A report from the Police Executive Research Forum recently prompted alarming newspaper stories about a nationwide surge in violent crime. At FoxNews.com, John Lott picks apart the group's abuse of crime statistics in the service of bigger police budgets:
The Police Executive Research Forum report sounded the alarm: "The FBI statistics reflect the largest single-year percent increase in violent crime in 14 years."
It becomes a lot less scary when one realizes that the violent crime rate fell for 13 straight years, a total drop of 39 percent, before increasing in 2005 by less than 1 percent.
Murder rates did rise from 5.5 per 100,000 people in 2004 to 5.6 in 2005, but they were a little higher a couple of years earlier—5.7 in 2003—and 5.6 in 2001 and 2002.
Murder rates have essentially remained unchanged since 2000 after falling from a peak of 9.8 in 1991.
Lott also reports that PERF emphasized absolute crime numbers instead of rates, "selectively picked what crime categories to report," and used an odd sample of jurisdictions (leaving out obscure places like New York City) that seems designed to exaggerate the increase in homicide.