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May 24, 2010

Cause for celebration: FBI stats show crime rates dropping again

This new Reuters report provides the latest, greatest encouraging statistics about crime rates:

Murders and auto thefts fell sharply in the United States in 2009, extending the downward trend in violent and property crimes, according to preliminary statistics released by the FBI on Monday.

It was the third straight annual decline in violent crimes and seventh straight annual decline for property crimes, which occurred despite a weak economy, which is often linked to spikes in criminal activity.

Each region of the country experienced a drop in crime, with the southern United States experiencing the largest decline -- a 6.6 percent drop -- according to the FBI.

It did not provide a reason for the overall decline, which came as the economy started to show signs of growth after one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. Experts and politicians often link a sour economy with higher crime.

Murders fell 7.2 percent, while forcible rapes decreased 3.1 percent. Cities with 500,000 to 999,999 inhabitants saw violent crime, which also includes manslaughter and robbery, drop the most among city groupings, down 7.5 percent.

There was an increase in the number of murders in cities with populations of 25,000 to 49,999, jumping 5.3 percent. Additionally nonmetropolitan counties experienced a small increase as well, up 1.8 percent, the statistics showed.

In the nonviolent crime category, motor vehicle theft dropped 17.2 percent, while burglaries fell 1.7 percent, according to the preliminary figures released by the FBI. Arson also fell 10.4 percent in 2009.

As I have said before and will say again, the continued decrease in crime rates in recent years is an extraordinarily great development that all serious criminal justice researchers should be trying mightily to assess and better understand. I am not sure if we are doing anything that much better in the sentencing and corrections arenas, but everyone should be very grateful for the continuing positive trends whether or not any causes or reasons can be identified and creditted.

UPDATE: I just received via e-mail a link to this notable press release which provides a notable spin on the new crime data:

For the third year in a row, violent crime has declined in the United States while increasing numbers of American citizens own firearms and are licensed to carry, a trend that belies predictions of anti-gunners that more guns will result in more crime, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said today.

Preliminary data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows that the violent crime rate went down 5.5 percent in 2009, compared to statistics from 2008. This covers all four categories of violent crime: murder, robbery, aggravated assault and forcible rape. Violent crime went down 4 percent in metropolitan counties and 3 percent elsewhere, according to the FBI.

At the same time, the agency’s National Instant Check System reports continued increases in the number of background check requests and the National Shooting Sports Foundation has reported increased federal firearms excise tax allocations to state wildlife agencies, an indication that more guns and ammunition are being purchased.

“This translates to one irrefutable fact,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb. “There are more guns in private hands than ever before, yet crime rates have declined. In plain English, this means that gun prohibitionists have been consistently wrong. Higher rates of gun ownership have not resulted in more bloodshed, as the gun ban lobby has repeatedly forecast with its ‘sky-is-falling’ rhetoric."

May 24, 2010 at 02:24 PM | Permalink


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These reports are an underestimate of the crime victims survey.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 24, 2010 10:23:04 PM

Brits experienced the same effect.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 24, 2010 11:37:01 PM

Most of the bad lads are shooting their guns abroad for Uncle Sam.


Posted by: Dr NL Oldfield | May 25, 2010 6:22:04 AM

Cities across Southern California report drops in violent crime in 2009

Garden Grove reported an 11% drop, Anaheim had a 10% decrease and L.A. saw a 10% drop over the year before, FBI data show. But in Fullerton, violent crime increased.

Since California has some of the toughest-on-crime gun laws, my bet is on all the pot dispensaries because the munchies are a sure antidote to violent crime. We can be sure if the crime rate goes up after the soon-to-be forced closures.

Posted by: George | May 25, 2010 12:28:03 PM

As the prisons are bulging with the people who commit crime, the crime rate drops.


Posted by: Bill Otis | May 25, 2010 5:00:09 PM

These statistics are a Rorschach test; there is no reliable data on causation; but that will not stop every special interest group across the map from spinning the numbers as a vindication of their work (often based on tenuous/illogical chains of reasoning).

This is one of those debates that is conducted with such painful disingenuity and bad faith on all sides that it actually depresses me whenever I think about it.

[Spell check says disingenuity is not a word. But you get my drift.]

Posted by: Anon | May 25, 2010 5:25:18 PM

I suspect that the continued dramatic decline in car theft is due mostly to anti-theft technologies distinct from those of the other crimes and due to the weak market for stolen cars at a time when car prices, including used car prices, are down.

Posted by: ohwilleke | May 25, 2010 6:06:46 PM

Left winger does not believe the stats.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 26, 2010 5:57:48 AM

You are quoting a press release from the Citizen's Committee for the Right To Bear Arms? I hope you demand more critical evaluation from your students' papers than you do on your own blog. (I am a journalist - not a student or prof.)

Posted by: Kendrah | Sep 7, 2010 1:26:58 AM

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