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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Violent crime continues to decline, but it is unclear by how much

By meerna Jun12,2024

While running for re-election in 2020, Donald Trump warned voters that the election of Joe Biden would lead to rampant crime and violence on American streets. His appearance was a bit odd considering the ads focused on scenes of looting and arson that took place this summer, that is, under Trump. The then-president argued that these unrest were a function of Democratic leadership in those cities, states or wherever they occurred, so it was not the fault of any Republican.

The year, upended by the coronavirus pandemic and a new round of protests centered around racial justice, was marked by a spike in violent crime that continued through the first years of Biden’s presidency. But then the wave began to subside, something that had been clear for some time.

New data released Monday by the FBI shows a big drop in crime across the United States. In the first quarter of 2024, violent crime rates were down more than 15 percent nationwide compared to the previous year. Property crime also dropped by 15 percent and murders by more than 26 percent. The decline in FBI-reported murders was greatest in the nation’s largest cities, but the declines were consistent regardless of the size of the reporting municipality.

This is an extremely important qualifier: The FBI presents data it has received from law enforcement agencies across the country. This introduces two potential inaccuracies into the totals. First, not every law enforcement agency will submit its data on time, and this does not happen. Secondly, national figures depend on the accuracy of these individual reports, which obviously vary.

Jeff Asher, crime analyst and consultant, conducted a random check of a number of cities included in the FBI report.

“I found places where violent crime was essentially accurate compared to publicly available data (e.g., Phoenix, Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, San Antonio, and Denver),” he wrote on Monday, “places (like Washington, D.C. , San Diego, and Long Beach) where FBI data shows underestimates of declines, and places (such as Baltimore, Dallas, and New York) where FBI data is clearly wrong (violent crime rates in Baltimore and Dallas are down, but not large, as suggested by FBI data, and NYPD data showed a slight increase in violent crimes in the first quarter of 2024).

New York Police Department data for the first quarter can be viewed online. As Asher notes, the FBI’s estimate of first-quarter crime in the city – 46 murders, 2,284 robberies and 2,711 burglaries – is too low. The NYPD’s public data is 82, 3,937 and 3,129, respectively. The number of murders and burglaries is still down compared to 2023, but is lower than the FBI data shows.

Ashera’s company has its own dashboard that collects crime statistics across the country. It shows that murders in major U.S. cities have dropped, although not as dramatically as FBI data would suggest. (The numbers on the dashboard show a 19 percent decline compared to the FBI’s 24 percent). According to the panel, murder rates have increased slightly in many places, but that is offset by large declines in many large cities such as Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia (where the decline has been the largest).

A perennial problem with national crime data is that it is incomplete and out of date. This means that our assessment of crime trends is necessarily backward-looking and that those who want to use crime for political purposes have a chance. You can always point to criminal incidents to suggest that crime is rampant or growing, safe in the knowledge that your arguments will only be refuted months or years later.

We’re talking about Fox News here.

Since that point in June 2023, Fox News has mentioned “crime” at least 20,000 times – almost as many times as CNN and MSNBC have mentioned it combined. (In 2022, Fox News focused mainly on the alleged increase in crime as the midterm elections approached, and moved on to other topics after the voting ended.) In every month last year, Fox News talked about crime more often than CNN or MSNBC.

Fox backed away from talking about “migrant crime” – a term of art she began promoting in February and which quickly became a staple of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric. The channel’s focus on New York City as the epicenter of an alleged increase in immigrant crime was difficult to maintain given the city’s falling crime rates. (Yet Fox News viewers are much more likely to falsely believe that immigrants commit crimes at higher rates than native-born U.S. residents.)

It’s good news that violent crimes appear to be dropping significantly. There is no reason to believe that there has been a sudden upward rebound since the first quarter of the year. But another election is approaching, which means the fog of uncertainty about crime rates could again trigger political attacks or warnings about what the impact of crime could be depending on how Americans vote.

However, there is an opportunity here for the Biden campaign. It could simply re-air Trump’s 2020 ad showing the unrest that occurred that year and noting who was president at the time.

By meerna

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