Posted on November 15, 2016 in Crime
Every year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) releases their statistics for the previous year’s crime totals. Some people have expressed concern over a notable uptick in violent crime rates within the FBI crime data. However, it’s important to assume a “big picture” view of these statistics. Although some violent crime statistics increased from 2014 to 2015, the United States has still seen a very dramatic decrease in violent crimes since the early 1990s.
The FBI’s annual crime report collates crime data collected from 16,643 different agencies at all levels. Phoenix criminal defense lawyer Craig Orent noticed the resulting FBI crime data contained a few concerning statistics:
Despite the fact that these statistics might alarm some readers, the truth is that the United States is still in the midst of a large-scale decline in criminal activity. In 2015, the United States had the third-lowest crime rate of any year since 1970. Additionally, the homicide rate was the sixth-lowest in the last 50 years.
To properly analyze these numbers, understand how the base number affects a percentage. For example, imagine a city of 100,000 inhabitants and in one year, murderers killed 20 people. The following year, criminals killed 21 people. In this scenario, one murder causes the homicide rate to jump 5%. Additionally, consider the previous years’ totals. If only five people were murdered the first year and six were murdered the next year, then there would be a 20% increase.
When you look at the FBI’s crime statistics, consider, too, the rates for previous years. What seems like a dramatic increase in crime from one year to the next may be because the rate of that crime has been steadily declining for years. The impact of just one more instance causes the percentage to jump. You must also judge the statistics based on an area’s population and past crime rate trends to get a clearer picture of how serious the crime problem is for an area.
While fear-mongering is never healthy, recognize that any jump in violent crime is worrisome. Even though the crime rates have been steadily declining for years, even a slight increase in any type of crime is a step in the wrong direction. When you assess crime statistics, don’t panic over what seems to be a dramatic percentage increase: look at the number of incidents compared to the population size of an area. One single instance of a crime can result in a massive jump in the crime rate percentage if the previous years had low numbers of incidents.
You also must consider history. Despite the seemingly worrisome percentage increases, 2015 was the third safest year in the United States since 1970. Remember, when you read statistic reports like the FBI crime data analysis, make sure you understand how those percentages are derived.