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Why Do We Lie About Increasing Violence?
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 09/18/2017


Throughout my thirty-five years of public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies, I was schooled by media organizations as to the ethics of reporting, and the role I played.

Fairness, accuracy, balance and nonpartisan reporting were goals of the industry. Maybe you believe that, maybe you don’t, but media ethics were the centerpiece of discussions when I had disputes with journalists.

So imagine my dismay over the denial of rising violent crime throughout the United States. It’s so obvious that violent crime is increasing that when I’m told otherwise by reputable sources, I get nauseous

What Crime Wave?

The following is from the Marshall Project:

What crime wave? 2017 is on pace to have the second-lowest crime rate since 1990, according to a preliminary analysis of crime statistics from the nation’s 30 largest cities. The murder rate is projected to be down nationally 2.5 percent thanks in part to significant drops in New York, Houston, and Detroit. The murder rate is, however, up from its low of 2013, THE WASHINGTON POST. Related: Read the report. BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE , The Marshall Project.

Additional newspapers have made similar claims of declining violence based on historical averages.

Are We On the Same Planet?

Yes, historically, the country is experiencing low rates of crime. The last two decades have seen remarkable reductions in violent crime.

But with the flattening rates for violent crime in 2014, increases in violent crime for 2015 and the first six months of 2016, saying that violent crime is decreasing (based on historical lows) is an insult to truth, journalistic ethics, and to victims of crime.

Violent crime will increase for all of 2016 based on multiple newspaper articles examining state and local crime rates.

It’s like saying that historically, major hurricanes (category three and above) haven’t hit the US since 2005 (NOAA) when all of us are grappling with the results of recent and massive storms.

Shall we tell millions of hurricane victims that have no right to complain, that they have never lived in safer times?

Recent Crime Data

The bottom line is that violent and property crimes are historically at record lows for the country and, generally speaking, have been decreasing for the last two decades except for recent years via FBI data (2011, 2012, 2015 and the first six months of 2016 as examples).

There have been additional increases since 1990-the rate of violent crime in the US increased in 2005 and 2006 (via FBI data) but the index returned to decreases in 2007.

Data from the National Crime Survey also state that we are at record lows for criminal activity. From 1993 to 2015, the rate of violent crime declined from 79.8 to 18.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older. Violent crime was flat for 2015 per the NCS.

Data from Gallup, however, suggests that crime and fear of crime have increased to historical highs, Crime in America.

Is America Entering a New Era of Increasing Violence?

Yes, violent crime (and fear of crime) is increasing throughout the United States. We predicted the increase for 2015 based on crimes reported to police, and we correctly predicted another increase in 2016. According to FBI data, it’s rare for the rate of violent crime to increase for one year only, Crime in America.

Violent crime will increase for all of calendar year 2016.

Then Why Does the Media Distort Crime Increases?

Donald Trump. Trump cites rising crime as a cornerstone of his platform to return to “law and order” and strong support for law enforcement (disclosure-I did not vote for the first time in the last election).

Via Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump consistently addresses rising violent crime. The President favors traditional methods of strong law enforcement and incarceration. Criminal justice reform is not a priority.

For those favoring reform, it’s necessary to dispute the notion of rising rates of violent crime. If they don’t, they lose momentum, or it stalls altogether. Many editors and reporters are philosophically supportive of justice reform.

What saddens me is why reputable sources rush to deny the obvious. I understand that advocates will mislead to promote a point of view, but some mainstream media are engaging in purposeful distortions.

I’m convinced that Trump won because he understood people’s fear of increasing violence. Trump understood the mood of the country, and was supported by Gallup research indicating that fear of crime is at record highs.

Newspapers didn’t get it. Many rely on dissenting criminologists. Is there any wonder as to why newspapers are suffering as to declining readers, trust and revenues?


We all know about the incredible rise in violent crime in cities like Chicago and Baltimore plus many others. This finding is balanced by the fact that violent crime has leveled off or decreased in cities like Washington, D.C., New York plus others.

But violent crime is increasing throughout the US (and in other countries) based on reported crimes for 2014, 2015 and 2016, and crime and fear of crime data from Gallup.

As far as victims and their families are concerned, it doesn’t matter what happened before, or that crime is at historic lows.

Violent crime has immense implications for cities, states, and the country. Ignoring recent increases is journalistically, fundamentally and morally wrong.

Reprinted with permission from http://www.crimeinamerica.net.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com or for media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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