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Good News about Violent Crime

W. Scott Cole

Posted on October 7, 2019 23:11

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The latest numbers are in on violent crime and the crime rate is going down year after year, for the most part. Though work is still needed, the trend of falling violent crimes is continuing.

The FBI just released it’s report on violent crime rates for 2018 and the data showed a 3.9% decrease from the year before. That is extremely encouraging news, especially since it continues a trend of falling crime rates that extends all the way back to 1993, when the rates were at their highest. In total, since that year, violent crime has fallen a full 50%

In 2015 and 2016, there was a slight uptick in the rates, causing then-Attorney General Sessions and then-FBI Director Comey to say in 2017 that the trend had reversed and that the rates were going back up. Thankfully, the last two years have proven them wrong.

The spike raised a theory, called the “Ferguson Effect”, that increased public scrutiny demoralized police officers to the point that they cut back on proactive policing strategies. A study since then, done by University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld, showed that not to be true and that arrest rates had no effect on homicide rates. At the same time, it showed that there was a slight “Ferguson Effect” in cities like Chicago and Baltimore. However, it was determined that the cause was not demoralized police, but was most likely citizens, especially in minority communities, losing confidence in police.

There are four categories of violent crime in the FBI report; murder, robbery, assault, and rape. Since the 2016 uptick, murder has fallen from just under six per 100,000 population to about 4.5. Robbery has dropped 118 to 89 per 100,000, and the assault rate has been pretty much a flat line.

The bad news is the numbers for rape. Sadly, since 2013, those numbers have seen a steady increase year after year. It has risen from about 37 per 100,000 population to 42.6 in 2018. In 2013, the FBI changed it’s definition of rape from “forced carnal knowledge of a female” to a more modern one centered around consent. As a side note, I notice that the old definition of rape would exclude all rapes of men. Those numbers are far smaller, but it does happen. I wonder if the new definition would include male rape victims?

Regardless, that rate has risen more than just a change of definition would account for. In total, the increase from 2013 to 2018 is more than 18%. Speculation is that those numbers can be partially accounted for by increased awareness around campus rape and changing social attitudes may be reasons for increased reporting of the crime by victims. That may be true, the numbers are still too high and there is still a lot of work to be done in order to start the numbers for this one category of violent crime to start falling as the others are.

All in all, it is encouraging to see the crime rate fall as a whole, but it is clear that more needs to be done, in some areas more than others.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on October 7, 2019 23:11

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WASHINGTON – Violent crime rose 4.1 percent nationwide in 2016 compared to the 2015 estimates, the U.S. Justice Department...

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