The Government Says Crime Is Down. Is It?

Crime statistics show a mild decrease, yet growing numbers of people feel unsafe.

The story

While politicians across the country insist their communities are safe, many Americans are skeptical. By November 2023, a three-decade-high percentage of Americans report fearing for their personal safety. Four in ten say they’re afraid to walk alone at night near home, and 50 percent worry about car break-ins.

In 2023, the FBI cited a marked decrease in violent crime — murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), over half of violent crimes and approximately 70 percent of property crimes go unreported.

Even if the FBI’s data is accurate that violent crime rates are decreasing, the message does not resonate in Americans’ daily lives. Given the complexity of crime data and reporting, it is essential to delve in to understand the reality and implications for the nation, especially as public perceptions of safety decline.

The sides

Accepting the FBI’s crime statistics at face value, the national violent crime rate dropped by eight percent from 2022 to 2023. While a welcome improvement, the public is convinced that crime is up — because it is. Since 2019, homicide is up 18 percent, and aggravated assault is up eight percent.

Those stats represent a sliver of the full scope. Gun assaults are up 32 percent from five years ago, while car theft and carjackings surged 105 percent and 93 percent, respectively. Because Americans’ collective memory is longer than one year, people recall safer years in 2019 and prior, bolstering the impression that crime is currently on the rise.

2020 saw the election of George Soros-funded district attorneys across the nation, leading to several years of violent crime and subsequent backlashes among normal people forced to live with filth and violence in their communities.

Some of those DAs were ousted, but others remain — facilitating the upward crime trend with progressive policies. Crime surging in Washington, D.C. under Matthew Graves is an example.

Naysayers who downplay crime will note the year-over-year homicide decline in major American cities, which is indeed laudable. A few categories have seen improvement since 2019, including residential burglary at minus 26 percent and a small decrease in larceny and domestic violence. But as noted, small reductions in crime stats must be taken with a grain of salt given the high number of unreported incidents.

The problem with Americans’ perception that crime is worsening, so say their opponents, is that years of “progress” via progressive criminal reform could be reversed.

“So as long as people continue to feel that crime is a problem … fueled by media reports that often overstated the rise in crime — lawmakers feel pressured to respond to a problem that, by and large, appears to be subsiding,” writes Abdallah Fayyad for left-wing media outlet Vox. “These [tough-on-crime] policies, in both Republican and Democratic jurisdictions, threaten the meaningful progress that criminal justice reform advocates achieved in the past decade, including a reduction in the prison population.”

Beyond the headlines

Fearful Americans are not duped into thinking crime is rising due to outsized media coverage. They are experiencing culture shock in and around their communities.

Non-violent crimes like squatting have become major problems, often accompanied by drug trafficking and prostitution. The issue took center stage when a migrant influencer illegally crossed the border into the U.S. and made a TikTok video teaching his followers how to break into and occupy vacant homes.

Upwards of 80 percent of Americans consider illegal migration a serious issue, and many have watched news coverage of migrants flooding into their cities for the past three years. From Boston to New York to Seattle and even rural Wisconsin, nearly every city in the country is inundated with unvetted foreigners.

Contrary to the mainstream narrative, illegal migration is linked to higher crime rates. The many instances of violent and disturbing migrant crime have imprinted Americans’ psyches, reminding them that these crimes would never have occurred if the southern border was not wide open.

Why it matters

The post-2020 crime spike left the impression that America was increasingly unsafe, exacerbated by the influx of illegal migrants. A minor decrease in violent crime statistics falls demonstrably short in convincing people their communities are safe. Voters are consistently voting out progressives and replacing them with politicians willing to take a tougher stand against crime.

The perception of worsening crime will influence public policy. With the 2024 election looming and major cities grappling with illegal migration, squatting, carjackings, and more, the backlash could very well continue into November.

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