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January 16, 2013

Still more notable (and complicated) crime data from FBI for start of 2012

Ucr_logoLargely lost this week in all the debates — and (excessive?) media coverage of the debates — over gun control was this news via the FBI concerning its latest data on crime in the first six months of 2012.  The FBI press release is given the heading "Early 2012 Crime Stats: Slight Uptick in Crime," and one needs to drill down into specifics in order to see how dynamic this latest data story concerning reported crimes in this first half of 2012 vary by type and region:

Two of the four offenses in the violent crime category actually showed overall decreases when compared with data from the first six months of 2011 — murders dropped 1.7 percent and forcible rapes fell 1.4 percent.  But the number of robberies increased 2.0 percent and aggravated assaults 2.3 percent.

At a regional level, the West saw the largest overall jump in violent crime — up 3.1 percent — followed by a rise of 2.5 percent in the Midwest and 1.1 each percent in the South and the Northeast.  Despite these increases, the number of murders fell 4.8 percent in the South and 2.4 percent in the Northeast.

The only violent crime offense category that showed increases in all four regions of the country was aggravated assault, which was up 4.4 percent in the Midwest, 2.4 percent in the West, 1.7 percent in the South, and 0.8 percent in the Northeast.

On the property crime front, all three offense categories showed overall increases — 1.9 percent for larceny-theft, 1.7 percent for motor vehicle theft, and 0.1 percent for burglary.

Regionally, the West saw the largest rise in property crime — up 4.7 percent, followed closely by the Northeast at 4.0 percent. The Midwest was up 1.3 percent, but the South actually showed a decrease of 1.4 percent.

For individual property crime offense categories, statistics indicate that the West had the largest increase in the number of burglaries (up 6.7 percent) and motor vehicle thefts (up 8.1 percent). And the Northeast had the largest rise in the number of larceny-thefts, which were up 4.5 percent.

Notwithstanding the "crime is up" central story, I see the decline in murders and rapes nationally (and the very sizeable drop in the South in particular) to be an important bit of very good news.  To provide some rough numbers, I believe the nearly 5% decline in murders in the South means there are a couple hundred more persons in that region still alive than if murder rates had been merely stable. 

The uptick in robbery and property crimes is, of course, disappointing and perhaps distressing.  But I wonder, were we able to drill down further into these numbers, if we might find an especially warm start to 2012, along with the ever-growing popularity of easy-to-pilfer tablets and smart-phones, provides a relatively benign account of possible explanatory factors for the uptick.

Finally, as the must-read new Mother Jones article on crime rates still echoes in my brain, there may just be one simple explanation for this all: lead.

Some related posts on the great modern crime decline: 

January 16, 2013 at 05:33 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I wonder what the statistics would be if the FBI included CP crimes. Since the government believes that each viewing or trading of an image is a separate re-victimization (i.e., a separate crime), that these crimes are extremely serious and, for some purposes, considered crimes of violence, I suspect that, there would be an incredible increase in the number of crimes, rather than the decrease. I can only conclude that the government's heavy-handed characterization of these crimes during prosecution, yet complete omission in the statistics, is self-serving.

Posted by: AnonymousOne | Jan 16, 2013 9:05:09 PM

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