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September 19, 2011

Still more great news and data on the latest crime rates in the United States


The chart reprinted here comes from this FBI webpage that reports on the latest great news on crime rates.  This related press release provides more of the data and context for these heart-warming numbers, along with lots of other data of note for criminal justice policy wonks: 

According to the figures released today by the FBI, the estimated number of violent crimes in 2010 declined for the fourth consecutive year.  Property crimes also decreased, marking this the eighth straight year that the collective estimates for these offenses declined.

The 2010 statistics show that the estimated volumes of violent and property crimes declined 6.0 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively, when compared with the 2009 estimates.  The violent crime rate for the year was 403.6 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants (a 6.5 percent decrease from the 2009 rate), and the property crime rate was 2,941.9 offenses per 100,000 persons (a 3.3 percent decrease from the 2009 figure).

These and additional data are presented in the 2010 edition of the FBI’s annual report Crime in the United States [available here].  This publication is a statistical compilation of offense and arrest data reported by law enforcement agencies voluntarily participating in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program....

In 2010, there were 18,108 city, county, university and college, state, tribal, and federal agencies that participated in the UCR program. A summary of the statistics reported by these agencies, which are included in Crime in the United States, 2010, follows:

■ Nationwide in 2010, there were an estimated 1,246,248 violent crimes.

■ Each of the four violent crime offenses decreased when compared with the 2009 estimates. Robbery had the largest decrease at 10.0 percent, followed by forcible rape with a 5.0 percent decline, murder and nonnegligent manslaughter with a 4.2 percent decrease, and aggravated assault with a 4.1 percent decline.

■ Nationwide in 2010, there were an estimated 9,082,887 property crimes.

■ Each of the property crime offenses also decreased in 2010 when compared with the 2009 estimates. The largest decline, 7.4 percent, was for motor vehicle thefts. The estimated number of burglaries decreased 2.0 percent, and the estimated number of larceny-thefts declined 2.4 percent.

■ Collectively, victims of property crimes (excluding arson) lost an estimated $15.7 billion in 2010.

■ The FBI estimated that in 2010, agencies nationwide made about 13.1 million arrests, excluding traffic violations.

■ In 2010, there were 14,744 law enforcement agencies that reported their staffing levels to the FBI. These agencies reported that as of October 31, 2010, they collectively employed 705,009 sworn officers and 308,599 civilians, a rate of 3.5 employees for each 1,000 inhabitants.

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September 19, 2011 at 04:14 PM | Permalink


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Doug: What is the best social science and criminological research out there on what may be causing the drop in crime rates? Is it something demographic, something economic, something in the legal structure? Are there data on the whether incarceration rates or average sentence lengths have any causative effect?

Posted by: Peter G | Sep 19, 2011 9:47:56 PM

Peter: Are you a child or something? This is a false drop, politically motivated, driven by intimidation of the police.


These are insulting to the intelligence of all crime victims who have to run for it in their own gang dominated blocks. The police does not even show up to those areas because they are too dangerous for them. They have surrendered them entirely to the criminal element. Fallujah is safer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 19, 2011 10:10:12 PM

Peter G. --

The most important factors in crime reduction of the last 20 to 25 years are, first, increased incarceration, and, second, hiring more police.

Take a look at a University of Chicago study on what does (and does not) account for the drop in crime:


I'll give a quick summary. Six factors commonly mentioned as possible explanations turned out to have little or no effect: the strong economy of the 1990s, changing demographics, better policing strategies, gun control laws, concealed weapons laws and
increased use of the death penalty.

Instead, the drop was attributable to four factors: increases in the number of police, the rising prison population, the waning crack epidemic and the legalization of abortion.

Of these, the increase in incarceration was by far the most significant. The study states:

"The 1990s was a period of enormous growth in the number of people behind bars, as demonstrated in Figure 3. After many decades of relatively stable imprisonment rates, the prison population began to expand in the mid 1970s. By 2000, more than two million individuals were incarcerated at any point in time, roughly four times the number locked up in 1972. Of that prison population growth, more
than half took place in the 1990s.

"The increase in prisoners can be attributed to a number of factors, the most important of which were the sharp rise in incarceration
for drug-related offenses, increased parole revocation and longer sentences for
those convicted of crimes (Kuziemko and Levitt, 2003).

"The theory linking increased imprisonment to reduced crime works through two channels. First, by locking up offenders, they are removed from the streets and unable to commit further crimes while incarcerated. This reduction in crime is known as the incapacitation effect. The other reason prisons reduce crime is deterrence—the increased threat of punishment induces forward-looking criminals
not to commit crimes they otherwise would Ž find attractive. Empirical estimates of
the impact of incarceration on crime capture both of these effects.

"The evidence linking increased punishment to lower crime rates is very strong." ###

I couldn't help but smile when I saw that your wondering about what the causes of crime reduction are did not include what the Chicago study indictaes are by far the two most important, with increased imprisonment leading the list.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 20, 2011 8:04:26 PM

Peter G. --

See also this entry by Doug: http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2011/05/james-q-wilsons-take-on-what-is-behind-falling-crime-rates.html

As Prof. Wilson notes (emphasis added):

"[W]e have little reason to ascribe the recent crime decline to jobs, the labor market or consumer sentiment. The question remains: Why is the crime rate falling?

"One obvious answer is that many more people are in prison than in the past. Experts differ on the size of the effect, but I think that William Spelman and Steven Levitt have it about right in believing that GREATER INCARCERATION CAN EXPLAIN ABOUT ONE-QUARTER OR MORE OF THE CRIME DECLINE. Yes, many thoughtful observers think that we put too many offenders in prison for too long. For some criminals, such as low-level drug dealers and former inmates returned to prison for parole violations, that may be so. But it's true nevertheless that when prisoners are kept off the street, they can attack only one another, not you or your family."

Serious people cannot dismiss the significant improvement in the public's well-being that has come about as a result of keeping criminals off the street.

P.S. Although I can't find the thread for it just now, in a recent posting, Gritsforbreakfast, who sees the world much as you do and not at all as I do, agreed with the 25% figure as the amount that incarceration has contributed to the enormous crime decrease.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 20, 2011 8:15:38 PM

These figures do not even include the vast number of crimes committed by the police officers alone. For example, police is called to an apartment for a domestic dispute. A woman opens the door, and her face is busted up. Behind her comes her husband, a police officer, known to the responders. What happens? Does this crime get reported or covered up? It is even an FBI Index felony.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 20, 2011 8:42:05 PM

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