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October 17, 2012

Is the great US crime decline now finally over?: BJS reports crime up in 2011

As reported in this AP article, the "number of violent crimes rose by 18% in the U.S. last year while property crimes went up by 11%, the government reported Wednesday."  Here is more on this notable crime data news:

It was the first year-to-year increase for violent crime since 1993, marking the end of a long string of declines.  Violent crime fell by 65% since 1993, from 16.8 million to 5.8 million last year.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics' annual national crime victimization survey, the size of the percentage increases in both violent crime and property crime for last year was driven in large part by the historically low levels seen in 2010.

The increase in violent crime was the result of an upward swing in assaults, which rose 22%, from four million in 2010 to five million last year.  But the incidence of rape, sexual assault and robbery remained largely unchanged, as did serious violent crime involving weapons or injury.

"While it's cause for concern, I would caution against forecasting future crime trends based on a one-year fluctuation," said Chris Melde, an assistant professor at Michigan State University's school of criminal justice.  "You can have percentage changes that seem quite large, but unless you put them in a longer-term perspective you can sometimes misinterpret the overall seriousness of the problem," Mr. Melde added.

The increases in violent crime experienced by whites, Hispanics, younger people and men accounted for the majority of the increase in violent crime.

In the latest survey, property crime was up for the first time in a decade, from 15.4 million in 2010 to 17 million last year.  Household burglaries rose 14%, from 3.2 million to 3.6 million.  The number of thefts jumped by 10%, from 11.6 million to 12.8 million.

The victimization figures are based on surveys by the Census Bureau of a large sample of people in order to gather data from those who are victims of crime.  They are considered the government's most comprehensive crime statistics because they count both crimes that never are reported to the police as well as those reported.

Last May, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's preliminary crime report for 2011, which counts only crimes reported to police, concluded that crime dropped again last year, down 4% for violent crime and 3.7% for property crime.  The declines slowed in the second half of last year, a sign to academic experts that the many years of lowering crime levels might be nearing an end.  Historically, less than half of all crimes, including violent crimes, are reported to police.

The full BJS report, excitingly titled "Criminal Victimization, 2011, is available at this link.  Because there are so many different ways to interpret ad spin this BJS data, I am not even going to try.  But I welcome commenters to go at it.

Some related posts on the great modern crime decline: 

October 17, 2012 at 05:13 PM | Permalink


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This reflects amendments to the US Code which now includes "blathering bullyness." The million and a half half-assed Bill Otis posts here have cause an enormous spike in the crime rate - especially of the unsolved variety.

We can only hope that justice will be swift and severe.

Posted by: anon | Oct 17, 2012 5:22:54 PM

My kneejerk reaction is that the spike in crime is due to the new trend away from incarceration and towards more creative, non-incarceratve methods. Time will tell.

Posted by: Jardinero1 | Oct 17, 2012 6:04:11 PM

It takes about 5 years for a major law or decision to have full impact. Those five years since Booker, Apprendi, Blakely and Cunningham are over. Here come the violent criminals, generating lawyer and government make work jobs.

All released prisoners should be placed in halfway houses on the street where lawyer legislators, judges, and defense lawyers live. Stop the dumping of these toxic individuals in minority neighborhoods.

All their self-dealt immunities must end by constitutional amendment. Failing passage, direct action groups of victims and their families should visit these lawyers, tie them to a tree outside the court at night, and apply 50 lashes. To deter.

Investigate all politicians opposing the legalization of marijuana for campaign donations by legitimate organizations fronting for Mexican drug lords.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 17, 2012 10:52:47 PM

Criminals often commit crimes out of desperation. Slow economy equals rise in crime.

Posted by: chad | Oct 18, 2012 10:57:45 AM

chad --

"Criminals often commit crimes out of desperation."

Complete and utter nonsense. They commit crimes because they're greedy and too lazy or anti-social to work at a normal job. Not one time in my 18 years in the USAO did I come across a defendant who committed a drug or property crime in order to subsist. Never.

"Slow economy equals rise in crime."

More nonsense. The economy was slowest in the 2008 Great Recession, and crime continued to decrease that year, the next and the next. It's admittedly hard to believe, but there was a minor recovery underway when the reported increase in crime occurred.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 18, 2012 2:33:09 PM

Got to give bill this one chad. I've seen the same studies. None back up your statement.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 18, 2012 2:54:16 PM

In the state courts I regularly practice in, although rare, it is not uncommon to encounter shoplifters who have stolen food.

Posted by: Fred | Oct 19, 2012 6:43:04 AM

Fred --

Sure they'll steal food. Generally it's not loaves of bread, however. More like beer, cupcakes and candy. Nor is the stealing of food a certain or even a probable indicator that they NEEDED the food to subsist. It's more likely an indicator of (1) what was in arm's reach, and (2) what they thought they could hide in their clothing.

Have you ever had a client who stole food to fend off impending starvation? Have you even heard of such a defendant in your district?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 19, 2012 2:21:03 PM

Fred: Not picking on you, just curious. Were the shoplifters who stole food emaciated, and starving, or big fat slobs? Obesity is the biggest nutrition problem among the leisure class of the US. There is no poverty in the US. You need to be thin to be called poor.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 20, 2012 5:20:46 AM

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