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Increase In Violent Crime Largest In A Quarter-Century Per USDOJ
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 03/09/2020

Violence gun Measures of Increases In Violence

There is interest (and disagreement) regarding violent crime growth. Per two sources (the Bureau of Justice Statistics, BJS, and Gallup) violent crime increased substantially.

BJS states that, “The 7% increase in the violent crime rate from 2014 to 2016 was the largest increase over a 2-year period in a quarter-century.” BJS used Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data from the FBI for their assessment. UCR numbers are based on crimes reported to law enforcement.

The BJS report in March 2020 (below) stating that violent crime increased substantially from 2014-2016, while correct, is a bit dated.

Per the FBI, reported violent crime increased in 2015 and 2016 but decreased slightly in 2017 (violence was essentially flat) and 2018 (a decrease of 3.3 percent). It decreased by 3.1 percent for the first half of 2019.

Other measures of violent crime cite substantial increases creating a measure of perplexity.

The principal reason for any confusion is the increase in “all” violent crime as measured by the National Crime Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (an increase in violent crime of 28 percent from 2015-2018). Serious violent crime also increased.

A new survey from Gallup also shows substantial increases for violence. Per Gallup, “Each year since 2017, 15% of U.S. adults have indicated they were victimized by crime in the past year. A subset of that, between 1% and 3%, have reported being the victim of a violent crime.” One percent of Americans were victimized by violent crime in 2016. That tripled to three percent in 2019. 2019 is the first year where violent crime reached three percent.

See US Crime Rates for a comprehensive overview.

Fundamental Questions

Thus we have a fundamental question, which holds more importance, a 28 percent increase in all violent crime per the National Crime Survey (2015-2018), a tripling of violent crime per Gallup, or a 3.3 percent decrease in 2018 and a 3.1 percent decrease for the first half of 2019 for reported crime from the FBI?

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (below) combines crime rates with state and federal incarceration rates thus raising the question as to whether declining rates of incarceration (lowest point since 1996) had an impact on violent crime (largest increase over a 2-year period in a quarter-century). Criminologically speaking, correlation does not equal causation, and we will need more data over time to answer the question.

The recidivism (rearrests and returns to prison) rate for those leaving prison is extremely high, Offender Recidivism.

Per the USDOJ, fifty-four percent of prison inmates are serving sentences for violent crimes. The overwhelming percentage of those incarcerated have multiple previous felony convictions or have histories for crimes of violence.

BJS Report (exact quotes)

The imprisonment rate for sentenced prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction rose 152% from 1985 to 2007 (from 201 to 506 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents) and then fell 13% from 2007 to 2017 (from 506 to 440), to reach its lowest point since 1996.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, the violent crime rate rose from 1985 to 1991, peaking at 758 reported violent crimes per 100,000 U.S. residents.

Based on the UCR, the violent crime rate in 2014 was the lowest in recent decades, at 362 reported crimes per 100,000 residents, a 52% reduction from the high point in 1991.

The 7% increase in the violent crime rate from 2014 to 2016, per the UCR, was the largest increase over a 2-year period in a quarter-century (since the increase from 1989 to 1991).

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

Reprinted with permission from https://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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