America is a huge country with hundreds of millions of people, so it is no surprise that there are millions of crimes committed each year.
America is a huge country with hundreds of millions of people, so it is no surprise that there are millions of crimes committed each year. The FBI produces an annual report outlining reported crime rates, but the true number of crimes committed can only be estimated since not every crime is reported.
Historical Crime Rates
Crime rates for both violent and property crimes peaked in the early 1990’s. During this time period, many people felt like living in large urban cities was unsafe due to the amount of crime. Policy changes, increased policing, and stricter punishments were implemented to help fight crime. Since 1991, violent crime has decreased by 51%, and property crime dropped by 43%. The murder rate has fallen by 54%. To put it in perspective, in 1985 there were 1,384 homicides reported in New York City but that number dropped to 333 in 2014.
Current Trends in Crime Rates
Crime rates are continuing to drop, albeit at a slightly lower pace. According to the FBI’s annual report for 2014 (the most current information available), violent crimes in America decreased by 0.2% compared to the previous year. The rate of property crimes (burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft) also dropped; in 2013 the rate of property crime was 131.4 victimizations per 1,000 households, while in 2014 it was 118.1 per 1,000 households.
The FBI reports that there were 1,165,383 violent crimes reported in 2014. Violent crimes include homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. While this is a large number of violent crimes, the number of violent crimes committed in 2014 is actually 6.9% lower than 2010, and 6.2% lower than 2005. The nationwide rate of violent crime in 2014 was 365.5 victimizations per 100,000 people. Off all of the violent crimes reported in 2014, 63.6% were aggravated assaults, 28.0% were robberies, 7.2% were rapes, and 1.2% were murders.
Property crime includes burglary, theft, and auto theft. The number of property crimes far surpasses violent crimes, with 8,277,829 incidences reported in 2014. This statistic actually shows that all forms of property crime have declined compared to 2013. Burglary rates have declined by 10.5%, theft has fallen by 2.7%, and auto vehicle thefts are down 1.5 Despite a decrease in property crime, it is still estimated that the costs to victims in 2014 is approximately $14.3 billion dollars.
Theories of Why Crime Rates are Decreasing Nationally
There is no doubt that crime rates have decreased dramatically over the past 25 years, which leads to a number of theories about their decline. While increased incarceration of criminals may have accounted for lower crime rates initially, current statistics show that putting criminals behind bars at a higher rate no longer has a positive return. Instead, lower crime rates are thought to be tied to lower unemployment rates, growth in income across the country, an aging population, and a decrease in alcohol consumption. There is also evidence to support that an increased number of law enforcement officers in the United States has helped decrease crime rates in cities across the country.
Worries about Specific Areas
While both violent crime and property crimes are continuing to slowly decrease nationally, there are many cities across the country that have seen a drastic spike in violent crimes in 2015, especially when it comes to murder rates. More than 35 urban areas, such as Milwaukee, St. Louis, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., just to name a few, have seen an incredible increase in homicides, and officials are trying to figure out why this has is happening.
There are a number of theories related to why murder rates have gone up in so many major U.S. cities after many years of declining homicide rates. One thing that all of these cities have in common is high poverty rates in the inner city areas, poorly funded education systems in areas with the highest violent crime and murder rate, and a high rate of unemployment compared to the rest of the nation. There is also a question of whether police have become less aggressive in these areas due to the backlash against law enforcement after incidences of violence between police officers and people suspected of committing crimes.