Thursday, November 3, 2016

Is crime in America out of control...or are we the safest we've ever been?

Do you feel safe? If you’re like many people in America, you may be frustrated that crime is out of control. Crime is way up and serial criminals are running rampant, terrorizing the rest of the population of good hard-working folks. It’s almost not even safe to leave your house anymore, and makes you pine for the good old days when it was so safe in America.


Wrong. Dead wrong.

In fact, crime statistics are down across the board, in some cases even half of what they were from all-time highs in past decades. How could this be true?

In this blog we’ll cover some of these statistics and trends in crime. The results might really surprise you. In part two, we’ll talk about the reasons why we feel like crime is so rampant, and the reasons our perceptions don’t match the reality, as well as theories why crime has dropped so much in the last 50, 30, and even 15 years.

First, let’s look at some facts and statistics about the crime rates in America, then and now. These are based on crime rates adjusted for population and usually divided into two classifications: violent crime (murders, assaults, and robberies, etc.) and property crimes (burglary, larceny, vehicle theft, etc.).

As of 2013, the violent crime rate in America was at the lowest level since 1970.

The modern era peak for crime was in 1991.

In fact, the most dangerous and crime-addled time in modern America was during the decades of the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s, when crime was at a 50-year high.

Unbelievably, the national crime rate is now about half of what it was in that year!
Violent crime rates have dropped 51 percent since 1991, and property crimes have fallen by 43 percent.

By examining the FBI Uniform Crime Reports we can ascertain the worst – and the best – years from crime, per 100,000 members of the population.

The worst year for murder was 1980, when it was 10.2 homicides per 100,000 people.

The 50-year low for murder was in 1962 and ’63, with only 4.6 homicides per 100,000 people.

In 2010, the murder rate was 4.8 per 100,000 - a tie with 1961.

That proves that murder is less than half of what it was in 1980.
It’s not just the FBI crime reports that back up this trend. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, in 1993 the rate of violent crime (not just murders but all violent crimes) was 79.8 victimizations per 1,000 people.

 In 2015, that rate fell to only 23.2 victimizations per 1,000 people, a huge decrease.

These days, were far more likely to report crimes than we did in past generations, thanks to increased information sharing, reduced stigmas, omniscient technology, etc.

The 1960s and ‘70s were not very safe times in America, despite our perceptions that they were the “Good Old Days” and such. In fact, the violent crime rate increased by 126 percent between 1960 and 1970, and again by 64 percent between 1970 and 1980.

Even if we look at total crime numbers – not adjusted for population – we see that 1991 and, in some cases, even earlier, were more violent and less safe in America, despite the fact that the population was closer to 200 million, not over 300 million.

Total crime numbers (NOT adjusted for population):

Worst 1991 – 24,700
1962 – 8,530
2010 – 14,748

Sexual Assault:
Worst: 1992 – 109,060
1960 – 17,190
2010 – 84,767

Worst: 1993 – 1,135,610
1960 – 154,320
2010 – 778,901

Worst: 1980 – 3,795,200
1960 – 912,100
2010 – 2,159,878

Vehicle Theft:
Worst: 1991 – 1,661,700
1960 – 328,200
2010 – 737,142

Here are some more interesting facts and statistics about crime in America, then and now:

The most violent city in the U.S. is St Louis, Missouri with 1,817 violenty crimes committed per every 100,000 people.

The safest large metropolitan area is Cambridge-Newtown-Framingham, Mass (around Boston), while the Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Michigan area is the most violent large metropolitan area.

How about this year? According to analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, overall crime rates in 2016 are projected to be nearly the same as last year, with crime remaining at an all-time low.

The overall crime rate in 2016 is projected to rise by just 1.3 percent over 2015.

Violent crime is projected to rise by 5.5 percent, however, much of that marginal increase is due to huge increases in homicides and crime in Chicago and Charlotte. In fact, half of that increase is due to Chicago (up 16 percent) and Los Angeles (up 17 percent).

Murder is predicted to rise by 13.1 percent, with nearly half of that increase because of Chicago alone (234 of 496 murders).

Take out those two cities and violent crime sits at the bottom of the 30-year downward trend in America.

Of course these statistics depend on what sources you use, what timeframe you look at, and other factors. But it’s a consensus fact that overall crime, and definitely violent crime, rates are down in the United States over the last 30 years. So why don’t we feel safe?

In part two of this blog we’ll talk about the reasons why we feel like crime is so rampant, and the reasons our perceptions don’t match the reality, as well as theories why crime has dropped so much in the last 50, 30, and even 15 years.

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