Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Violent Crime Up, Property Crime Down in 2016

FBI Releases 2016 UCR Data:

Violent crime, including homicides, rose for the second consecutive year in 2016, driven by increases in a few urban centers including Baltimore, Chicago and Las Vegas, according to F.B.I. data released Monday.
Violent crimes increased nationally last year by 4.1 percent and homicides rose by 8.6 percent, one year after violence increased by 3.9 percent and homicides jumped by 10.8 percent. A total of 17,250 people were murdered in 2016, the F.B.I. said.
While crime over all and violent crime remain well below their levels of the 1980s and 1990s, last year was the first time violent crime increased in consecutive years since 2005 and 2006, according to the F.B.I. data, which is collected from local police departments around the nation and released annually.
Right, and property crime, which is far greater in numbers and far more likely to affect you than violent crime, actually declined 2% in 2016. But the media doesn't focus on that because property crime isn't sexy. Violence, on the other hand, certainly is, and brings out the best hyperbole around.
Police officials and criminologists continue to express puzzlement about the upsurge. There is disagreement not only about the reasons for the increases, but also about how law enforcement should respond and whether the figures represent a blip or the start of a long-term trend. The figures come against a backdrop of steady crime reductions nationally during the last 25 years.
“This is ominous,” said Mark Kleiman, a criminologist at New York University’s Marron Institute of Urban Management. “What you worry about is that the trend is broken, and the numbers are going to go back up. A 20 percent increase in homicides over the past two years is not trivial. We’ve got what looks like a serious problem here.”
I don't know who Kleiman is, but these comments are irresponsible and silly. Any criminologist worth their salt knows the uptick is coming from pockets, i.e. certain cities, and isn't indicative of a nationwide trend towards increasing violence. But propagating such a narrative feeds into the totalitarian tendencies of the "get tough" crowd.
President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have said repeatedly that the nation is in the grip of a crime wave that requires more arrests and harsher penalties, including for nonviolent crimes like drug possession.
Critics of the administration’s criminal justice policies point out that despite the recent increases in violent crime, since 1971 there have been only five years with lower violent crime rates than 2016.
“There are pockets of increased violence across the country that demand an increased response from all levels of government,” said Adam Gelb, director of the public safety project at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “But there is no indication that we’re in the midst of a crime wave, and no justification to return to the failed policies of the past.”
And in the absence of not knowing, new "theories" emerge to try and either A. explain the phenomenon, or B. play into preexisting stereotypes.
One theory that has gained traction of late is that violence has increased as police legitimacy has been questioned after the fatal police shootings of unarmed African-Americans. The shootings, many of which have been captured on video over the last three years, have been widely disseminated via the news media and on the internet.
Proponents of the theory maintain that in cities where police departments treat citizens with disrespect and engage in brutality, residents will eventually stop cooperating with the police, which will diminish officers’ ability to solve crimes. The result, according to the argument, is that the most violence-prone people in a particular area will be free to continue committing crimes with little fear of arrest.
“The question really is, what is different now from 15 years ago in terms of why crime has increased?” said John K. Roman, a criminologist at the University of Chicago. “And the only thing that has changed is the distrust between heavily policed communities and local police. It’s not a coincidence that cities that have crime increases have also had problems between communities and the police.”
Among the cities that have experienced recent upticks in murder coupled with questionable police shootings that prompted rioting or other civil disturbances are Chicago, Baltimore, Charlotte, St. Louis and Milwaukee. But other cities where there have been significant increases in homicides in recent years, including Las Vegas and Memphis, have been largely free of public anger in response to fatal police shootings.
There is some truth to this legitimacy idea, but the flip side, that the presence of a "viral video effect" over the past three years has blunted police work, and thus the thugs are more likely to take advantage of police passiveness, is also floated by various law enforcement gurus who are afraid of the 1st amendment.

As I write every year on this topic, take a deep dive into the crime data in the actual report itself and don't compare jurisdictions that have no business being compared. Also remember that the UCR is an imperfect instrument. People might be, for whatever reason, simply reporting more crime, and thus the numbers go up. But is crime itself really "on the rise"? 

No one can say for sure--and that includes violent crime as well.

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