Sunday, May 26, 2024

Homicides still way down as weather (and crime politics) heats up in 2024

A few days ago, I received an alert from my local paper about this article reporting that "data from the Columbus Division of Police showed that the city is experiencing some of the lowest levels of violence in a decade."  According to this press piece, the biggest city in Ohio has recorded only 18 murders in this calendar year, compared to 41 at this time last year.  The article also flagged that a number of other cities have also seen significant homicide declines.  

Conveniently and encouragingly, Jeff Asher posted yesterday this new substack entry detailing that Columbus, Ohio is not alone in experiencing a significant homicide decline to start 2024.  Folks should read his full posting for lots more context and details, but here are some highlights:

[M]urder is down around 20 percent in 2024 in more than 180 cities with available data this year compared to a comparable timeframe last year (as of the moment of this piece's publication).  Murder is down 20.5 percent in 183 cities with available data through at least January, down 20.2 percent in 174 cities with data through at least February, and down 20.8 percent in 59 cities with data through at least March 20....

We could still see, and perhaps should expect to see the sample's murder decline to regress towards a more normal rate of decline as the year goes on.  It's only April and there is a ton of time left in 2024 for these figures to regress, but murder is down roughly twice as much with a sample that’s twice as large as what we had last year at this time.... Murder is down more than 30 percent at the moment in Washington DC, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, Philadelphia, and I could keep going....

It's not just murder data in cities pointing to a large decline.  Shooting data from the Gun Violence Archive shows a decline of around 12 percent in terms of shooting victims through March compared to 2023.  This matches the trend of declining shootings in 20 of the 25 cities with available shooting data through at least February this year. 

As readers may recall from prior posts, 2023 brought a considerable (perhaps historic) decline in homicides in the US compared to 2022 (which saw a small decline in homicides after very significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021).  And my check today at the latest AH Datalytics' collection of homicide data for 2024 from 250+ US cities shows now an 18.8% cumulative decline(!) in murders across the nation's cities through more than the first third of 2024.  And a number of big cities are showing even bigger 2024 declines from police reports: Washington DC and Milwaukee homicides are down around 25%; Cleveland, Dallas and Phoenix homicides are down nearly 30%; Baltimore, Columbus, New Orleans and Philadelphia homicides are down more than 40%.

I am not sure criminologists have a clear story for why we are not seeing historicthe  homicide declines, but the many hundreds of fewer murders to start 2024 is certainly something to celebrate and to hope continue.  (I noted in a prior post that the 2023 and 2024 declines in homicide come at a time of relatively low use of the death penalty and relatively lower rates of incarceration by US standards.)  Of course, these remarkable homicide numbers could change in the months ahead, and the hotter weather of summer months historically bring an uptick in homicides.

Also sure to heat up this summer are crime politics.  I flagged in this post yesterday a recent Politico article quoting aides of President Biden suggesting the Pesident was planning to embrace tougher approaches on crime and immigration.  And today bring this lengthy New York Times piece headlined "Even as Violent Crime Drops, Lawlessness Rises as an Election Issue."  Here is a small excerpt:

Homicide rates are tumbling from pandemic highs in most cities, funding for law enforcement is rising, and tensions between the police and communities of color, while still significant, are no longer at a boiling point. But property crime, carjackings and smash-and-grab burglaries are up, adding to a sense of lawlessness, amplified on social media and local online message boards.

Mr. Trump is re-upping his blunt, visceral appeal to voter anxieties. He declared recently that “crime is rampant and out of control like never before,” promised to shoot shoplifters, embraced the “back the blue” slogan against liberal changes to police departments — and even falsely accused the F.B.I. of fabricating positive crime data to bolster Mr. Biden.

Mr. Biden, in response, is taking a more low-key approach.  He has spotlighted improving violent crime rates, promoted vast increases in funding to law enforcement under his watch and pointed to an aggressive push on gun control, as well as a revived effort to hold local departments accountable for discriminatory and dangerous policing practices in Black and brown neighborhoods. 

May 26, 2024 in Campaign 2024 and sentencing issues, Criminal justice in the Biden Administration, Criminal justice in the Trump Administration, Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, National and State Crime Data, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (22)

Sunday, May 05, 2024

The latest encouraging violent crime data ... and differing takes on US crime realities

This past Friday, the Major Cities Chiefs Association released this accounting of violent crime for the first quarter on 2024 based on surveys of 68 cities in the US.  These data included homicide totals suggesting that, cumulatively, homicides have dropped nearly 20% in these cities at the start of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023 (which also experienced a homicide decline compared to 2022).  In addition, these data indicate (notable but lesser) declines in rape, robbery and aggravated assault. 

These data do not, of course, reflect the crime realities in every region on the US, and crime trends certainly could charge over the course of 2024.  Still, these data provide ever more reason to believe that COVID-era crime spikes in 2020 and 2021 have not become the new normal.  Indeed, the homicide rate to start 2024 based on the preliminary data would seem to be right now lower than the pre-pandemic homicide rate in US for 2019 and almost as low as the least lethal year in modern US history in 2014.  Again, these data are not complete and could change, but the broader violent crime data and trends are surely encouraging.  

Of course, crime data past and present always provide a basis for various crime takes, and here are three I have seen recently that are notable and notably different:

From the Brennan Center, "Violent Crime Is Falling Nationwide — Here’s How We Know"

From the City Journal, "Enduring Lawlessness in Our Cities: Crime continues to plague the American urban core at much higher levels than before the pandemic."

From External Processing, "Violence is Plummeting in the US!: And We Should Thank The Invisible Touch of Local Government"

UPDATE on 5/6: Here one more notable data take on crime that seemed worth adding to the discussion:

From Jeff-alytics, "Is The NIBRS Transition To Blame For Our Current Crime Trends?; Short answer: No. Longer answer: Also no."

May 5, 2024 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Pew Research Center updates its accounting of "What the data says about crime in the U.S."

John Gramlich has updated this helpful overview article on US crime realities at the Pew Research Center under the headline "What the data says about crime in the U.S."  I recommend the full piece for all the data particulars, which includes data on perceptions of crime as well as reporting rates and clearance rates.  Here is how the discussion is set up at the start of the article:

A growing share of Americans say reducing crime should be a top priority for the president and Congress to address this year. Around six-in-ten U.S. adults (58%) hold that view today, up from 47% at the beginning of Joe Biden’s presidency in 2021.

With the issue likely to come up in this year’s presidential election, here’s what we know about crime in the United States, based on the latest available data from the federal government and other sources.

April 30, 2024 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (10)

Friday, April 26, 2024

"Do progressive prosecutors increase crime? A quasi-experimental analysis of crime rates in the 100 largest counties, 2000–2020"

The title of this post is the title of this new research paper authored by Nick Petersen, Ojmarrh Mitchell and Shi Yan just published in the journal of Criminology and Public Policy. Here is its abstract:

Research summary

In recent years, there has been a rise in so-called “progressive prosecutors” focused on criminal justice reforms. Although there has been considerable debate about the relationship between progressive prosecution policies and crime rates, there has been surprisingly little empirical research on the topic.  Building on the limited extant research, we examined whether the inauguration of progressive prosecutors in the nation's 100 most populous counties impacted crime rates during a 21-year period (2000 to 2020).  After developing an original database of progressive prosecutors in the 100 largest counties, we used heterogeneous difference-in-differences regressions to examine the influence of progressive prosecutors on crime rates.  Results show that the inauguration of progressive prosecutors led to statistically higher index property (∼7%) and total crime rates (driven by rising property crimes), and these effects were strongest since 2013 — a period with an increasing number of progressive prosecutors.  However, violent crime rates generally were not higher after a progressive prosecutor assumed control.

Policy implications

Despite concerns that the election of progressive prosecutors leads to “surging” levels of violence, these findings suggest that progressive-oriented prosecutorial reforms led to relatively higher rates of property crime but had limited impact on rates of violent crime.  In fact, in absolute terms, crime rates fell in jurisdictions with traditional and progressive prosecutors.  Yet, relative property crime rates were greater after the inauguration of progressive prosecutors.  Given that prior research shows progressive prosecutors reduce mass incarceration and racial inequalities, our findings indicate that higher property crime rates may be the price for these advancements.

April 26, 2024 in National and State Crime Data, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

"50 States, 1 Goal: Examining State-Level Recidivism Trends in the Second Chance Act Era"

The title of this post is the title of this new report from the Council of State Governments Justice Center providing a positive accounting of recidivism trends in the states over the past 15 years. Here is how the report is briefly summarized:

This report highlights the significant progress made in reducing recidivism across the country over the past 15 years. Since its passage in 2008, the Second Chance Act has invested in state and local efforts to improve outcomes for people leaving prison and jail, with a total of nearly 1,200 grantees from 48 states and 3 territories administering programs that have served more than 400,000 people.

Here are some of the recidivism specifics from the full report:

Since the passage of the Second Chance Act in 2008, more and more state and local leaders have made recidivism reduction a public safety priority, pursuing a variety of strategies that are starting to show real results....  Our findings reveal that recidivism rates have dropped considerably in the past 15 years:

  • Three-year reincarceration rates have decreased by 23 percent nationally since the passage of the Second Chance Act.
  • Thirty-five percent of people exiting prison in 2008 were reincarcerated within 3 years, whereas 27 percent of people exiting prison in 2019 were reincarcerated within 3 years.
  • If this lower rate of recidivism is sustained for people released in 2022, it would mean that 33,500 fewer people will be reincarcerated compared with the rate from 2008.

Three-quarters of states experienced a reduction in reincarceration. Before the passage of the Second Chance Act, 11 states had 3-year reincarceration rates above 45 percent, compared to 6 states with similarly high reincarceration rates in the last few years.  Recidivism rates dropped by double digits in 9 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, and South Carolina.

April 16, 2024 in National and State Crime Data, Reentry and community supervision | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Another accounting of remarkable homicide declines to start 2024 (after big declines in 2023)

The Wall Street Journal has this new piece, headlined "Homicides Are Plummeting in American Cities," that covers in some new ways the remarkable homicide data emerging from cities (which I flagged here a few weeks ago).  Here are excerpts (to go along with some notable charts and graphs in the WSJ piece):

Homicides in American cities are falling at the fastest pace in decades, bringing them close to levels they were at before a pandemic-era jump.  Nationwide, homicides dropped around 20% in 133 cities from the beginning of the year through the end of March compared with the same period in 2023, according to crime-data analyst Jeff Asher, who tabulated statistics from police departments across the country.

Philadelphia saw a 35% drop in killings as of April 12 compared with the same period last year, police data show. In New York City, homicides fell 15% through April 7. Homicides in Columbus, Ohio, plunged 58% through April 7. And Boston had just two homicides this year as of March 31, compared with 11 over the same time frame last year.

The drop is an acceleration of a trend that began last year, following a surge in the number of homicides during the Covid-19 pandemic. The declines so far in 2024, on top of last year’s drop, mirror the steep declines in homicides of the late 1990s....

If the trend continues, the U.S. could be on pace for a year like 2014, which saw the lowest homicide rate since the 1960s.  But police officials and researchers cautioned that crime trends aren’t always consistent and future homicide rates are difficult to predict.  Some cities, like Denver, Los Angeles, and Portland, Ore., reported rises in homicides as of early April, Asher’s data show.  But such increases are outliers.  More typical is Baltimore, where homicides have declined 30% so far this year.

During the pandemic, homicide rates shot up around the country, sparking concerns that the progress made during a decadeslong drop in violent crimes had been undone.  The number of homicides in the U.S. rose nearly 30% in 2020 from the prior year to 21,570, the largest single-year increase ever recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Researchers and authorities attributed the upward spike to several factors, including crime-prevention programs, courts and prisons being unable to operate normally when Covid was spreading; young people not in school due to shutdowns; and law enforcement pulling back after social unrest following the high-profile police killings of George Floyd and other Black people....

Now, police are more engaged and departments are working to hire more officers. Community-based crime prevention programs have resumed. And nationwide social unrest has cooled....

In some cities, the homicide decline has been accompanied by a reduction in property crime as well.  San Francisco, where property crime has been a huge problem in recent years, has recorded decreases in burglaries, robberies, larceny thefts and motor vehicle thefts so far in 2024.  The city has also seen nine homicides as of April 7, compared with 13 during the same period in 2023.

Crime researchers have been particularly struck by the drops in cities that have been the most plagued with violent crime in recent years, like New Orleans. In the first half of 2022, it had the highest homicide rate of any major U.S. city, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of crime data. Through April 10 of this year, the number of killings dropped 39% from the same period in 2023.

As I noted in my prior post, it strikes me as notable that the 2023 and 2024 declines in homicide come at a time of relatively little use of the death penalty and relatively lower rates of incarceration by modern US standards. The 1990s involved a significant uptick in death sentences, executions and incarceration rates across the US; the 2020s have seen declines in all these punishment metrics. (Let me state again that I generally doubt that punishment trends alone directly account for homicide trends in any direction.)

A few prior related posts on recent crime trends:

April 14, 2024 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 08, 2024

Intriguing new accounting of recent crime trends and related data

Though I cannot find any detailed information about the Coalition for Law, Order and Safety, this Fox News article alerted me to this new report from the group titled "Assessing America’s Crime Crisis: Trends, Causes, And Consequences."  The report gathers crime and criminal justice in some distinct ways, and here is the report's introduction:

American communities are less safe than they were a decade ago.  That fact is undeniable.  Similarly, the evidence is clear that over the last decade, serious — especially violent — crime rose in 2015 and 2016, then briefly fell before rising again since 2020.  Early indications suggest that the steep rise in homicides in 2020-2021 has slowed, if not reversed, but not returned to levels recorded five or ten years ago.

In other words, to say crime is down is like descending from a tall peak and standing on a high bluff, saying you are closer to the ground — a true but misleading statement. The truth is that violent crime is substantially elevated in major cities (and nationally) compared to pre-2020 levels.

For other crimes, the data is often inconsistent, unreliable, or unavailable making trends difficult — but not impossible  — to discern.  The evidence we do have suggests some serious offenses (i.e., carjacking and auto theft) have continued to rise dramatically.  Other aggregate data suggests some offenses have continued their decades-long decline.

Meanwhile, Americans support for greater law enforcement and stiffer criminal penalties has increased as polls show that the public believes crime has risen, and they feel less safe.

This paper seeks to answer two important questions about public safety in America: 

  • What do we know about recent crime trends and how; and
  • What is contributing to this trend and why?

To answer those questions, this study will first examine the available data on crime over the past decade, analyze its value and limitations, and assess its meaning for public safety policymakers. Second, the study will analyze what policies and phenomena are driving these crime trends.

April 8, 2024 in Data on sentencing, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (2)

Notable new research on state cuts to Medicaid and crime

Bolts magazine has this interesting new article discussing some interesting new research headlined "“We Need to See the Bigger Picture”: How Cuts to Medicaid Hurt Public Safety." Here are some excerpts from the article, which is worth reading in full:

When a state made cuts to Medicaid, depriving people of access to health insurance, the crime rate increased: That’s the finding of a new academic study, supported by the National Institutes of Health and released as a working paper in March by four scholars who study public health.

The study comes at a time when many states are ramping up punishment in response to crime, while leaving public services largely underfunded.  One of the study’s authors, Catherine Maclean, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, tells Bolts that policymakers should keep in mind the critical value of a strong social safety net for stabilizing communities....

A number of states are contemplating further Medicaid cuts, including Kentucky, Utah, and New York.  Elsewhere, in Mississippi and South Dakota, voters have tried to force elected leaders to expand Medicaid via direct democracy, but with mixed success.  And on the national stage, Donald Trump is running for president again, calling for dramatic slashing of public funds for health coverage.

Bolts spoke with Maclean about what the Tennessee study can tell us about the link between health insurance and public safety today; about what has and hasn’t changed since 2005; and about current proposed cuts to government-provided health insurance.  “You might save some dollars in terms of Medicaid, but that may lead to some other problems with other objectives, like promoting public safety,” she warned.

Speaking of reading in full, the entire NBER woking paper article, titled "Losing Medicaid and Crime," can be found at this link. Here is its abstract:

We study the impact of losing health insurance on criminal activity by leveraging one of the most substantial Medicaid disenrollments in U.S. history, which occurred in Tennessee in 2005 and lead to 190,000 non–elderly and non–disabled adults without dependents unexpectedly losing coverage.  Using police agency–level data and a difference–in–differences approach, we find that this mass insurance loss increased total crime rates with particularly strong effects for nonviolent crime. We test for several potential mechanisms and find that our results may be explained by economic stability and access to healthcare.

April 8, 2024 in National and State Crime Data, Offender Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Encouraging homicide data as the first quarter of 2024 comes to a close

A few days ago, I received an alert from my local paper about this article reporting that "data from the Columbus Division of Police showed that the city is experiencing some of the lowest levels of violence in a decade."  According to this press piece, the biggest city in Ohio has recorded only 18 murders in this calendar year, compared to 41 at this time last year.  The article also flagged that a number of other cities have also seen significant homicide declines.  

Conveniently and encouragingly, Jeff Asher posted yesterday this new substack entry detailing that Columbus, Ohio is not alone in experiencing a significant homicide decline to start 2024.  Folks should read his full posting for lots more context and details, but here are some highlights:

[M]urder is down around 20 percent in 2024 in more than 180 cities with available data this year compared to a comparable timeframe last year (as of the moment of this piece's publication).  Murder is down 20.5 percent in 183 cities with available data through at least January, down 20.2 percent in 174 cities with data through at least February, and down 20.8 percent in 59 cities with data through at least March 20....

We could still see, and perhaps should expect to see the sample's murder decline to regress towards a more normal rate of decline as the year goes on.  It's only April and there is a ton of time left in 2024 for these figures to regress, but murder is down roughly twice as much with a sample that’s twice as large as what we had last year at this time.... Murder is down more than 30 percent at the moment in Washington DC, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, Philadelphia, and I could keep going....

It's not just murder data in cities pointing to a large decline.  Shooting data from the Gun Violence Archive shows a decline of around 12 percent in terms of shooting victims through March compared to 2023.  This matches the trend of declining shootings in 20 of the 25 cities with available shooting data through at least February this year. 

As readers may recall from prior posts, 2023 saw a considerable (perhaps historic) decline in homicides in the US compared to 2022 (which had itself recorded a small decline in homicides after significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021).  But the latest AH Datalytics' collection of homicide data for 2024 from a large number of US cities shows now over a 20% cumulative decline(!) in murders across the nation's cities through roughly the first quarter of 2024.  Of course, these remarkable homicide numbers could change in the months ahead, but the many hundreds of fewer murders to start 2024 is certainly something to celebrate and hope it will continue.

Though not mentioned by Asher, I will note that the notable 2023 and 2024 declines in homicide come at a time of relatively low use of the death penalty and relatively lower rates of incarceration by US standards.  The last eight or so years, as detailed in this DPIC fact sheet, have seen historically few death sentences and executions across the US for the modern capital punishment era.  Also national incarceration totals and rates have been in relative (slow) decline for about a decade, and the US likely now has its lowest total incarceration rate since the mid 1990s.  Critically, I do not think these punishment trends can in any way directly explain recent homicide declines, but I had seen some claims that the spike in homicides in 2020 and 2021 might be atributed in part to these punishment trends.  Recent homicide declines would seem to partial couner worries that recent punishment trends a chief cause past homicide increases.  And if homicide levels keep dropping at the pace we have seen in 2023 and so far in 2024, we may soon hit modern record low levels in both homicides and severe punishments in the US. 

April 3, 2024 in Data on sentencing, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (16)

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Encouraging FBI data now provides fuller picture of 2023 crime declines

Jeff Asher's substack has this notable new post summarizing the latest encouraging FBI crime data.  I recommend folks read the full posting, but here are some highlights:

The FBI released quarterly data covering all of 2023 yesterday preliminarily showing a widespread decline in crime nationally last year. There was a 13 percent decline in murder in 2023 relative to 2022, a 6 percent decline in reported violent crime, and a 4 percent decline in reported property crime based on data from just over 13,000 agencies that reported quarterly data through December. The declines were fairly uniform regardless of city or county size with the exception of rising auto thefts in bigger cities and counties. The decline in murder in 2023 is likely the largest one year decline ever recorded....

Murder

Caveats aside, a 13 percent decline in murder nationally — if that is what is shown in the final year-end figures — would be by far the largest one year decline in murder ever recorded (data available back to 1960). The previous largest decline in murder ever recorded was 9.1 percent in 1996, so even a 10 percent decline last year would be the largest one-year decline ever recorded both in terms of percent change and the number of fewer people murdered. A 10 percent decline in murder would mean a drop of more than 2,000 murder victims from one year to the next for the first time ever recorded and around 3,500 fewer murder victims nationally in 2023 than there were in each of 2020 and 2021.

A double-digit percent decline in murder in 2023 (let’s assume some regression in the final numbers and call it 11 percent) would put the 2023 US murder rate at roughly 17 percent below where it was in 2020, largely in line with where it was in 2016 and 2017, and still up around 9 percent above where it was in 2019 (the super preliminary data for 2024 is quite promising — more on that in a few weeks)....

Violent Crime

As I previously noted, calculating national crime rates is inexact and these figures can change slightly from year to year in unpredictable ways making precise comparisons to previous years challenging. A 5.7 percent decline in reported violent crime — as preliminarily suggested by the quarterly data — would be one of the larger annual declines in reported violent crime (it fell slightly faster a few years in the 1990s).

The decline in reported violent crime in the quarterly data suggests 2023 likely had the lowest reported violent crime rate nationally since the late 1960s, even leaving room for the size of the decline to shrink from the -5.7 percent currently shown.

Property Crime

Property crime had a smaller decline in the quarterly data with the fly in the ointment being a surge in auto thefts. This was especially evident in large cities and suburban counties and was fueled by social media showing how to steal Kia and Hyundai cars. The preliminary evidence on auto thefts for 2024, however, looks promising with a 24 percent YTD decline so far in Chicago, 39 percent in New Orleans, 41 percent in Philadelphia, and 10 percent in New York City (to name just a few cities).

March 19, 2024 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, February 23, 2024

"A Comprehensive Analysis of the Effect of Crime-Control Policies on Murder"

The title of this post is the title of this recent paper authored by Carlisle Moody that I just found via SSRN. Here is the paper's abstract:

This study investigates the effects of most of the major firearm and crime control policies on murder. We use two-way fixed-effects models based on state-level panel data from 1970-2018.  We include a comprehensive list of relevant policy variables to control for their influence in determining the effect of each.  We do a specification search using four commonly used econometric methods to estimate three models of the crime equation. A Bonferroni correction is used to control for false rejections.  A robustness check using new difference-in-differences estimators confirms the results.  We find that, with the possible exception of constitutional carry laws, no firearm policy can be shown to have a significant long-run effect on murder.  However, we find that the traditional policies of prison incarceration and police presence significantly reduce murder in the long run.  We also find that executions have no significant long-run effect on murder.  Finally, there is considerable evidence that three-strikes laws increase murder in the long run.

February 23, 2024 in National and State Crime Data, Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, February 19, 2024

In praise of efforts to develop the new "Real-Time Crime Index"

I am excited to see this new Substack entry from Jeff Asher talking up the development of a new crime data resource. Here is part of the start of the posting (with links from the original):

One of the greatest challenges to understanding crime trends is that data is frequently old and stale by the time it is received. Imagine only learning about the Texas Rangers winning the 2023 World Series winner 9 months after the last out.  That’s essentially the world of crime trends.

The solution to date for crime data has been to collect data from dozens or hundreds of cities that make it publicly available in order to guesstimate what’s happening nationally.  That’s what our YTD murder dashboard attempts to do and it’s also how groups like the Council on Criminal Justice and Major Cities Chiefs Association approach the problem.

The advantages of this methodology are clear: it's fast, it uses publicly available data, and it's reasonably predictive of the national trend.  The disadvantages are equally clear: the data that individual agencies publish is not standardized, there's a decent sized margin of error — especially when the sample is smaller, you’re stuck doing YTD comparisons which aren’t particularly useful for a good chunk of the year, and going beyond murder boosts the difficulty quite a bit.

All of those problems will hopefully be a thing of the past as we start to build a new project called the Real-Time Crime Index (RTCI).  The RTCI is being undertaken thanks to a grant from Arnold Ventures with the objective of creating a repository of crime data from 500 to 1,000 cities that is updated monthly.  The goal is to more or less mimic what BLS does with employment data to create an understanding of national crime trends in as close to real-time as possible.

This project is being done in collaboration with FBI and BJS — the nation’s arbiters of crime data — with a goal of eventually transitioning stewardship of the RTCI to the Federal government by the end of the grant.

Regular readers will not be suprised to hear that I would also love to see a Real-Time Sentencng Data project in the works, but that would be another remarkably hard data project.  Getting lots more real-time crime data would be a great achievement, and I wish the folks working on the RTCI all the best in their important and valuable endeavors.

February 19, 2024 in Data on sentencing, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 09, 2024

"The 'Red' vs. 'Blue' Crime Debate and the Limits of Empirical Social Science"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new Issue Brief from the Manhattan Institute authored by George Borjas and Robert VerBruggen. Here is how it gets started:

For the past two years, several think tanks on opposite sides of the political divide have waged war over whether “red” or “blue” America has a worse crime problem.  Commentators on the left have pointed out that red states have higher homicide rates than blue states, while those on the right have noted that the relationship is more nuanced and can easily flip at a more local level: red-state crime problems are often concentrated in blue cities, and red counties have lower murder rates than blue counties.

In this brief, we do two things.

First, we highlight this debate as an example of how seemingly minor research decisions — such as whether to analyze data at the state or at the local level — can drastically change results.  If we look at the county level, Democratic areas seem particularly murder-ridden; but when we look at the state level, Republican states are clearly more violent.  Casual consumers of empirical social science research often fail to appreciate all the ways in which researchers can manipulate the data to say whatever they want.

Second, we want to move the debate forward by showing how the correlation between crime and partisanship changes after adjusting for differences in social characteristics that could affect both crime rates and partisanship, such as the age, income, and racial composition of the region.  Previous analyses have sometimes noted the importance of these potential confounders, but few have addressed the problem clearly and compellingly.

The upshot is that models with control variables — in other words, models that compare states or counties with roughly similar demographic and economic characteristics — tell a much less spectacular story than those without. In fact, by adjusting for differences in basic demographic and economic characteristics, we can easily make the red–blue difference in homicide rates disappear.  Perhaps further research with more advanced and complex designs could make additional progress on the question.  However, given the sensitivity of the conclusions to how the researcher chooses to analyze the data, we suspect that such effort would be better spent studying and debating concrete policies, as opposed to figuring out which political party has the most violent constituents.

The authors of this issue brief also have this short City Journal piece headlined "More Crime Analysis, Less Crime Politics: Both sides of the debate manipulate data for their own purposes."  It starts this way:

Since crime spiked in 2020, politicians and pundits have scrambled to figure out what they think is the root problem: whether Republicans or Democrats are more to blame.

Conservatives blame soft-on-crime policies in big cities, noting that many Democratic-run cities have long suffered from high crime rates and that many such places experienced particularly large spikes over the past four years. Liberals counter that, at the state level, it’s Trump-voting states that have higher murder rates, which they largely blame on irresponsible gun laws.

In a new Manhattan Institute brief, we try to calm things down a bit — and urge those worried about crime to think about which policies work, not about whether the politicians implementing them happen to be Democrats or Republicans.

February 9, 2024 in Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Latest CCJ accounting covers "Crime Trends in U.S. Cities: Year-End 2023 Update"

The Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) today released its latest accoutning of modern crime trends through this new report titled "Crime Trends in U.S. Cities: Year-End 2023 Update."   This CCJ press release about the report provides an useful short summary in its title: "Homicide, Gun Assaults, Most Other Violent Crimes Fall in U.S. Cities but Remain Above Pre-Pandemic Levels."   Here is more from the report's overview:

This study updates and supplements previous U.S. crime trends reports by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) with data through December 2023. It examines monthly rates at which 12 offenses are reported to law enforcement in 38 American cities. The 38 cities are not necessarily representative of all cities in the United States. The data used to measure the crime trends are subject to revision by local jurisdictions and often differ somewhat from other published data.

The number of homicides in the 32 study cities providing homicide data was 10% lower — representing 515 fewer homicides — in 2023 than in 2022.

Looking at other violent offenses, there were 3% fewer reported aggravated assaults in 2023 than in 2022 and 7% fewer gun assaults in 11 reporting cities.  Reported carjacking incidents fell by 5% in 10 reporting cities but robberies and domestic violence incidents each rose 2%.

Among property crimes, reports of residential burglaries (-3%), nonresidential burglaries (-7%), and larcenies (-4%) all decreased in 2023 compared to 2022.  The number of drug offenses increased by 4% over the same period.

Motor vehicle theft, a crime that has been on the rise since the summer of 2020, continued its upward trajectory through 2023.  There were 29% more reported motor vehicle thefts in 2023 than in 2022.  Most violent offenses remained elevated in 2023 compared to 2019, the year prior to the outbreak of COVID and the widespread social unrest of 2020.  There were 18% more homicides in the study cities in 2023 than in 2019, and carjacking has spiked by 93% during that period.

Property crime trends have been more mixed.  There were fewer residential burglaries and larcenies and more nonresidential burglaries in 2023 than in 2019.  Motor vehicle thefts more than doubled (+105%) during this timeframe, while drug crimes fell by 27%. A dashboard of all crime rates and percent changes from 2019 to 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 is located at the end of this report.

Overall, crime rates are largely returning to pre-COVID levels as the nation distances itself from the height of the pandemic, but there are notable exceptions.  While decreases in homicide in the study cities (and many other cities) are promising, the progress is uneven and other sources of crime information, including household surveys of violent victimization, indicate higher rates and more pronounced shifts than reports to law enforcement agencies....

Even in cities where homicide has returned to pre-2020 levels, it is still intolerably high, with some 20,000 lives lost to intentional violence last year. Other trends, such as motor vehicle theft and carjacking, also merit significant attention.  Motor vehicle theft, for instance, is considered a “keystone” crime because stolen vehicles are often used in the commission of a robbery, drive-by shooting, or other violent offense.  For these reasons and to achieve long-term reductions, local, state, and federal governments, along with communities and industries, must invest in evidence-based crime prevention efforts.

January 25, 2024 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Anyone eager to help spread cheer by highlighting Festivus (sentencing) miracles?

Festtivus-600x347Happy Festivus to all those who celebrate! 

A cranky internet this morning got me off to an early start on the airing of grievances.  That tends to be the best known of this faux-holiday's grand traditions, and I have done posts in prior years in which I encouraged airing of sentencing grievances in this space (see, eg, posts from 2021 and 2015).  But, circa 2023, it certainly seems alomst every day in almost every online space almost everyone is busy airing grievances.  Thus, I am disinclined to encourage the airing of grievances in this space.  Instead, let me encourage discussion of any and all Festivus miricles.  (Of course, feats of strength are also appreciated on this silly special day, though this onlne space is not quite an easy place to show off.)

I will get the good (miraculous?) news going with a link and a quote from the substack of data analyst Jeff Asher (who is founder of AH Datalytics which provides great real-time accounting of big city murder data).  Specifically, this post from the Jeff-alytics Substack earlier this month, titled "Crime in 2023: Murder Plummeted, Violent and Property Crime Likely Fell Nationally," provides this accounting of 2023 crime data (with links from the original):

Murder plummeted in the United States in 2023, likely at one of the fastest rates of decline ever recorded.  What’s more, every type of Uniform Crime Report Part I crime with the exception of auto theft is likely down a considerable amount this year relative to last year according to newly reported data through September from the FBI.

Americans tend to think that crime is rising, but the evidence we have right now points to sizable declines this year (even if there are always outliers).  The quarterly data in particular suggests 2023 featured one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the United States in more than 50 years.

Murder is down 12.7 percent in our YTD murder dashboard as of this writing (December 7th) with a decline in 73 percent of the more than 175 cities with available data.  The sample suggests either the largest or one of the largest national declines in murder on record occurred this year (both in terms of percent and absolute decline).

Of course declining murder does not mean there were not thousands upon thousands of these tragedies this year.  Nor does it mean that there was an acceptable level of gun violence, even in places seeing rapid declines.  It simply means that the overall trend was extraordinarily positive and should be recognized as such.

Detroit is on pace to have the fewest murders since 1966 and Baltimore and St Louis are on pace for the fewest murders in each city in nearly a decade.  Other cities that saw huge increases in murder between 2020 and 2022 like MilwaukeeNew Orleans, and Houston are seeing sizable declines in 2023.  There are still cities like Memphis and Washington DC that are seeing increasing murders in 2023, but those cities are especially notable because they are the outliers this year, not the norm.

Happy Festivus for the rest of us!

December 23, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Council on Criminal Justice releases new report, "Trends in Homicide: What We Know"

Via email I learned of this notable data report and analysis by the Council on Criminal Justice titled "Trends in Homicide: What We Know."  I recommend the entire reader-friendly, online report, which starts with an Introduction and Highlights.  Here is the starting text:

INTRODUCTION

The Council on Criminal Justice’s mid-year crime trends report found that murders in 30 large American cities declined by 9.4% in the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2022.  If this trend continues through the end of 2023, the nation will have experienced one of the largest single-year homicide reductions in the era of modern record keeping.  CCJ’s full report on trends in homicide and other crimes will be released in January.

This brief, prepared for CCJ’s Crime Trends Working Group, explores data on homicide from multiple sources. It examines victimization by age, race, and sex, as well as changes in arrests, clearance rates, the victim-offender relationship, and other key measures.  Drawing on Working Group presentations and conversations, the brief also explores possible explanations for the rise in homicide seen during the height of the pandemic and social justice protests of mid-2020, and, in most cities, its subsequent decline.

The recent decrease in murders is encouraging.  But far more can and must be done to achieve lasting reductions in homicide and other violent crime.  Government agencies and community organizations are testing myriad approaches. CCJ’s Task Force on Policing and Violent Crime Working Group highlighted numerous evidence-based strategies and reforms to improve law enforcement, increase police collaboration with community organizations, and strengthen the overall effectiveness of violence reduction efforts.  Multiple jurisdictions have drawn on this guidance.  And, in December, the U.S. Department of Justice released a violence reduction “roadmap” based on the Ten Essential Actions framework produced by the Violent Crime Working Group.  The roadmap organizes the department’s grant programs, training and technical assistance, and other resources by the ten action steps; the Police Executive Research Forum will assist jurisdictions seeking to implement the recommended strategies.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The U.S. homicide rate began to trend upward in 2015 after a long-running decline.  After reaching a peak in 2021, it remained 24% higher in a sampling of 30 cities in the first half of 2023 than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • People aged 15 to 19 years old were three times more likely to die by homicide in 2020-2021 than in 1960.

  • Black males were eight times more likely and Black females were four times more likely to die by homicide in 2020-2021 than their White counterparts.

  • Arrests of Black adults for homicide dropped 65% from 1980 to 2020, but Black people were six times more likely to be arrested for homicide in 2020 than White people.

  • Since 2020, more than three-quarters of homicides have been committed with guns. This marks an increase from 1980 to 1990, when firearms were used in fewer than two-thirds of reported homicides.

  • The homicide clearance rate has dropped steadily since the 1960s. In 2022, the clearance rate was about 50%, meaning that just half of murders resulted in an arrest and fewer than half resulted in a conviction.

December 19, 2023 in National and State Crime Data, Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 11, 2023

Highlighting the many challenges in assessing recidivism data

Stateline has this effective (and evergreen) article on the difficulties surrounding recedivism data.  The full healine of this piece highlights its themes: "How many inmates return to prison? Inconsistent reporting makes it hard to tell. States define recidivism differently, which can result in misleading interpretations of the statistics." Here are excerpts:

Several states this year have reported lower rates of recidivism, showing that fewer convicted criminals are being re-arrested after leaving prison.  But those statistics hardly tell the full story.

Recidivism rates across the country can vary greatly because of how they’re defined, how the data is collected and how it’s presented to the public.  So it can be difficult to say that, for example, one state is doing better than another in rehabilitating formerly incarcerated residents....

Most states measure recidivism by tracking former inmates who were held in state prisons or facilities and return to the state prison system within three years.  Experts say the absence of a national standard makes it challenging to compare jurisdictions and programs....

In recidivism studies, the act of reoffending may be defined differently.  It can, for example, include violating parole, being arrested, being convicted of a crime or returning to prison.  Some studies consider all these outcomes as recidivism, while others count only one or two. 

Some states only consider felonies as recidivism, excluding less serious misdemeanors that may result in local jail time rather than a state prison sentence.  And states vary in categorizing crimes as felonies or misdemeanors, adding even more complexity....  States also are inconsistent in the time periods covered by recidivism studies.  Most include new offenses within three to five years; others examine a much shorter time frame, such as six months to a year....

Official data also can miss counting former prisoners who break the law but go undetected.  This is why some criminologists argue that recidivism studies should include self-reports of criminal behavior and differentiate among various types of recidivism, such as violent crimes, property crimes and technical violations....

Some advocates say that using alternative factors such as employment or housing provides much better indicators of success after being released from prison. “Recidivism by itself is not a true measure of the success of reentry programming or of incarceration rates,” said Ann Fisher, the executive director of Virginia CARES, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting formerly incarcerated people in Virginia. “It’s just not a true picture.”

A 2022 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests pairing recidivism rates with indicators that capture progress away from crime, such as reductions in the seriousness of criminal activity or an increased duration between release and a criminal act, known as “desistance.”  The report also recommends developing new measures of post-release success that consider factors such as personal well-being, education, employment, housing, family and social supports, health, civic and community engagement and legal involvement.

December 11, 2023 in Data on sentencing, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Sharp uptick in view that US criminal justice system is not tough enough in latest Gallup polling

As reported in this recent Gallup release, a "58% majority of Americans think the U.S. criminal justice system is not tough enough in its handling of crime, marking a sharp reversal from the prior reading in 2020 when a record-low 41% said the same.  Another 26% of U.S. adults currently say the system is about right, while 14% think it is too tough."  Here is more:

The latest readings on this measure, from Gallup’s Oct. 2-23 annual Crime survey, mark the sixth time the question has been asked since 1992. The three readings between 1992 and 2003 found solid majorities of Americans, ranging from 65% to 83%, saying the criminal justice system was not tough enough on crime. Yet, the next time the question was asked, in 2016, less than half of U.S. adults thought the system needed to be tougher and nearly as many said it was about right....

Majorities of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have consistently called for the criminal justice system to be tougher across all years, but the percentages of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents holding the same opinion have ranged from 25% to 62%. Democrats' view that the system is too tough has been between 6% and 35%.

In the current survey, three-quarters of Republicans think the criminal justice system is not tough enough, 16% say it is about right, and 7% believe it is too tough. Democrats are more divided in their views, with a 42% plurality saying it is not tough enough, 35% about right and 20% too tough....

The latest poll also finds Americans are evenly divided in their views of whether people accused of committing crimes are treated fairly by the criminal justice system.  Equal 49% shares of U.S. adults say such suspects are treated very or somewhat fairly and very or somewhat unfairly.  This marks a significant shift in opinion compared with prior readings in 2000 and 2003, when two-thirds of Americans said criminal suspects were treated at least somewhat fairly.

While majorities of Republicans (55%) and White adults (53%) believe that criminal suspects are treated fairly, majorities of Democrats (55%) and people of color (56%) think they are treated unfairly.  The percentages of Republicans and Democrats who say suspects receive fair treatment are both 18 percentage points lower than in 2003. Similarly, White adults (by 15 points) and people of color (by 18 points) are less likely now than in 2003 to believe suspects are treated fairly.

When asked which should be the greater priority for the U.S. criminal justice system today, 55% of Americans favor strengthening law and order through more police and greater enforcement of the laws, while 42% prefer reducing bias against minorities by reforming court and police practices.  When this question was last asked in 2016, just under half of Americans favored strengthening law and order.

People of color are more likely to say reducing bias against minorities (52%) should be prioritized over strengthening law and order (44%), while White adults tilt the opposite way, with 60% favoring strengthening law and order and 38% favoring reducing bias. Meanwhile, 71% of Democrats prefer reducing bias against minorities, and Republicans strongly favor strengthening law and order (82%).

Although a majority of Americans say it should be a priority, strengthening law enforcement is not viewed as a surefire way to lower the U.S. crime rate.  Rather, nearly two-thirds of Americans think it would be more effective to put money and effort toward addressing social and economic problems such as drug addiction, homelessness and mental health, while 35% favor bolstering law enforcement.  Those views are essentially unchanged from 2020 when the question was last asked.

Relatedly, the Gallup folks also report here that "Sixty-three percent of Americans describe the crime problem in the U.S. as either extremely or very serious, up from 54% when last measured in 2021 and the highest in Gallup’s trend." Here is more:

The prior high of 60% was recorded in the initial 2000 reading, as well as in 2010 and 2016. Meanwhile, far fewer, 17%, say the crime problem in their local area is extremely or very serious, but this is also up from 2021 and the highest in the trend by one point over 2014’s 16%....

Public perceptions of the national and local crime problems have been worsening since 2020, when 51% thought the U.S. crime problem was extremely or very serious, and 10% said the same of the local crime problem.

November 18, 2023 in Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 10, 2023

Major City Chiefs Association report all major categories of violent crime down so far in 2023

As reported here at Crime and Justice News, "Reported violent crime totals in four categories -- homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults -- declined in a compilation of data from 69 cities through September compared with the same period last year, the Major Cities Chiefs Association reported on Friday."  Here is more:

The group said homicides dropped from 6,635 last year to 5,927 this year, rapes from 22,927 to 21,181, robberies from 79,591 to 77,603, and aggravated assaults from 218,906 to 211,380.

Although the trends were consistent across many reporting jurisdictions, there were notable exceptions.  For example, homicides reported in Washington, D.C., jumped from 155 in the first nine months of last year to 213 through September this year.  Homicides in Memphis rose from 181 to 218 and in Dallas from 198 to 205.  robberies in Chicago increased from 6,277 last year to 7,845 this year. New York City did not submit numbers for the report.

November 10, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Council on Criminal Justice’s Crime Trends Working Group releases "Shoplifting Trends: What You Need to Know"

Via email, I received notice of this notable new report released today by Council on Criminal Justice.  The report is titled  "Shoplifting Trends: What You Need to Know November 2023" and was authored by Ernesto Lopez, Robert Boxerman and  Kelsey Cundiff.  Here is part of the report's "Introduction" and "Key Takeaways":

Since shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council on Criminal Justice has tracked changing rates of violent and property crime in large cities across the United States. The pandemic, as well as the social justice protests during the summer of 2020 and other factors, have altered the motives, means, and opportunities to commit crimes.

Retail theft, especially organized retail theft, has received extensive media coverage and has caught the attention of policymakers. Dozens of shoplifting and “smash and grab” incidents in a variety of cities have been captured on video and have gone viral on social and mass media. Major grocers, drugstores, and other retail outlets have cited shoplifting as their reason for closing multiple locations and placing goods behind counters and in locked cases. California allocated $267 million in 2023 to a new initiative to combat retail thefts. In June 2023, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance held a hearing on incidents of organized retail theft.

Prepared for the Council on Criminal Justice’s Crime Trends Working Group, this report focuses on trends in shoplifting, a subset of retail theft which, in turn, is a subset of overall larceny-theft. The FBI defines larceny-theft as the unlawful taking of property without force, violence, or fraud.

The report looks at shoplifting patterns from before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic through mid-year 2023. To date, attempts to measure changes in retail theft, including organized retail theft, have relied on retail industry data or have been limited to one state.

The city-specific data included in this report are drawn from open-data sources from 24 cities that, over the past five years, have consistently reported specific shoplifting data. Additional data come from the U.S. Justice Department’s National Incident-Based Reporting Program (NIBRS). The NIBRS data include a sample of 3,812 local law enforcement agencies. The analyses examine the changing frequency of reported shoplifting, trends in other property offenses, changes in the value of stolen goods, offenses that co-occur with shoplifting, and the number of people involved in each incident....

Shoplifting incidents reported to police have rebounded since falling dramatically in 24 large American cities during 2020. But whether the overall tally is up or down compared with pre-pandemic levels depends on the inclusion of New York City. With New York’s numbers included, reported incidents were 16% higher (8,453 more incidents) in the study cities during the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2019; without New York, the number was 7% lower (-2, 552 incidents).

New York (64%) and Los Angeles (61%) had the largest increases in reported shoplifting among the study cities from mid-year 2019 to mid-year 2023. St. Petersburg (-78%) and St. Paul (-65%) had the largest decreases.

Comparing the most recent trends, from the first halves of 2022 and 2023, Los Angeles (109%) and Dallas (73%) experienced the largest increases among the study cities; San Francisco (-35%) and Seattle (-31%) saw the largest decreases.

Shoplifting generally followed the same patterns as other acquisitive crimes (except motor vehicle theft) over the past five years, according to the FBI’s national data. But unlike other types of larcenies, shoplifting rates remained below pre-pandemic levels through 2022.

November 7, 2023 in National and State Crime Data, Offense Characteristics | Permalink | Comments (13)

Thursday, November 02, 2023

The Sentencing Project releases latest report on racial disparities, “One in Five: Disparities in Crime and Policing”

As noted in this post last month, The Sentencing Project has announced that it is "producing a series of four reports examining both the narrowing and persistence of racial injustice in the criminal legal system, as well as highlighting promising reforms." Today, The Sentencing Project released this latest report in this series, the second I believe, titled “One in Five: Disparities in Crime and Policing.” Here is part of the report's executive summary:

As noted in the first installment of this One in Five series, scholars have declared a “generational shift” in the lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for Black men, from a staggering one in three for those born in 1981 to a still troubling one in five for Black men born in 2001....

This report interrogates the large footprint of policing — particularly of Black Americans— as, in part, a failed response to racial disparities in serious crimes. The wide net that police cast across people of color is at odds with advancing safety because excessive police contact often fails to intercept serious criminal activity and diminishes the perceived legitimacy of law enforcement.  Excessive policing also distracts policymakers from making investments to promote community safety without the harms of policing and incarceration. In addition, the large footprint of policing gets in the way of, as the National Academies of Sciences has called for, needed “durable investments in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods that match the persistent and longstanding nature of institutional disinvestment that such neighborhoods have endured over many years.”...

Ending racial inequity in the criminal legal system requires both effectively tackling disparities in serious criminal behavior and eliminating excessive police contact.  The subsequent installments of this One in Five series will examine additional drivers of disparity from within the criminal legal system and highlight promising reforms from dozens of jurisdictions around the country.

Prior recent related post:

November 2, 2023 in Data on sentencing, National and State Crime Data, Race, Class, and Gender, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (22)

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

"A Comprehensive Analysis of the Effect of Crime-Control Policies on Murder"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Carlisle Moody recently posted on SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

This study investigates the effects of most of the major firearm and crime control policies on murder.  We use two-way fixed-effects models based on state-level panel data from 1970-2018.  We include a comprehensive list of relevant policy variables to control for their influence in determining the effect of each.  We do a specification search using four commonly used econometric methods to estimate three models of the crime equation.  A Bonferroni correction is used to control for false rejections. A robustness check using new difference-in-differences estimators confirms the results.  We find that, with the possible exception of constitutional carry laws, no firearm policy can be shown to have a significant long-run effect on murder.  However, we find that the traditional policies of prison incarceration and police presence significantly reduce murder in the long run.  We also find that executions have no significant long-run effect on murder.  Finally, there is considerable evidence that three-strikes laws increase murder in the long run.

October 18, 2023 in Data on sentencing, Gun policy and sentencing, National and State Crime Data, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

New Heritage report asserts "Red State Murder Problem Becomes the Blue County Murder Problem"

The Heritage Foundation today released this new report authored by Kevin Dayaratna and Alexander Gage which responds to prior reports about murder rates in "red" and "blue" states.  Here is the summary of this new report:

In January 2023, the Third Way think tank published a report claiming that homicide rates have been higher in “red” states than in “blue” states for the past 20 years. The argument is critically flawed in a number of ways. First, the report’s authors fail to acknowledge that crime is a local phenomenon and that any meaningful analysis needs to be undertaken at the local level. Second, the authors neglected to mention the fact that the electoral map changes over time. States that were “red” and “blue” in 2020 did not necessarily vote the same way in prior years. Correcting for these errors shows that crime has been higher in blue counties than in red counties.

Here is part of the report's analysis:

The Third Way authors claim that there is a difference between the murder rates in “red” states and “blue” states. Averaging these rates between the years 2014 and 2020 across states that voted for Donald Trump during the 2020 election yields an aggregate homicide rate of 6.48 per 100,000 people, while averaging across states that voted for Joe Biden yields a homicide rate of 4.83 per 100,000 people.

However, drawing conclusions from state-level homicide data in such a manner is flawed, as each state consists of a combination of federal, state, county, and local law enforcement agencies, as well as prosecutors with different approaches to law enforcement often based on highly divergent political beliefs.  Violations of state law are prosecuted largely at the county or city level and, thus, amalgamating data across such units neglects important variation in these different approaches.  Looking at homicide rates by county, states show skewed distributions with many counties having little or no homicides, and a handful of counties with excessively high homicide rates.  Thus, state homicide rates can be heavily influenced by a few counties. When those counties have different politics from the rest of the state, it can flip the conclusion about the association between political identifications and homicides.

As a result, after averaging homicide rates across counties during the same time horizon, a markedly different story from the Third Way’s narrative emerges.  Averaging across all counties that voted for Donald Trump yields an aggregate homicide rate of 4.06 per 100,000 people, while averaging across counties that voted for Joe Biden yields a homicide rate of 6.52 per 100,000 people.

Prior related post:

October 17, 2023 in Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (4)

New CAP report asserts "Cities in Blue States Experiencing Larger Declines in Gun Violence in 2023"

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released this new report which it claims "shows that, on average, cities in blue states have lower rates of gun homicides and shooting incidents than comparably sized cities in red states and are seeing larger single-year decreases in gun violence rates in 2023."  Here is the report's "Introduction and Summary" (with footnotes removed):

Gun violence anywhere is unacceptable. Yet increasingly, Americans are forced to grieve the unimaginable horrors of school and hate-motivated shootings in innocent communities, in addition to the daily occurrence of gun violence across the United States.  It is no wonder that Americans see gun violence as a top issue for Congress.  To stop gun violence in this country, every lawmaker at every level of government must come together to pass commonsense gun laws and stop violence before it happens.  Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

Even though gun violence is an epidemic — touching the lives of Americans everywhere — instead of passing stronger gun laws, Republican leaders are choosing to weaponize the issue for political gain by using misinformation to stoke fears of “Democrat-controlled” cities.  In 2022, for example, after a shooter took the lives of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) claimed that gun violence in the cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago is evidence that tougher gun laws are “not a real solution.”  Similarly, despite evidence that New York City actually has relatively low rates of gun violence when controlling for its size, in April 2023, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) used his powers as the House Judiciary Committee chair to hold a field hearing on violent crime in Manhattan to disrepute Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg after Bragg brought charges against former President Donald Trump.  These examples demonstrate a larger coordinated effort by conservatives to make violent crime a “Democrat” issue while at the same time diverting attention from their own public safety failures to address gun violence, including neglecting to make it harder for individuals with violent intentions to obtain a gun.

However, despite the millions of dollars spent on this misinformation campaign, the data on gun violence homicides in America paint an entirely different picture. Original analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund on the 300 most populous U.S. cities comparing gun homicide rates from January 2015 to August 2023 finds that, after controlling for population size:

  • Cities in blue states, based on how a state voted in the 2020 presidential election, are consistently safer from guns than cities in red states, regardless of which party is represented in city leadership.
  • From 2018 to 2021, red-state cities experienced larger increases in gun violence rates than blue-state cities.
  • In 2023, blue-state cities are experiencing larger declines in gun violence rates than red-state cities.

Not only do blue-state cities on average experience lower rates of gun violence in each year of the study, but now, gun violence rates appear to be decreasing faster on average in these cities than in red-state cities.  Put simply, the data do not back up the blame-game politics of Republican lawmakers such as Texas Gov. Abbott and Rep. Jordan.

October 17, 2023 in Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, Gun policy and sentencing, National and State Crime Data, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (14)

Monday, October 16, 2023

FBI releases crime estimates showing "national violent crime decreased an estimated 1.7% in 2022 compared to 2021"

As reported in this official press release, headlined "FBI Releases 2022 Crime in the Nation Statistics," today brings new estimates of crime data in the US in 2022.  Here are highlights:

The data of Crime in the Nation, 2022 were released via several reports....  Of the 18,884 state, county, city, university and college, and tribal agencies eligible to participate in the UCR Program, 15,724 agencies submitted data in 2022.

The FBI’s crime statistics estimates for 2022 show that national violent crime decreased an estimated 1.7% in 2022 compared to 2021 estimates:

  • Murder and non-negligent manslaughter recorded a 2022 estimated nationwide decrease of 6.1% compared to the previous year.
  • In 2022, the estimated number of offenses in the revised rape category saw an estimated 5.4% decrease.
  • Aggravated assault in 2022 decreased an estimated 1.1% in 2022.
  • Robbery showed an estimated increase of 1.3% nationally....

The complete analysis is located on the UCR’s Crime Data Explorer.

The FBI's report of over a six percent homicide reduction in 2022 is a larger reduction than I have seen in any other reports or estimates.  For example, the Council on Criminal Justice crime accounting in January 2023 reported a 4% homicide reduction in 2022 based on certain key cities.  And the AH Datalytics final year-end spreadsheet reported a 5% reduction in murders in 2022 based on police reports from the biggest US cities.

Of course, as I have stressed in a number of prior posts, reported homicide declines for 2022 followed particularly high homicide rates in many locales in 2021, and we still have a way to go to get back to pre-pandemic homicide levels.  But these latest homicide and violent crime data from the FBI for 2022 are still good news to celebrate, especially since 2023 data from big cities suggest positive recent homicide trends are continuing and perhaps even accelerating. 

October 16, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (15)

Monday, October 09, 2023

"The COVID-19 Pandemic, Prison Downsizing, and Crime Trends"

The title of this post is the title of this new article now available via SSRN and authored by Charis Kubrin and Bradley Bartos.  Here is its abstract:

California has fundamentally reformed its criminal justice system.  Since 2011, the state passed several reforms which reduced its massive prison population.  Importantly, this decaceration has not harmed public safety as research finds these measures had no impact on violent crime and only marginal impacts on property crime statewide.  The COVID-19 pandemic furthered the state’s trend in decarceration, as California reduced prison and jail populations to slow the spread of the virus.  In fact, in terms of month-to-month proportionate changes in the state correctional population, California’s efforts to reduce overcrowding as a means to limit the spread of COVID-19 reduced the correctional population more severely and abruptly than any of the state’s decarceration reforms.  Although research suggests the criminal justice reforms did not threaten public safety, there is reason to suspect COVID-mitigation releases did. How are COVID-19 jail downsizing measures and crime trends related in California, if at all?

We address this question in the current study.  We employ a synthetic control group design to estimate the impact of jail decarceration intended to mitigate COVID-19 spread on crime in California’s 58 counties.  Adapting the traditional method to account for the “fuzzy-ness” of the intervention, we utilize natural variation among counties to isolate decarceration’s impact on crime from various other shocks affecting California as a whole.  Findings do not suggest a consistent relationship between COVID-19 jail decarceration and violent or property crime at the county level.

October 9, 2023 in Impact of the coronavirus on criminal justice, National and State Crime Data, Prisons and prisoners | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

"Forecasting US Crime Rates and the Impact of Reductions in Imprisonment: 1960-2025"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new report authored by James Austin and Richard Rosenfeld for the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.  Here is how the 25-page report is introduced on the HFG Foundation website:

In the latest of a series of HFG reports forecasting crime trends at the US national level and for selective states and (forthcoming) cities, James Austin and Richard Rosenfeld again created statistical models that retroactively “predicted” property and violent crime rates for past years with great accuracy and then used these models to forecast crime trends in the near future.  This report concerns national trends, updating the authors’ national-level HFG report released in 2020, before the social and economic disruptions of the pandemic and civil unrest over police violence interrupted a 25-year declining or flat trend in violent crime.

Austin and Rosenfeld forecast very modest increases in violent crime and then a flattening trend by 2025 as well as a continuation of the longstanding decline in property crime. They also use their forecasting models to project the effect of augmenting the nation’s declining rate of imprisonment by an additional 20%. Such a policy decision, they conclude, would not lead to significantly higher crime rates.

September 26, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 25, 2023

As summer ends, biggest US cities all still showing significant homicide declines

Summer is now officially over, and I am pleased to see that homicide data for 2023 remains encouraging.  As readers may recall from some of my prior posts, I have been flagging AH Datalytics' collection of homicide data from police reports in nearly 100 big cities to note that, after significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021, homicide declines in 2022 were continuing into the first half of 2023.  Of course, homicide declines for 2022 followed particularly high homicide rates in many locales in 2021, and we still have a way to go to get back to pre-pandemic homicide levels. Still, I continue to find the nationwide city homicide data to be encouraging, and now we have this data for almost three quarters of 2023.

Specifically, As we enter Fall 2023, according to this AH Datalytics webpage, there is now over a 12% cumulative decline in murders across the nation's largest cities.  And, as I have noted in some prior posts, the news is especially encouraging if we look at updated police reports showing 2023 homicide trends in our very biggest US cities (by population):

Chicago homicides down 14% in 2022, and down another 12% over the nine months of 2023

Houston homicides down 9% in 2022, and down another 20% over the eight months of 2023

Los Angeles homicides down 5% in 2022, and down another 25% over nine months of 2023

New York City homicides down 11% in 2022, and down another 11% over nine months of 2023

Philadelphia homicides down 8% in 2022, and down another 19% over nine months of 2023

As I have said before, these homicide data from cities are likely not fully representative of what may be going on with homicides nationwide, and homicide trends always seem to be unpredictable and data can change in lots of ways in coming months.  Still, the latest nationwide homicide data from the AH Datalytics webpage continue to reinforce my hope that the surging number of homicides in just about every part of the US through 2020 and 2021 were mostly a pandemic era phenomenon and that homicide rates may be trending back toward pre-pandemic norms. 

Still, there is clearly a very long way to go before we return to the historically low homicide (and overall crime) rates of the early 2010s.  Indeed, the recent BJS report (discussed here) delivered some sobering news about (non-homicide) violent victimization in 2022, although the Council of Criminal Justice (discussed here) had more encouraging news on violent crime in 2022 based on different metrics.  I am hoping that encouraging crime trends are real and that they persist, but time will tell.

September 25, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Bureau of Justice Statistics releases "Criminal Victimization, 2022"

As discussed in this press release, the Bureau of Justice Statistics this morning released a new report titled "Criminal Victimization, 2022." This full report runs 34 pages and here is how it starts and the listed "highlights" listed on the first page:

The rate of violent victimization in the United States rose to 23.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 2022, after reaching a 30-year low of 16.4–16.5 during 2020–2021. Violent victimization includes rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Despite the recent increase, the last three decades saw an overall decline in the violent victimization rate from 79.8 to 23.5 per 1,000 from 1993 to 2022.

The rate of violent victimization reported to police followed a similar pattern. This rate trended downward during the past 30 years, falling from 33.8 (1993) to 9.7 (2022) reported victimizations per 1,000 persons. However, 2022 (9.7 per 1,000) marked a rise in the rate of reported violent victimization from 2021 (7.5 per 1,000).

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The violent victimization rate increased from 16.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons in 2021 to 23.5 per 1,000 in 2022.
  • From 1993 to 2022, the overall rate of violent victimization declined from 79.8 to 23.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older.
  • In 2022, about 2 in 5 (42%) violent victimizations were reported to police.
  • Motor vehicle theft victimization increased from a rate of 4.3 victimizations per 1,000 households in 2021 to 5.5 per 1,000 in 2022.
  • About 10% of violent victimizations involved a firearm in 2022, an increase from 2021 (7%).
  • Victims received assistance from a victim service provider in 9% of violent victimizations in 2022.
  • In 2022, about 1.24% (3.5 million) of persons age 12 or older nationwide experienced at least one violent crime.
  • The burglary or trespassing rate was lower in 2022 (14.6 victimizations per 1,000 households) than in 2018 (21.1 per 1,000) but has been relatively flat since 2020.

September 14, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

CCJ publishes big new data resource, "The Footprint," which seeks to track the size of America's criminal justice system

The Council of Criminal Justice (CCJ) today published this notable new data resource titled "The Footprint: Tracking the Size of America's Criminal Justice System."  Here is how the resource introduces the data it covers on its landing page:

The overall size, or “footprint,” of the American criminal justice system remains well above historical levels, but it has shrunk substantially in recent years.  This series of interactive charts summarizes trends in crime, arrests, and correctional control (incarceration and community supervision), comparing current levels with their most recent peaks or valleys.  Time periods vary due to data availability, and where reliable data are available, trends in race and sex are also presented.

COVID-19 resulted in significant changes in crime patterns and the operations of law enforcement agencies, courts, correctional agencies, and paroling authorities.  Because of the unique influence of the pandemic across the system, analyses also examine the early effects of the pandemic on crime, arrests, and correctional control.

The first section provides a high-level overview of crime, arrest, and incarceration trends in recent decades. The following sections take a closer look at trends in each area, broken down by age, crime type, race, and sex.

The data assembled here, which provides historical national data trends based on already reported public data, are great to have in one place. Sentencing fans may be especially interested in the data trends regarding probation, parole, jails, state prisons and federal prisons, but all the data is really fascinating in all sorts of particulars.

September 12, 2023 in Data on sentencing, National and State Crime Data, Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (22)

Monday, August 21, 2023

CCJ releases encouraging new short report on "First Step Act: An Early Analysis of Recidivism"

This morning I received an email from the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) linking me to this notable new report authored by Avinash Bhati and titled ""First Step Act: An Early Analysis of Recidivism."   This CCJ press release about the short report provides this effective review of its highlights:

Previous comparisons between FSA releases and the overall federal prison population have not accounted for differences in the groups, including levels of risk of reoffending, tracking periods, and other characteristics. The CCJ analysis estimates recidivism rates among individuals released from the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) prior to the FSA who had similar risk profiles and were tracked for similar periods of time (“similarly situated”) as those released under the FSA.

According to data published by the U.S. Department of Justice, 29,946 people were released from BOP facilities under the FSA from 2020 to 2022.  The Council’s analysis of this data finds that, when compared to similarly situated individuals released from the BOP prior to the Act’s implementation, individuals released under the FSA have:

  • An estimated 37% lower recidivism rate. According to BOP data, the recidivism rate for FSA releases is 12.4%, compared to an estimated recidivism rate of 19.8% for similarly situated pre-FSA releases.
  • An estimated 3,125 fewer arrests incurred. With a recidivism rate of 12.4%, the people released under the FSA over three years could have accounted for between 3,712 and 4,330 arrests. With an estimated recidivism of 19.8%, an equal number of similarly situated pre-FSA releases could have accounted for between 5,918 and 7,455 arrests over the same three-year period.

August 21, 2023 in Data on sentencing, FIRST STEP Act and its implementation, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (23)

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Major Cities Chiefs Association reporting all categories of violent crimes down in first half of 2023

As noted in this Crime and Justice News entry, "reports to police in all four major categories of violent crime declined in the first half of 2023 compared with the similar period last year in a survey answered by 69 large police departments, reports the Major Cities Chiefs Association."  Specifically, as shown in this complete midyear report, these police departments report declines in homicides, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.  (The report also shows crime increases in Canada in three of these four crimes, so something is going distinctively in the right direction in the US in 2023 (although, of course, the number of violent crimes is much greater in the US than in Canada).)

Regular readers should not be too surprised by these data, as I have been tracking encouraging 2023 US homicide data from police departments on a periodic basis (example here).  Still, it is encouraging to see another accounting of positive 2023 US crime trends, especially for a range of violent crimes.  Fingers crossed that the US can continue and build on these positive developments in the months ahead.

August 15, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 31, 2023

"Conviction, Incarceration, and Recidivism: Understanding the Revolving Door"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper that looks to provide a notable (and lengthy) empirical account of contributions to recidivism.  The piece was recently posted to SSRN and is authored by John Eric Humphries, Aurelie Ouss, Kamelia Stavreva, Megan T. Stevenson and Winnie van Dijk.  Here is its abstract:

We study the effects of conviction and incarceration on recidivism using quasi-random judge assignment.  We extend the typical binary-treatment framework to a setting with multiple treatments, and outline a set of assumptions under which standard 2SLS regressions recover causal and margin-specific treatment effects.  Under these assumptions, 2SLS regressions applied to data on felony cases in Virginia imply that conviction leads to a large and long-lasting increase in recidivism relative to dismissal, consistent with a criminogenic effect of a criminal record.  In contrast, incarceration reduces recidivism, but only in the short run.  The assumptions we outline could be considered restrictive in the random judge framework, ruling out some reasonable models of judge decision-making.  Indeed, a key assumption is empirically rejected in our data.  Nevertheless, after deriving an expression for the resulting asymptotic bias, we argue that the failure of this assumption is unlikely to overturn our qualitative conclusions.  Finally, we propose and implement alternative identification strategies.  Consistent with our characterization of the bias, these analyses yield estimates qualitatively similar to those based on the 2SLS estimates. Taken together, our results suggest that conviction is an important and potentially overlooked driver of recidivism, while incarceration mainly has shorter-term incapacitation effects.

July 31, 2023 in Data on sentencing, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (21)

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Latest CCJ accounting of crime trends shows most good news for first half of 2023

The Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) continues its important and timely work on modern crime trends through this latest report titled "Crime Trends in U.S. Cities: Mid-Year 2023 Update."   This press release about the report provides an effective summary in its title: "Homicide, Other Violent Crimes Decline in U.S. Cities but Remain Above Pre-Pandemic Levels."  Here is more from the press release:

Examining homicides in 30 cities that make homicide data readily available, the analysis found that the number of murders in the first half of 2023 fell by 9.4% compared to the first half of 2022 (a decrease of 202 homicides in those cities).  Twenty of the study cities recorded a decrease in homicides during the first six months of the year, ranging from a 59% drop in Raleigh, NC, to a 2% drop in Nashville, TN.  Ten cities experienced an increase in homicide, ranging from about 5% in Seattle to 133% in Lincoln, NE.

Motor vehicle thefts, which began to rise at the onset of the pandemic, continued an upward trend.  Considered a “keystone crime” that facilitates the commission of homicide and other offenses, motor vehicle theft rose by 33.5% in the first half of the year, representing 23,974 more stolen vehicles in the 32 cities that reported data.  Seven of those cities experienced an increase of 100% or more, led by Rochester, NY, (+355%) and Cincinnati (+162%).  Overall, the number of vehicle thefts from January to June 2023 was 104.3% higher than during the same period in 2019.  While it’s likely that much of the increase is the result of thefts of Kia and Hyundai models, the authors said, rates were rising before the cars became popular targets.

In other findings, gun assaults (-5.6%), robberies (-3.6%), nonresidential burglaries (-5%), larcenies (-4.1%), residential burglaries (-3.8%), and aggravated assaults (-2.5%) all fell in the first six months of this year compared to the same timeframe last year.  Drug offenses rose by 1% and domestic violence by 0.3%.

The encouraging homicide data should not be a big surprise to followers of this blog, since I have been posting on homicide data pretty regularly based in part on data collected on this AH Datalytics webpage.  (Indeed, as this writing, that page is showing a cumulative decline of nearly 12% for nearly 100 large US cuties.)  But declines in many other violent crimes is also encouraging, though the motor vehicle theft stories is quite discouraging.

July 20, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (15)

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Mid-summer update on the relatively good homicide news from cities in first half of 2023

In this post from early April 2023 and this follow-up post in late May, I flagged the AH Datalytics collection of homicide data from police reports in nearly 100 big cities to note that, after significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021, homicide declines in 2022 were continuing into the start of 2023.  Of course, homicide declines for 2022 followed particularly high homicide rates in many locales in 2021, and we still have a way to go to get back to pre-pandemic homicide levels.  Still, I continue to find the nationwide city homicide data to be encouraging, and now we almost this data for the entire first half of 2023. 

As we head into the second half of 2023, according to this AH Datalytics webpage, there is now so far just under an 11% cumulative decline in murders across the nation's cities for the first half of 2023.   And, as I have done in some prior posts on homicide rates, I find it interesting (and still encouraging) to took a closer look at a updated police reports showing 2023 homicide trends in our very biggest US cities: 

Chicago homicides down 14% in 2022, and down another 8% over the first half of 2023

Houston homicides down 9% in 2022, and down another 24% over the first five months of 2023

Los Angeles homicides down 5% in 2022, and down another 23% over the first half of 2023

New York City homicides down 11% in 2022, and down another 10% in first half of 2023

Philadelphia homicides down 9% in 2022, and down another 22% over first five months of 2023

As I have said before, these homicide data from cities are likely not fully representative of what may be going on with homicides nationwide, and homicide trends always seem to be unpredictable and data can change in lots of ways in coming months.  Still, the latest nationwide homicide data from the AH Datalytics webpage continue to reinforce my hope that the surging number of homicides in just about every part of the US through 2020 and 2021 were mostly a pandemic era phenomenon and that homicide rates may nor be trending back toward pre-pandemic norms.

July 9, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (8)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

"Subtracting 420 from 922: Marijuana Legalization and the Gun Control Act After Bruen"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Nicholas Goldrosen now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

Numerous states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use.  Nonetheless, federal law prohibits users of marijuana, which remains illegal federally, from possessing firearms.  I interrogate this legal tension from two angles. First, this paper brings empirical evidence to this conversation: Does legalizing marijuana lead to more gun deaths?

It doesn’t.  This article analyzes the effect of recreational and medical marijuana legalization on gun homicides, suicides, and deaths as well as on gun prevalence, gun purchasing, and federal gun prosecutions.  I combine administrative data from the National Vital Statistics System, National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and United States Sentencing Commission for the period from 2010 through 2020.  To estimate a causal effect, I employ a difference-in-differences method with staggered treatment timing from Callaway and Sant’Anna (2021) to compare states that have legalized marijuana to those that have not yet legalized marijuana but will during the study period. There is no evidence of a statistically significant treatment effect of either recreational or medical marijuana legalization on firearms deaths, homicides, or suicides.  Additionally, there is no evidence that legalization causes greater firearms sales or prevalence, or that the federal gun prohibition for marijuana users deters gun killings post-legalization.

Secondly, this regulation has received new scrutiny after the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in NYSRPA v. Bruen, under which firearms regulations must be justified by consistency with “this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”  Courts have come to conflicting answers on whether the prohibition on gun ownership by marijuana users accords with the Second Amendment under Bruen.  I therefore survey three potential legal paths for resolving the conflict between state legalization of marijuana and federal gun laws.  First, legislators might directly amend the Gun Control Act to allow for gun possession by some or all marijuana users.  Second, legislators might reform marijuana’s status within the Controlled Substances Act more broadly.  Finally, an uncertain future for the controlled-substance-user prohibition exists in the courts post-Bruen.  The Bruen decision’s unworkable tests do not clearly support either upholding or striking down this ban. If anything, the interpretation of the federal ban on gun possession by marijuana users under Bruen highlights the impracticability of its test.  Amongst these solutions, I argue that broader Controlled Substances Act reform is the likeliest to provide consistency while not harming public safety.

June 28, 2023 in Gun policy and sentencing, Marijuana Legalization in the States, National and State Crime Data, Pot Prohibition Issues, Second Amendment issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Media starting to take more note of notable homicide declines in 2023

Regular readers know I have been documenting that, after significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021, homicide numbers saw small declines in 2022 and these declines have increased into 2023.  (Posts in 2023 on this front, with links to some major city data, can be found here and here and here.)  Encouragingly, a number of media outlets have started discussing these encouraging homicide developments:

From The Atlantic, "The Murder Rate Is Suddenly Falling: The first five months of 2023 have produced an encouraging overall trend for the first time in years."

From the Christian Science Monitor, "What is behind a huge drop in the murder rate this year?"

From the Wall Street Journal, "Homicides Are Falling in Major American Cities: Local officials say pandemic factors that drove up murder rates are receding"

From the Washington Times, "Multiple U.S. cities experiencing decline in homicides, research firm says"

As I have said before, homicide trends always seem to be unpredictable and data can change in lots of ways in coming months.  Still, the latest homicide data continue to be trending the right way, and it is good to see these trends now getting broader attention.  

June 10, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, June 01, 2023

"Fighting Crime Requires More Police and Less Prosecution"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Bloomberg opinion piece by Justin Fox than is built around an interview with Jennifer Doleac (WaPo reprint here).  Here is the set up to the Q&A in the article:

The nationwide jump in shootings and homicides early in the pandemic and the rise in other crimes that followed in some places have made crime a hot topic again in the US.  It has been a prominent one for academic research for a while, with economists in particular flocking to the field as a testing ground for research strategies that aim to sift causes from data. To get a sense of how recent findings fit with the national discussion on crime, I talked to Jennifer Doleac, an economist at Texas A&M University who not only studies crime but hosts a podcast on new research, Probable Causation, and has organized the Criminal Justice Expert Panel, which sums up expert opinion on crime questions.  This summer, Doleac, who has also written a few columns for Bloomberg Opinion, will become executive vice president of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures, a leading funder of crime research.  Following is a much-abridged transcript of our conversation and a list of research papers referred to in it.

I highly recommend the full piece, but here are snippets of likely interest to sentencing fans:

JD: [Research shows] first-time offenders are sort of at a fork in the road.  We can either hope it’s enough of a wake-up call that they’ve been arrested and had to come into court, and they’ll change course on their own, or we can pull them into the system.  I’ve become a big proponent of erring toward leniency in those sorts of situations.

There’s been other work to suggest similar things with nonviolent felony defendants. There’s a whole bunch of work on pretrial detention and the fact that locking people up pretrial has a really detrimental, causal effect on their future trajectories.  They’re more likely to plead guilty in that initial case but also more likely to re-offend in the future....

The main thing I try to point out to policymakers is we don’t have to fully understand why we are here to come up with ideas of what to do about it.  We can have ideas about what to do about violent crime that don’t require us solving this problem that we might never solve.

JF:  What are some top candidates?

JD: Putting more police on the streets reduces homicide, reduces violent crime.  There’s plenty of research on that. There are also plenty of discussions now about the potential social costs of over-policing, so it’s reasonable to have conversations about whether that is the route you want to go.  Also, it’s really hard to recruit police right now.

We know that increasing the probability of getting caught for crimes has a big deterrent effect in a way that potentially locking people up for 20 years on the back end does not.  No one is looking that far ahead.  Putting cameras everywhere, adding more people to DNA databases will increase the probability that you get caught if you offend.  We have lots of good evidence that would deter crime....

Leniency toward first-time offenders in the long run is probably a good investment.  Another thing is increasing access to mental health care.  There’s this amazing paper using data from South Carolina showing that when we kick kids off Medicaid at age 19, when it becomes much harder to stay on Medicaid, you just see all the kids get kicked off and then in the other graph you see everyone immediately locked up.  It’s these kids who were using Medicaid to get mental health treatment, they’re the ones that are now at very high risk of being locked up.

June 1, 2023 in Data on sentencing, National and State Crime Data, Offender Characteristics, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Start-of-summer update on the relatively good homicide news from cities in first half of 2023

In this post from early April 2023, I flagged the AH Datalytics collection of homicide data from police reports in nearly 100 big cities to note that, after significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021, homicide declines in 2022 were continuing into the start of 2023.  Of course, homicide declines for 2022 followed particularly high homicide rates in many locales in 2021, and we still have a way to go to get back to pre-pandemic homicide levels.  Still, I found the nationwide city homicide data to be encouraging for 2022 and early 2023, and now we have even more data suggesting positive recent homicide trends are continuing and perhaps even accelerating across big cities. 

As we head into the unofficial start of the summer months, according to this AH Datalytics webpage, there is now so far cumulative 12% decline in murders across the nation's cities for more than the first third of 2023.   And, as I have done in some prior recent posts on homicide rates, I find it interesting (and now encouraging) to took a closer look at a updated police reports showing 2023 homicide trends in our very biggest US cities: 

Chicago homicides down 14% in 2022, and down another 7% over nearly five months of 2023

Houston homicides down 9% in 2022, and down another 28% over the first fourth months of 2023

Los Angeles homicides down 5% in 2022, and down another 28% over nearly five months of 2023

New York City homicides down 11% in 2022, and down another 13% in first three+ months of 2023

Philadelphia homicides down 9% in 2022, and down another 15% over first five months of 2023

As I have said before, these homicide data from cities are likely not fully representative of what may be going on with homicides nationwide, and homicide trends always seem to be unpredictable and data can change in lots of ways in coming months.  Still, the latest nationwide homicide data from the AH Datalytics webpage continue to reinforce my hope that the surging number of homicides in just about every part of the US through 2020 and 2021 were mostly a pandemic era phenomenon and that homicide rates may nor be trending back toward pre-pandemic norms.

May 28, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

New report examines "The Opioid Epidemic and Homicide"

Screenshot-2023-05-24-at-8.59.02-AMThe Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation has released this notable new report titled "The Opioid Epidemic and Homicide" authored by Joel Wallman, Richard Rosenfeld, and Randolph Roth. Here is the 20-page report's executive summary:

The twenty-five-year epidemic of opioid misuse in the United States has taken at least 750,000 lives through overdose. We undertook to learn whether this toll might have been accompanied by an increase in violence resulting from growth in the illicit opioid market, which, like most illicit drug markets, includes a risk of violence due to conflicts among sellers and between sellers and buyers.  We found that increases in activity in this market were associated with — and arguably caused — increased levels of homicide.

Using county opioid overdose rates as a measure of levels of transactions in the illicit market, we looked for an association between those rates and county homicide rates between 1999 and 2015.  As the epidemic has been especially intense in the White U.S. population, we conducted separate analyses for the White and Black populations. We also compared Appalachian counties to the rest of the country, as Appalachia has been particularly hard hit by the crisis.

In the nation as a whole, White overdose rates in this period were 28 percent higher than Black rates.  The growth in overdose rates differed markedly between the two groups: 34 percent for Blacks and 120 percent for Whites.  Black overdose rates did not differ between Appalachian and non-Appalachian counties.  The White overdose rate, however, was both considerably higher in Appalachia than elsewhere (23.5 vs. 19 per 100,000) and much higher than the Black Appalachian rate (14.5).  The growth in overdose rates was much higher for both groups within Appalachia than elsewhere: 58 percent vs. 32 percent for Blacks and 146 percent vs. 115 percent for Whites.

Despite this growth in overdose rates during the period, homicide rates declined for both groups and in both Appalachian and non-Appalachian counties.  This means that the aggregate effect of all the factors influencing U.S. homicide rates was a beneficial one.  However, to discern the independent association (if any) between changes in activity in the illicit-opioid market and changes in homicide rates, we conducted a series of multiple regression analyses.  We found a positive association between overdoses and homicides in both racial groups and both within and without Appalachia.  Holding constant several other variables known to be associated with homicide rates, we found growth in overdose among Whites in this period was associated with a 9-percent increase in homicide across all counties and a 19-percent increase within Appalachia.  The equivalent figures for Blacks were 3.5 and 16.

Assuming these associations reflect a causal relationship, we conclude that this growth in illicit opioid activity exerted upward pressure on rates of violence; were it not for the violence associated with the opioid market, the national drop in killings would have been greater.  The finding of another harm wrought by the opioid epidemic provides another reason to pursue vigorous public-health efforts, with a strong emphasis on treatment, to stem the epidemic.

May 24, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

"Modernize the Criminal Justice System: An Agenda for the New Congress"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new report authored by Charles Fain Lehman, who is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Here is the report's executive summary:

Crime, particularly violent crime, is a pressing concern for the American people.  The surge in homicide and associated violence in the past three years has made voters skittish and prompted aggressive partisan finger-pointing.  This increase has not, however, prompted significant investment in our criminal justice system.  Ironically, as this report argues, this increase in violent crime is itself a product of fiscal neglect of that same system over the past decade.

Across a variety of measures, in fact, the American criminal justice system needs an upgrade.  Police staffing rates have been dropping since the Great Recession; prisons and jails are increasingly violent; court backlogs keep growing; essential crime data are not collected; and essential criminology research is not conducted.  These shortcomings contribute not only to the recent increase in violence but to America’s long-term violence and crime problems, problems that cost us tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

For too long, policymakers at all levels have failed to attend to this problem.  Instead, both the political left and right have subsumed criminal justice issues into the larger culture war, fighting over the worst excesses of the police or the horrors of criminal victimization.  Rather, they should look to past examples of federal policymaking in which lawmakers have used the power of the purse to dramatically improve the criminal justice system’s capacity to control crime.  Doing so again could ameliorate many of the major concerns voiced by both sides in the criminal justice debate.

As such, this report proposes an ambitious, $12-billion, five-year plan to bring the criminal justice system up to date. It outlines proposals to:

  1. Hire 80,000 police officers;
  2. Dramatically expand funding of public safety research, including creating an Advanced Research Projects Administration for public safety;
  3. Rehabilitate failing prisons and jails with a carrot-and-stick approach;
  4. Create and propagate national standards for criminal case processing;
  5. Upgrade our data infrastructure, including by creating a national “sentinel cities” program.

Implementing these proposals would be a drop in the federal spending bucket, but they would likely have a dramatic and sustained impact on reducing the amount and cost of crime in America.

April 26, 2023 in National and State Crime Data, Recommended reading, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 07, 2023

A Good Friday update on the relatively good homicide news from cities to start 2023

A few months ago, in this post just a few weeks into 2023, I flagged the AH Datalytics collection of homicide data from police reports in nearly 100 big cities.  I noted in that post that, after significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021, the dashboard showed that nearly two-thirds of big cities reported homicide declines in 2022 relative to 2021 and that nationwide murders in large cities were cumulatively down nearly 5% for 2022.  

Of course, these reported homicide declines for 2022 followed particularly high homicide rates in many locales in 2021, and we still have a way to go to get back to pre-pandemic homicide levels.  But I found the nationwide city homicide data to be encouraging for 2022, the now we have additional data suggesting the positive recent homicide trends are continuing and perhaps even accelerating across cities.  Specifically, according to this AH Datalytics webpage which is now updated with early 2023 data from police reports, there is so far cumulative 10% decline in murders across the nation's cities for roughly the first quarter of 2023. 

And, as I have done for some prior recent posts on homicide rates, this morning I also took a closer look at a few updated police reports to see about 2023 homicide trends in our biggest US cities: 

Chicago homicides down 14% in 2022, and down another 15% in first three months of 2023

Houston homicides down 9% in 2022, and down another 34% in first two months of 2023

Los Angeles homicides down 5% in 2022, and down another 26% in first three months of 2023

New York City homicides down 11% in 2022, and down another 11% in first three+ months of 2023

Philadelphia homicides down 9% in 2022, and down another 14% in first three months of 2023

As I have said before, these homicide data from cities are likely not fully representative of what may be going on with homicides nationwide, and it seems that the homicide data from the month of March in the biggest cities are not quite as positive as they were to start the year.  Moreover, homicide trends are always unpredictable and data can change in lots of ways.   Still, these new encouraging nationwide homicide data from the AH Datalytics webpage continue to reinforce my hope that the surging number of homicides in just about every part of the US through 2020 and 2021 were mostly a pandemic era phenomenon and that lower homicide rates may soon be more common. 

April 7, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, March 13, 2023

Last chance to register for "Drugs and Public Safety: Exploring the Impact of Policy, Policing and Prosecutorial Reforms"

In part because I have been busy helping with some of the activities, I keep forgetting to promote here this exciting event taking place in Arizona later this week.  Here are the basics with a last-minute, last chance to register:

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University and the Academy for Justice at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University invite you to join us for a symposium titled Drugs and Public Safety: Exploring the Impact of Policy, Policing, and Prosecutorial Reforms Thursday, March 16, 2023, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. MST, to examine the public safety impact of marijuana and other modern drug policy reforms. Registration closes at midnight tonight.
  
As marijuana reforms have spread, so too has discussion of broader drug reforms such as decriminalization or legalization at both state and local levels, as well as relief from drug-war excesses through clemency and expungement.  But given the increasing concern about violent crime, many advocates and lawmakers are wondering whether past and possible future drug policy reforms may be advancing or undermining the broad interest in creating safe and stable communities.  As the country moves away from marijuana prohibition, a fully informed discussion of drugs, violence, and public safety is needed now more than ever. 

This conference is committed to exploring, from a variety of perspectives and with the help of a variety of voices, how to better understand and assess the relationship between drug reforms and public safety.

For more information, visit this link, and to register visit this link (by midnight Monday, March 13, 2023). There is no fee to attend. 

March 13, 2023 in Drug Offense Sentencing, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Encouraging big-city homicide trends continuing into 2023

A couple months ago, in this post just a few weeks into 2023, I again flagged this AH Datalytics webpage's "YTD Murder Comparison" Dashboard that collects homicide data from police reports in nearly 100 big cities.  I noted in that post that, after significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021, it was encouraging that the dashboard showed that nearly two-thirds of big cities were reporting homicide declines in 2022 relative to 2021 and that nationwide murders in large cities were down nearly 5% for 2022.  

Of course, these reported homicide declines for 2022 followed particularly high homicide rates in many locales in 2021, and we still have a way to go to get back to pre-pandemic homicide levels.  But I found these nationwide big-city data to be encouraging for 2022, especially because in mid-January the downward trends in homicides in our nation's very largest cities appeared to be carrying over to the start of 2023.  Following up, this morning I took a look at a few updated police reports to see if these positive 2023 homicide trends are continuing a couple months later, and the encouraging trends are so far persisting.  Specifically, based on the dashboard data and (linked) police reports, we see:

Chicago homicides down 14% in 2022, and down another 11% in first two+ months of 2023

Los Angeles homicides down 5% in 2022, and down another 30% in first two+ months of 2023

New York City homicides down 11% in 2022, and down another 19% in first two+ months of 2023

Philadelphia homicides down 9% in 2022, and down another 20% in first two+ months of 2023

Of course, these four very big cities are not fully representative of what may be going on with homicides nationwide as 2023 shifts into daylight savings and warmer weather.  And homicide trends in the first two months of this year could change in many ways in the weeks and months ahead.  Still, these encouraging homicide data continue to reinforce my hope that the surging number of homicides in just about every part of the US through 2020 and 2021 were mostly a pandemic era phenomenon and that lower homicide rates may soon be more common. 

March 12, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (43)

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Latest CCJ accounting of crime trends shows mostly encouraging news from 2022 about violent crimes (but not property crimes)

In this post last week, I flagged some of the encouraging 2022 homicide data drawn from this AH Datalytics webpage's "YTD Murder Comparison" Dashboard.  And I am now very pleased to see that the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) is continuing to do important and timely work on broader modern crime trends by continuing its on-going series of crime data reports under the heading "Pandemic, Social Unrest, and Crime in U.S. Cities."  The latest version of this report, titled "Pandemic, Social Unrest, and Crime in U.S. Cities: Year-End 2022 Update," was just released and this CCJ press release provides the data basic in its full heading: "Homicide, Gun Assault, Domestic Violence Declined in Major U.S. Cities in 2022 but Remain Above Pre-Pandemic Levels: New CCJ Analysis Also Documents a 59% Spike in Motor Vehicle Theft Since 2019, With Thefts More Than Doubling in 8 Cities."

The full report, which is based on "monthly crime rates for ten violent, property, and drug offenses in 35 U.S. cities in calendar year 2022," is available at this link.  Here are some of the "Findings" set forth on the report webpage:

January 26, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

"From Causal Mechanisms to Policy Mechanisms: Why Did Crime Decline and What Lessons Can Be Learned from It?"

The newest issue of the American Journal of Criminal Justice has a bunch of new interesting articles on criminal justice reform.  The title of this post is the title of this article from the issue authored by John K. Roman.  Here is its abstract:

Criminology has not systematically identified the cause or causes of perhaps the most seminal event in crime and justice of the last half century: the crime decline of the 1990s. This paper uses a causes-of-effects analysis to infer the mechanisms of the crime decline.  This is not a purely academic exercise — there has been a large increase in violence, particularly gun violence at the beginning of the 2020s.  Identifying the mechanisms of the last crime decline can inform the development of contemporary strategies.  Here, two classes of crime decline causes are proposed: mechanisms that are endogenous to the criminal law system and mechanisms that are exogenous to it.  The latter class includes impacts of changes in macroeconomics, consumer behavior, and public interest policy where positive externalities that arose from those factors contributed to the crime decline.  A descriptive effect of causes analysis suggests that these exogenous mechanisms contributed disproportionately to the crime decline as compared to endogenous mechanisms. Further, consumer behavior and public interest externalities are well aligned with potential policy levers and particularly salient to current and future efforts to reduce crime and violence prospectively.  The analysis suggests that efforts to improve public safety require policies that fall outside of traditional criminal justice approaches.

January 25, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Encouraging big-city homicide trends to close 2022 and start 2023

In this post at mid-year 2022, I flagged this AH Datalytics webpage's "YTD Murder Comparison" Dashboard that collects homicide data from police reports in nearly 100 big cities.  I noted in that post that, after significant increases in homicides throughout the US in 2020 and 2021, it was encouraging that the dashboard then showed that nearly two-thirds of big cities were reporting  homicide declines in 2022 relative to 2021 and that nationwide murders in large cities were down overall more than 2% at mid-year 2022.  Fast-forward six months, and there is more encouraging homicide data coming from big cities.

Specifically, with nearly all police data for 2022 collected, this dashboard as of this evening indicates that nearly two-thirds of all big cities reported that homicides wre down in 2022 relative to 2021 and that the total nationwide murders in large cities were down overall nearly 5% at by year end 2022.  Of course, these reported homicide declines for 2022 follow notably high homicide rates in many locales in 2021, and we still have a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic homicide levels.

Still, these data are encouraging, and the downward trends in homicides in our nation's largest cities for all of 2022 may be carrying over to the start of 2023.  Specifically, based on the dashboard data and (linked) police reports, we see:

Chicago homicides down 13% in 2022 and down another 17% in first two weeks of 2023

Los Angeles homicides down 5% in 2022 and down another 39% in first two weeks of 2023

New York City homicides down 11% in 2022 and down another 12% in first two weeks of 2023

Philadelphia homicides down 9% in 2022 and down another 43% in first two weeks of 2023

Of course, these four very big cities are not fully representative of what may be going on with homicides nationwide as 2023 gets started, and homicide trends in the first two weeks of January could change in many ways in the weeks and months ahead.  Still,  these encouraging data reinforce my hope that surging homicides in 2020 and 2021 were mostly a pandemic era phenomenon and that lower homicide rates may soon be more common. 

January 18, 2023 in National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (22)

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Interesting accounting of what we know about violent crime and voter concerns a week before Election Day 2022

In the first part of most election years, I tend to enjoy seeing early political commercials and commentary to get a flavor for how various policy issues are being framed and engaged by candidates and advocacy groups.  But, once we reach the homestretch in a major election year, I often start counting down the days to the election while growing ever weary of the non-stop political ads and chatter.  So, I am quite pleased we are finally just a week from Election Day 2022, and I am even more pleased about this interesting and timely new Pew Research Center piece titled "Violent crime is a key midterm voting issue, but what does the data say?".  Here is the start and numbered items from the piece (links from the original):

Political candidates around the United States have released thousands of ads focusing on violent crime this year, and most registered voters see the issue as very important in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. But official statistics from the federal government paint a complicated picture when it comes to recent changes in the U.S. violent crime rate.

With Election Day approaching, here’s a closer look at voter attitudes about violent crime, as well as an analysis of the nation’s violent crime rate itself. All findings are drawn from Center surveys and the federal government’s two primary measures of crime: a large annual survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and an annual study of local police data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

1. Around six-in-ten registered voters (61%) say violent crime is very important when making their decision about who to vote for in this year’s congressional elections....

2. Republican voters are much more likely than Democratic voters to see violent crime as a key voting issue this year....

3. Older voters are far more likely than younger ones to see violent crime as a key election issue....

4. Black voters are particularly likely to say violent crime is a very important midterm issue....

5. Annual government surveys from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show no recent increase in the U.S. violent crime rate....

6. The FBI also estimates that there was no increase in the violent crime rate in 2021....

7. While the total U.S. violent crime rate does not appear to have increased recently, the most serious form of violent crime – murder – has risen significantly during the pandemic....

8. There are many reasons why voters might be concerned about violent crime, even if official statistics do not show an increase in the nation’s total violent crime rate.

November 1, 2022 in Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

A few crime and punishment stories from the campaign trail

Last month, I noted in this post that the 2022 election campaign has seen a lot more crime and punishment talk than we have seen in a long time.  Of course, this is partly of function of the fact that violent crime clearly has spiked since the COVID pandemic and the fact voters have clearly expressed concern about this spike

I have mentioned in few settings that, while crime and punishment talk has become more prominent this election cycle, seemingly few 2022 candidates are talking up expanding the death penalty or seeking to increase the number of death sentences and executions nationwide.  (This DPIC fact sheet highlights the modern capital punishment lows during the Trump/Biden years.)  But, as this partial round-up of recent stories shows, lots of other tough-on-crime ideas and talk are part of this cycle's political discourse:

From the AP, "Michels wants changes to Wisconsin parole system"

Also from the AP, "Zeldin’s crime message resonates in New York governor’s race"

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "In final campaign stretch, Georgia candidates clash on crime"

From the Marshall Project, "Fetterman and Oz Battle Over Pennsylvania’s Felony Murder Law"

From the New York Times, "As Republican Campaigns Seize on Crime, Racism Becomes a New Battlefront"

From Politico, "The other issue driving the midterms"

October 25, 2022 in Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2022

"Violent Crime and Public Prosecution: A Review of Recent Data on Homicide, Robbery, and Progressive Prosecution in the United States"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new study looking at relationships between prosecutorial policies and crime. The full study is apparently not yet available, but this executive summary provides lots of details and also has this extended abstract:

What caused the sharp increase in homicide in dozens of major cities in the United States in 2020 is the source of acrid debate.  Most academic researchers have attributed the sudden increase in homicide to changes in the availability of guns, shifts in policing, and the pandemic’s aggravation of chronic strains in civil society such as homelessness, ill mental health, and drug abuse.  Others have hypothesized that the increase in homicide is the result of the election of prosecutors whose pledges to reform the system of criminal justice have discouraged the police from stopping and arresting emboldened lawbreakers.

We examined the most timely, reliable, and comprehensive set of data on homicide and robbery that was publicly available in the summer of 2022.  We took three different approaches to the analysis of these data: we pooled data from 65 major cities, conducted a statistical regression analysis of trends in violent crime as well as larceny in two dozen cities, and compared the incidence of homicide before and after the election of progressive prosecutors in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, cities where we are conducting on-going research on changes in criminal justice.  We have also compared trends in recorded crime across all counties in Florida and California since 2015.

We find no evidence to support the claim that progressive prosecutors were responsible for the increase in homicide during the pandemic or before it.  We also find weak evidence to support the claim that prosecutors of any broad approach to crime and justice are causally associated with changes in homicide during the pandemic.  We conclude that progressive prosecutors did not cause the rise in homicide in the United States, neither as a cohort nor in individual cities.  This conclusion echoes the findings of most of the research to date in this field.

This new piece in The Atlantic, headlined "What’s Really Going On With the Crime Rate?: Cities with progressive prosecutors may not exactly resemble the dystopian landscapes you’ve heard so much about," discusses this new study at some lengthy.

October 20, 2022 in National and State Crime Data, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)