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Posted on November 15, 2016 in Crime

An Analysis of FBI Crime Data Just Released – Should We Be Worried?

Every year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) releases its 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.

Which FBI Crime Statistics Jumped?

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:

  • A total of 1,197,704 violent crimes were recorded for 2015. The arrest rate for violent crimes was 157.2 per 100,000 people.
  • Murder and non-negligent manslaughter increased by 10.8% from 2014. The arrest rate for such crimes was 3.5 per 100,000 inhabitants.
  • Rape increased by 6.3% from 2014. The arrest rate for rape was 7.1 per 100,000 people.
  • Aggravated assault increased by 4.6% from 2014. The arrest rate for aggravated assaults was 117 per 100,000 people.
  • Robbery only increased by 1.4% from 2014. The arrest rate for robberies was 29.7 per 100,000 people.
  • A total of 7,993,631 property crimes were recorded for 2015. The arrest rate for property crimes was 458.9 per 100,000 people.
  • The collective losses from property crimes in 2015 totaled an estimated $14.3 billion for victims.
  • Burglaries dropped 7.8% from 2014, with an arrest rate of 67.5 per 100,000 inhabitants.
  • Larceny-thefts dropped 1.8% from 2014, with an arrest rate of 364.5 per 100,000 inhabitants.

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.

FBI Crime Data Key Takeaways

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 increase, 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.