Frightening headlines across the nation lead most of us to believe that crime in America is rampant, and that we are all just one lucky break away from being a victim of crime. In fact, in the two decades between 1993 and 2013, the violent crime rate remained lower than it was in 1985. While researchers are not entirely sure of the reasons for this decrease in violent crimes, it is safe to say that America’s faulty perception of crime rates has no real basis in fact. Gallup polls through the years back that up, as at least 63 percent of Americans believe the number of crimes increase each year.
This is not to say that violent crimes decrease each year—some cities do experience a slight increase in violent crimes—but overall, the rate of violent crime is significantly lower than it has been since the early 1990’s. As an example, violent crime has fallen by 51 percent since 1991, while property crimes have dropped by 43 percent. Between 1960 and 1970, the violent crime rate increased by 126 percent, and between 1970 and 1980, the violent crime rate increased by 64 percent. There are theories as to why the crime rate in American then began to drop, including an aging population, a decrease in alcohol consumption, and changes in income.
In New York City, homicide rates are at an all-time low; in 2013 New York’s homicide rate was 4 murders for every 100,000 people, while in 1990, those numbers were 31 murders for every 100,000 people. The reality is that most Americans have not lived through a safer time than during President Obama’s second term. This fact could obviously make one wonder why our national leaders continue to promise to fix “skyrocketing crime rates,” when those skyrocketing rates simply don’t exist—and have not existed for more than two decades. The answer lies in the average American’s faulty perception of our nation’s crime rates. Every single year, Gallup asks a representative sample of people whether there is more or less crime than a year ago. The majority of respondents consistently say there is more crime in the current year than in the past year.
Does the Media Fuel Our Unfounded Views on Crime?
The unfounded views of Americans are largely fueled by the media. Our media tends to promote emotionally intense stories, and many of those stories pertain to crime—particularly violent crimes. Social scientists agree that because news is so readily available today—whether on television, radio or social media—and because these newscasts often include horrific crime stories, our perceptions of crime rates as a whole can be skewed. As an example, news stories about crime increase by 30 percent in 2012, although violent crimes in 2012 actually only rose by less than 1 percent, while the property crime rates fell.
Where the Numbers Come From
Both the FBI and the Bureau of Justice routinely report on crime rates across the nation The FBI’s information comes from crimes reported to police over the past year. The information from the Bureau of Justice comes from an annual survey or more than 90,000 households which ask Americans over the age of 12 whether they were a victim of a crime—regardless of whether that crime was reported to the police. According to the FBI number, crime rates fell 50 percent between 1993 and 2015. The Bureau of Justice places that number at a 77 percent decrease between those same years.
Geographic Comparisons of Crime Rates Show Wide Fluctuations
It is important to remember that the data from the FBI allows geographic comparisons of crime rates, and, unlike the overall crime rate, this data can show wide fluctuations between geographic areas. As an example, in 2015, there were more than 600 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in four states: Tennessee, New Mexico, Nevada and Alaska. On the flip side, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine each had rates below 200 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Chicago, the city most everyone believes is rampant with crime, had only 18 murders per 100,000 residents in 2015, while in St. Louis, that number was 59 murders per 100,000 residents.
How a Solid Defense Can Change the Outcome of Your Criminal Charges
If you have been charged with a serious crime in the state of Colorado, it is extremely important that you speak to an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. You will want to ensure your rights are fully protected during this difficult time, and a knowledgeable Colorado criminal defense attorney will do just that. Contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges.