Crime

The Crime Wave That Wasn't Happening, Still Isn't Happening

Preliminary estimates for 2017 show small drops in violence and murder.

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Robbery
Andrey Burmakin / Dreamstime

Violent crime is apparently refusing to participate in America's revisit to the 1990s. Preliminary estimates for 2017 suggest that in all likelihood we'll end this year seeing fewer crimes than we did last year, and certainly less than we did in the '90s.

President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have used a recent increase in violent crimes in some major cities (particularly Chicago) as an excuse to attack Barack Obama's modest scaling back of the drug war. But for all of Trump and Sessions' fearmongering that we're going to be murdered by illegal immigrants or drug lords (or illegal immigrants who are also drug lords), their rhetoric has never been grounded in the truth about crime trends.

The latest report from the Brennan Center for Justice (a policy institute at the New York University School of Law) gathers data from police at America's 30 largest cities. If current crime trends continue for the rest of the year, these cities will see their second-lowest collective crime rates since 1990:

Crime stats
Brennan Center

Overall crime looks like it may drop 1.8 percent. Violent crime is projected to fall .6 percent. Individual city numbers vary, though. New York is seeing a significant drop in violent crime while Houston is seeing an 8.8 percent rate increase. Chicago in 2017 is seeing less of a violent crime increase (1.6 percent) than Los Angeles (2.8 percent).

This year's murder rate, meanwhile,

is projected to be 2.5 percent lower than last year. This year's decline is driven primarily by decreases in Detroit (down 25.6 percent), Houston (down 20.5 percent), and New York (down 19.1 percent). Chicago's murder rate is also projected to fall, by 2.4 percent. The 2017 murder rate is expected to be on par with that of 2009, well at the bottom of the historic post-1990 decline, yet still higher than the lowest recorded rate in 2013. Notably, more than half the murder increase from 2014 to 2017 (55.6 percent) is attributable to two cities—Chicago and Baltimore. This year's decrease could indicate that the increases in 2015 and 2016 were short-term fluctuations in a longer-term downward trend.

What this report is not capable of analyzing is whether the drop in violent crimes being reported to the police actually means fewer crimes are happening. Major cities with high levels of immigration (including illegal immigration) have been reporting reductions in certain types of crimes (like domestic abuse). Police officials worry that the drop isn't actually real, and that immigrants are increasingly afraid to report crimes for fear of getting tracked down by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported.

Oh, and lest Trump and Sessions attempt to give their drug war crackdown credit for falling crime: So far Trump's Department of Justice has actually been prosecuting fewer people for drug crimes than Obama's Justice Department—a nine percent drop from 2016 to 2017. If crime came down while drug war prosecutions were declining, that just might be a sign that drug enforcement isn't a good way to lower crime rates. But don't hold your breath waiting for this administration to realize that.

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  1. Well then we’ll just have to outlaw more things, smart guy.

    1. Every drop in crime indicates a populace that is too free.

  2. Overall crime looks like it may drop 1.8 percent. Violent crime is projected to fall .6 percent. Individual city numbers vary, though. New York is seeing a significant drop in violent crime while Houston is seeing an 8.8 percent rate increase. Chicago in 2017 is seeing less of a violent crime increase (1.6 percent) than Los Angeles (2.8 percent).

    So crime dropped soon after Trump was elected, because the criminals realized America was finally going to get tough on crime, and TreasonNN (get it?) is complaining?

    No surprise there.

    1. So crime dropped soon after Trump was elected, because the criminals realized America was finally going to get tough on crime, and TreasonNN (get it?) is complaining?

      No surprise there.

      It’s as dangerous as ever to be a member of a minority community, to be sure.

    2. “”(get it)””

      What does the NN stand for?

      1. Netscape Navigator?

  3. Is that guy ejecting the magazine (or as you journalists* call it, a banana clip) from his pistol, or does he just have a very strange grip?

    *They’re so dumb.

    1. All people just want to be cool Crusty. Don’t hate.

    2. Is that guy ejecting the magazine….

      Perhaps it is an extended magazine.

    3. He’s trying to load his PEZ dispenser at the same time. Classic rookie mistake.

    4. Yeah, what is that guy doing? So he’s conducting a hold up and waiting for the wallet, why is he messing with his magazine? I don’t get it.

      1. Also his finger is clearly not on the trigger. If I wanted to intimidate someone into giving me their wallet, I sure as hell wouldn’t be indexing.

  4. Violent crime is down?

    I blame the Internet and violent video games.

  5. Wanna know what else is at record lows? Violent hate crimes, rape, and child abductions. Wanna know what there is more hysteria over than ever? Hate crimes, rape, and child abductions.
    Both political parties rely entirely on irrational or overblown fears to scare people into voting.

    1. Into voting for their party on basis that the “other guy” is out to get you. Why do you think racism will never be allowed to die? It’s far too valuable as a political tool.

  6. 2 thoughts:

    1) crime is probably going to go up again at some point. currently, NYC is @ late50s early 1960s lows. my guess is that a moving 10yr average would show those #s to be low even by earlier-20th-century averages.

    if you assume there is a baseline of crime you can’t really get below (just as unemployment can never reach 0), i’d guess we’re relatively close to it. and while i’m willing to consider that the long-term secular decline in homicide rates might affect all other aspects of crime, i don’t think it would justify ‘permanent lows’

    2) if you look at charts of violent crime in the 20th century, the thing that becomes clear is that there was a massive spike in the 1960s-1980s. there aren’t many good charts showing it (most start in the 1960s), but if you tried drawing a straight line from 1900-2000, you’d see two bumps: the short-term ‘prohibition’ one, and then the big lumpy, 1960s-1990 one.

    maybe more interesting than the above thought that “all crime is in long-term decline” (i think it is)…. is the question, “Ok, but then what caused that 30 yr spike?”

    the common answer is ‘drugs’… the less-common is ‘the failure of the Great Society’; or worse – it was counter productive, creating isolated communities of high-crime and generational economic dependence

  7. Thanks legalized abortion.

  8. Trump and session agendas aside, the war on drugs aside. We don’t have accurate data. PERIOD. The problem is lack of data collection. Crimes not being charged. Violent crimes being pled to lower charges. Witness intimidation. Rape kits not being tested. Cities are cooking the books so that their city doesn’t seem as bad as it is. Many crimes never get reported. Can’t say crime is down or up and have it based on accurate data.

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