The FBI has released its preliminary crime rate numbers for 2012 and the agency reports that the violent crime rate has risen for the first time since 2006. Specifically, the violent crime rate rose overall by 1.2 percent in 2012. The murder rate increased by 1.5 percent; robbery was up 0.6 percent, and the aggravated assault worsened by 1.7 percent. On the other hand, the rape rates continued their falling trend from the 1990s, down by 0.3 percent in 2012.
The rate of property crimes fell by 0.8 percent, with burglary down 3.6 percent and arson lower by 1.2 percent. Auto thefts rose by 1.3 percent.
The steep fall in crime rates has been a puzzle to criminologists. As the New York Times observed:
In 2011, for instance, the nation's rate of violent crime rate fell by 3.8 percent after having dropped by 6 percent in 2010 and 5.5 percent in 2009, according to F.B.I. data.
The last year in which violent crime rose nationally was 2006, when the rate went up by 1.9 percent. Before that, from 1996 to 2005, violent crime had declined by 17.6 percent, according to the F.B.I. figures.
In fact, crime levels have been dropping so much for so long that criminologists had been left guessing the reasons — and where it might end.
"We probably now have answered the question of how low it can go, and we may be bouncing off the bottom now," said Dennis Jay Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
But Dr. Kenney added a note of caution, saying that seeking to pin a reason for a single year's increase in serious crime was inadvisable. "We probably need another year to tell if we've got a pattern here," he said.
Joseph Pollini, another John Jay College professor, said that one possibility was that there were fewer police officers on patrol in some metropolitan areas that have cut spending sharply in recent years because of the recession.
"You're dealing with depleted police resources," he said of budget cuts that have caused a reduction in the size of nearly every urban police department.
Maybe. However, I can't help thinking how much lower the crime rate would be if the government called off the Drug War.