Digging Deeper into FBI’s Crime Statistics: The Role of Public Safety Policies
In a recent opinion editorial featured in The Wall Street Journal, by our own Josh Crawford, he highlights an important aspect of the FBI’s Crime in the Nation Statistics: while the headlines may suggest a decline in violent crime in the United States, a closer look reveals a more complex and troubling reality. The article discusses how the media’s focus on the COVID-19 pandemic tends to obscure the role of public safety policies in shaping crime rates, and how certain cities with permissive attitudes toward criminals and hostile ones toward police have seen an alarming increase in crime. This blog post delves deeper into these insights and emphasizes the role of policy decisions at the state and local levels in shaping crime trends.
Many media outlets have highlighted the decline in national violent crime rates, pointing to a 1.3% drop in 2022, bringing the rate on par with that of 2019.
“The story from many outlets is that violent crime is no longer an issue—it surged with the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020 and has since declined. Violent crime nationally fell 1.3% in 2022, putting the year’s rate on a similar footing as 2019’s. But a glance at the top-line FBI numbers indicates that more is going on. Murders decreased 6% compared with 2021, and aggravated assault decreased 1.5%. But carjackings rose more than 8%, and robberies increased 1.3%.”
Despite the apparent return to pre-pandemic levels, the country remains well above normal violent crime rates, with total violent crime in 2022 being 5% higher than in 2014, and the national homicide rate being 43% higher.
What explains these significant differences in crime rates among cities? Josh argues that the key factor is public safety policy. In cities like Washington, Seattle, and San Francisco, permissive attitudes toward criminals and a lack of support for law enforcement have created an environment conducive to crime. Washington, for instance, significantly defunded the police twice in recent years and attempted to reduce penalties for carjackings in 2022, even as auto-theft rates were rising. In contrast, Atlanta, Dallas, and Miami treat crime as a serious problem and have taken measures to address it. Atlanta has led a robust anti-gang effort, Dallas has implemented targeted policing in crime hot spots, and Miami has remained committed to law enforcement.
The increase in violent crime observed post-2014 and post-2019 is not easily attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic but rather to a series of detrimental policies that gained traction in 2020. These policies – included efforts to defund the police, reduce penalties for violent crimes, and legalize hard drugs – have contributed to the surge in crime in various cities, obscuring the responsibility of the self-styled progressive politicians who pushed for them.
To gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors driving crime in the United States, it is essential to look beyond pandemic-related explanations. COVID-19 is not the sole driver of the diverging crime trends observed in progressive enclaves and cities where law and order are being restored. Instead, the primary culprits are the policy decisions made at the state and local levels. Recognizing the impact of public safety policies is crucial for addressing the root causes of crime and working toward safer communities.
To learn more and read the full opinion editorial in the Wall Street Journal, click here.