Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump will debate for the first time. One of the six topics is protests, crime and violence in cities.
This is the second article in a two-part series, the first is Protests-Law Enforcement and Crime.
You can say that total violent crime was flat for the latest available data from the US Department of Justice or you can legitimately claim that violence increased or decreased based on what you are willing to include in your analysis.
Multiple media reports state that violence in cities is rapidly rising in 2020. Multiple academic and private reports state that violence increased in 2019 and 2020.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents say they are concerned that crime is rising in the nation’s cities, while 46 percent of respondents said they were concerned about rising crime in their own communities
This article is from Violent And Property Crimes in the US. The full article provides a comprehensive overview of crime plus summations of Department of Justice research plus links to data. Additional sources are included.
Background-Three National Measures of Violence-The FBI, the National Crime Survey, and Gallup
The average person simply wants to know if crime went up or down, but the answer is confusing due to two measures used, victimization surveys via the National Crime Victimization Survey (referred to after as the National Crime Survey), and crimes reported to police via the Uniform Crime Report from the FBI.
There are additional reports (i.e., Gallup) indicating that homicide and violent crime is increasing.
Both the National Crime Survey and the Uniform Crime Report are products of two agencies within the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Yes, Understanding Violent Crime Is Confusing
This report has substantially changed from earlier versions to reflect current events and reports.
Judging whether violent crime is rising or decreasing has become difficult based on politics and differences in the way the Bureau of Justice Statistics via the National Crime Survey or the FBI presents their data.
Both claimed decreases in crime via their latest reports in the fall of 2020, the FBI for the first six months of 2020 via their September 15, 2020 press release, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics for all of 2019 via their September 14, 2020 press release.
But clarifications via email (see Violent And Property Crimes in the US for the correspondence) from both agencies suggest that “all” violent crime was essentially flat for 2019 (National Crime Survey) and in 2020 via the FBI depending on the definitions used.
Homicides and aggravated assaults per the FBI increased for the first six months of 2020. Aggravated assaults make up the great bulk of measured violent crimes.
There are profound changes currently underway within American society regarding the Coronavirus pandemic, the loosening of COVID restrictions, the economy, the death of George Floyd (Wikipedia), the resulting protests and riots, and the dramatic increase in violence in many U.S. cities.
Some suggest that we are experiencing the fastest rise in murder rates since the late 1960s, NY Post.
Context-Historic Lows Before The Crime Increases In 2015
Data from the National Crime Survey state that we were at record historical lows for criminal activity. From 1993 to 2015, the rate of violent crime declined from 79.8 to 18.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older.
Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 48% between 1993 and 2016. Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (National Crime Survey), the rate fell 74% during that span.
Have Past Record Lows (Before 2015) For Violent Crime Ended?
It’s a difficult question.
The answer as to record lows for violent crime ending is “probably” per the National Crime Survey for 2015-2019 (28 percent increase in violent crime), aggravated assaults and homicides increasing in 2020 per the FBI, increases in city violence for 2020, Gallup (violent crime tripling), the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the University of Missouri showing increases in violence in 2019-2020 (links below).
After decreasing slightly in 2018 and the first half of 2019, homicides and aggravated assaults are up in 2020 with overall violent crime being flat (0.4 percent decrease).
Source: FBI Violent Crime
FBI-Previous Violence Numbers
We have a report from the FBI for the six months of 2019. We do not have the full report for 2019 at the time of this writing.
Per crimes reported to the FBI, violent crime increased in 2015 and 2016 but decreased slightly in 2017 (violence was essentially flat). In 2018 there was a decrease of 3.3 percent. It decreased again by 3.1 percent for the first half of 2019.
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Crime Survey-2019 Summary
The number of persons who were victims of violent crime excluding simple assault dropped to 1.2 million in 2019.
The National Crime Survey states the rate of violent crime excluding simple assault declined 15% for 2019.
There was no statistically significant change in number or rate of total violent victimization from 2018 to 2019 when including simple assaults.
Source: National Crime Survey
National Crime Survey-Previous Violence Numbers
The National Crime Survey previously offered data including simple assaults stating that violent crime increased 28 percent from 2015-2018, which now, presumably, includes 2019 because there was no change in crime for that year.
Summary Based on Both FBI and National Crime Survey Data
FBI-violent crime was flat for the first six months of 2020 (decreased 0.4 percent). Murders and aggravated assaults were up. We are waiting for data for the last six months of 2019.
National Crime Survey-violent crime either decreased in 2019 when excluding simple assaults or the overall violent numbers increased 28 percent when including simple assault from 2015-2018. From 2018 to 2019, there was no statistically significant change in the rate of total violent victimization, which includes simple assault, thus the 28 percent increase for violent crime should include 2019.
You can say that total violent crime was flat for the latest available data from both sources or you can legitimately claim that violence increased based on what you are willing to include in your analysis.
But the bottom line is that violent and property crimes are still at record lows for the country and, generally speaking, have been decreasing for the last two decades except for recent years (since 2015).
Crime Is Increasing In American Cities-2020
You would think there was ample evidence of vastly increasing violent crime in cities in 2020 after the lifting of them pandemic restrictions. There are well-known sources stating the increase is overblown.
There is no one article documenting the considerable rise in urban violent crime during the summer and fall of 2020, but news reports suggest that the cities where protests and or riots have occurred are being hit the hardest, Governing.Com.
It’s African American communities that are bearing the brunt of the violence, NBC News.
In some cities, violence decreased before the lifting of COVID restrictions. During the lockdowns during the pandemic, Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Chicago all have witnessed a drop in crime of more than 30%. Violent crimes such as aggravated assaults and robberies also fell substantially, probably guided by the pandemic, NPR.
Yet all of these cities had relatively high rates of violence or increased shootings and homicides both before and after COVID restrictions were lifted.
Additional Reports On Increasing Violent Crime
Per Gallup, “Each year since 2017, 15% of U.S. adults have indicated they were victimized by crime in the past year. A subset of that, between 1% and 3%, have reported being the victim of a violent crime.” One percent of Americans were victimized by violent crime in 2016. That tripled to three percent in 2019. 2019 is the first year where violent crime reached three percent, Gallup.
We have a report from the Major Cities Chiefs Association documenting a rise in homicides and reported aggravated assaults for 2019, Major Cities Chiefs.
There is a study from the University of Missouri measuring crime in May and June of 2020 indicating that homicides were up 37 percent, aggravated assaults rose 35 percent, and robberies increased by 27 percent, The Crime Report.
Homicides and aggravated assaults rose beginning in late May and June 2020. Homicide rates between June and August of 2020 increased by 53% over the same period in 2019, and aggravated assaults went up by 14%—and both increases were statistically significant. Gun assaults also rose during the summer of 2020, COVID and Crime.
Final Analysis-Which Holds More Importance?
Critics insist that violent crime is down per historical trends before 2015. Critics say that the increase in violence in 2020 is overblown.
Thus we have a fundamental question, which holds more importance, a 28 percent increase in all violent crime (including simple assaults) per the National Crime Survey (2015-2018), and the presumption that this applies to 2019 (no change in violent crime in 2019 when including simple assaults per BJS), a tripling of violent crime per Gallup, a rise in homicides and aggravated assaults in 2019 per the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a considerable and recent rise in homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies after the lockdowns by the University of Missouri, and vast increases in homicides and violence by COVID and Crime
data from the FBI documenting that overall crime was flat (decreased 0.4 percent) in 2020 but with increases in aggravated assaults and homicides? Per the FBI, in 2018 there was a decrease in violence of 3.3 percent. It decreased again by 3.1 percent for the first half of 2019.
Fear of Crime
After the riots and protests of 2020, a majority of Americans say they are concerned about rising crime in U.S. cities, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released exclusively to The Hill. Seventy-seven percent of respondents say they are concerned that crime is rising in the nation’s cities, while 46 percent of respondents said they were concerned about rising crime in their own communities, The Hill.
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Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
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