Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Violent Crime Up, Property And Overall Crime Down In 2015

Check the inflammatory headline in the Times today:

U.S. Murders Surged in 2015.

The country’s murder rate jumped more last year than it had in nearly half a century, newly released federal crime data showed, although the number of homicides remained far below the levels of the 1980s and ’90s.
The data, part of an annual report released on Monday by the F.B.I., showed that the murder rate rose 10.8 percent across the United States in 2015, part of a nearly 4 percent increase in violent crime.

Fueling the surge in murders was street violence in a handful of major cities, notably Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee, where most of the victims were young African-American males. The F.B.I. reported that guns were used in nearly three-quarters of the nation’s 15,696 murders during 2015.
To put this in perspective, the "surge" was from 14,000 homicides to 15,000 homicides. Yes, an additional thousand homicides is troubling, but in comparison, the number of murders in 1987 was more than 25,000. And that's not controlling for population. The fact remains, homicide rates remain at their lowest levels since the 1960's, and overall crime fell again for the 14th consecutive year.
The murder rate last year was far below the levels of 30 to 40 years ago, when violent crime, fueled partly by gang violence during the crack cocaine epidemic, reached a peak. The overall 3.9 percent increase in violent crime in 2015 was lower than levels from five and 10 years ago, the F.B.I. said.

“It is important to remember that while crime did increase over all last year, 2015 still represented the third-lowest year for violent crime in the past two decades,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said Monday.

By contrast, property crimes fell 2.6 percent in 2015, according to the F.B.I. data.
Also, while Rape (+6%), Robbery (+1.4%) and Aggravated Assault (+5%) were all up, these are well within the range of reporting deviations. Meaning, victims may simply be reporting their victimizations at higher rates, rather than actual incidences of these crimes increasing. 

Nonetheless, any increase in violence is problematic. Let's just hope the issue doesn't become politicized (although based on the first presidential candidate debate last night, I suspect it's too late for that).

As always, go to the horse's mouth for the facts: Crime in the United States, 2015

UPDATE: Here's a good analysis on why "whether crime is up or down" is a matter of interpretation with official statistics.

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