Why Do We Lie About Increasing Violence?
Throughout my thirty-five years of public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies, I was schooled by media organizations as to the ethics of reporting, and the role I played.
Fairness, accuracy, balance and non-partisan reporting were hallmarks of the industry. Maybe you believe that, maybe you don’t, but media ethics were the centerpiece of discussions when I had disputes with the media.
So imagine my dismay over the denial of rising violent crime throughout the United States. It’s so obvious that violent crime is increasing that when I’m told otherwise by reputable sources, I get nauseous.
What Crime Wave?
The following is from the Marshall Project:
What crime wave? 2017 is on pace to have the second-lowest crime rate since 1990, according to a preliminary analysis of crime statistics from the nation’s 30 largest cities. The murder rate is projected to be down nationally 2.5 percent thanks in part to significant drops in New York, Houston, and Detroit.
Additional newspapers have made similar claims.
Are We On the same Planet?
Yes, historically, the country is experiencing low rates of crime. The last two decades have seen remarkable reductions in violent crime.
But with the flattening rates for violent crime in 2014, increases in violent crime for 2015 and the first six months of 2016, saying that violent crime is decreasing (based on historical lows) is an insult to truth, journalistic ethics and to victims of crime.
Violent crime will increase for all of 2016 based on multiple newspaper articles examining state and local crime rates.
It’s like saying that historically, major hurricanes haven’t hit the US in recent years when all of us are grappling with the results of recent and massive storms.
Shall we tell millions of hurricane victims they have no right to complain, that they have never lived in safer times?
Record Lows for Crime
The bottom line is that violent and property crimes are still at record lows for the country and, generally speaking, have been decreasing for the last two decades except for recent years via FBI data (2011, 2012, 2015 and the first six months of 2016 as examples).
There have been additional increases since 1990-the rate of violent crime in the US increased in 2005 and 2006 (via FBI data) but the index returned to decreases in 2007.
Data from the National Crime Survey also state that we are at record lows for criminal activity. From 1993 to 2015, the rate of violent crime declined from 79.8 to 18.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older. Violent crime was flat for 2015.
Data from Gallup, however, suggests that crime and fear of crime has increased to historical highs.
Is America Entering a New Era of Increasing Violence?
Yes, violent crime (and fear of crime) is increasing throughout the Unites States. We predicted the increase for 2015 based on crimes reported to police, and we correctly predicted another increase in 2016. According to FBI data, it’s rare for the rate of violent crime to increase for one year only.
Violent crime will also increase for all of calendar year 2016.
Then Why Does the Media Distort Crime Increases?
Donald Trump. Trump cites rising crime as a cornerstone of his platform to return to “law and order” and strong support for law enforcement (disclosure-I did not vote for Trump or Clinton).
Via Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump consistently addresses rising violent crime. The President favors traditional methods of strong law enforcement and incarceration. Criminal justice reform is not a priority.
For those favoring reform, it’s necessary to dispute the notion of rising rates of violent crime. If they don’t, they lose momentum.
What saddens me is why reputable sources rush to deny the obvious. I understand that advocates will mislead to promote a point of view, but mainstream media is engaging in purposeful distortions.
Violent Crime is Increasing Throughout the Country
We all know about the incredible rise in violent crime in cities like Chicago and Baltimore plus many others. This finding is balanced by the fact that violent crime has leveled off or decreased in cities like Washington, D.C., New York plus others.
Violent crime is increasing throughout the US (and in other countries) based on reported crimes for 2014, 2015 and 2016 and crime and fear of crime data from Gallup.
As far as victims and those concerned with disorder are concerned, it doesn’t matter what happened before or that crime is at historic lows.
Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University.
(Photo courtesy Austin Zarling)