCA survey of 70 U.S. police agencies

Violent crime is on the rise in the U.S., according to 2022 survey results recently published by the Major City Chiefs Association (MCCA). The MCCA is a professional organization of police executives that advocates for the advancement of public safety through innovation, research, and policy development. The results presented here were collected as part of an annual survey of their membership, which included 70 of the largest jurisdictions in the U.S.

Agencies reported the number of aggravated assaults, homicides, rapes, and robberies that occurred during the first half of 2022 and first half of 2021. Counts and rates were compared across years. Among responding agencies, there was a total increase of +4.4% in violent crime. This was driven mostly by increases in robberies, which were up +13.1%, and aggravated assaults, which were up by +2.6% These two crimes were the most prevalent overall, accounting for 86% of violent crime reported in 2022. Continue reading . . .

California’s overall crime rates are down, but numbers don’t reveal the whole story

In a previous post, we announced that California Attorney General Rob Bonta has officially released state crime data for 2021. He eagerly noted that violent and property crime rates are well below the historic highs seen in the mid-1990s, but whistled past the fact that violent crime rates have been slowly climbing since the early 2000s. The contradictory shifts in violent crime versus property crime are somewhat perplexing. While overall crime rates might be down, violent crimes, particularly aggravated assaults and homicides, have been increasing.

Looking at the numbers all together, it is important to keep in mind: all crimes are not created equal in the harm they cause. For example, homicides are a relatively rare event, yet they are much more harmful than high-frequency crimes like larceny. For example, an increase of 500 thefts would be a small change in the overall number of thefts and would have little overall impact on public safety, whereas an increase of 500 homicides would be a large change in the overall number of homicides and have a very detrimental impact on public safety. By looking at crime statistics though, these nuances can be overshadowed.

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What do federal firearms offenses really look like?

A recent report from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) published this month provided in-depth information on federal firearms offenders sentenced in 2021 under the primary firearms guideline, §2K2.1. This report is part of a larger series that examines various aspects of firearms offenses, such as mandatory minimum penalties and firearms offenders’ recidivism rates. USSC’s past research has found that firearms offenders are generally younger, have more extensive criminal histories, are more likely to recidivate, and are more likely to engage in violent criminal behavior. The number of firearms offenses has risen in recent years, and this report provides details that may be useful to policymakers. Continue reading . . .

Rural America surging worse in homicides

After declining for over two decades, homicides in the United States increased sharply in 2015 and 2016. This slowed a little bit in the years that followed, until another dramatic increase in homicides occurred in 2020. In fact, the 30% increase from 2019-2020 is the largest ever recorded. By 2021, homicides rose another 5%. This uptick was not as striking as the one seen in 2020, though the numbers were still higher than pre-2019. And while cities tend to have higher violent crime rates overall, newer research suggests that cities are now safer than they have been in decades, while small communities are becoming more dangerous. Specifically, the massive increase in homicides in rural areas is astonishing. From 2019-2020, homicides in rural areas rose by an average of 25 percent. Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the states with the highest homicide rates in 2020 were Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri, and Arkansas.

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