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The Good News and the Bad News in Violent Crime Statistics

A look at FBI crime data and why not everything is always as it seems.

Every issue is weaponized against political opponents in today’s polarized America, and crime statistics are no exception. In this case, the finger-pointing and point-scoring centers around civilian gun ownership and, in some cities and states, leniency toward criminal activity. Gun rights advocates will point out that a number of American cities with the strictest gun laws also have some of the highest homicide rates. Meanwhile, the gun control lobby focuses on southern red states and their more relaxed gun regulations – but relatively high crime rates — to advance their overly simplistic narrative that more guns inevitably lead to more crime. In reality, both sides are on somewhat shaky ground.

The go-to source for violent crime statistics – the FBI – does not have complete and precise data for every city and county in the country. The Bureau freely admits this, because it must rely on state and local law enforcement agencies submitting violent crime data each year – and not all do.

Still, a look at the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer (CDE) yields a good overview of violent crime trends from state to state – and reveals some notable recent fluctuations.

The first thing to accept is that FBI crime statistics clearly show that the rate of violent crime across the country, as a whole, is on a downward trajectory – and has been for years. That is despite – or perhaps due to, some might argue – a fairly sharp increase in the rate of firearms ownership.

What the Crime Statistics Tell Us

The CDE has charts that display the number of reported violent crime incidents over time, per 100,000 people. That number, for the whole of the United States, was 506.5 at the beginning of 2000. It sank to a low of 361.6 in 2014 and at the start of 2022 – the most recent FBI crime statistics available – the number of violent crimes reported per 100,000 people was 380.7. There are periods of flux, of course. A look at just 2012 to 2022 shows a steady increase from 2014 to 2016, then a decline until violent crime spiked in 2020 before trending downward again.

GettyImages-894670834 (1) prison

(Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

What about individual states, though? The CDE provides a similar graph for each of them — along with a comparison to the national rate. For certain states, these graphic representations are quite eye-opening and, in some cases, show data that many Americans might find surprising. In other instances, perhaps not so much.

Since 2020, the violent crime rate for the whole of the United States has dropped off – the number of reported incidents per 100,000 people falling from 398.5 to 380.7 in early 2022. But some states have seen dramatic increases over that same period:

  • California: From 442 to 499.5
  • Colorado: From 423.1 to 492.5
  • New York: From 363.8, dipping to 308.3 in 2021, then soaring to 429.3 in 2022
  • Washington: From 293.7 to 375.6

Two states have seen equally steep decreases in violent crime during the same timeframe. Florida’s rate fell from 431.9 to 258.9. Illinois saw its rate go from 425.9 down to 287.3.

Another issue that muddies the waters when analyzing crime statistics by state is that larger metropolitan areas – the biggest cities – generally have disproportionately high rates of violent crime. In rural areas, the rates are almost always far lower. This is where the politics of it all can be very deceptive. When leftists point to the supposedly violent Southern red states, they are forgetting – or ignoring – the fact that most violent crimes are committed in the Democrat-controlled big cities, such as New Orleans, LA; Jackson, MS; Atlanta, GA; and Charleston, SC. The more rural areas and the small cities, overwhelmingly Republican, for the most part – and with higher rates of gun ownership – are far less troubled by violent crime.

To be fair, the same could be said of many blue states. Illinois, for example, is not an especially dangerous place if one stays away from Chicago. The same might be said of Michigan and Detroit, or Maryland and Baltimore.

Has the Downward Trend Reversed?

Looking at these FBI crime statistics, one sees little, if any, evidence of the growing gun violence epidemic of which Democrats are constantly warning us – though perhaps some of them may need to look in their own backyards. The spike in violent crime of 2020 notwithstanding, the United States as a whole has been – for many years, under both Democrat and Republican administrations – gradually becoming a less violent place.

The perception that crime is a growing problem may well be attributed to two factors. First, the crime statistics and trends referred to here do not cover the period of 2022 to the present day. The serious problem of illegal alien crime – which has become disturbingly noticeable in just the last two years – is not reflected in these numbers. Second, some of the most unsettling increases in crime are happening only in a few counties and cities across the country, jurisdictions mostly controlled by politicians who have proven themselves unwilling to use the full force of the law against violent criminals.

Read More From Graham J Noble

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