This article was written by LET guest writer, Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.
It includes editorial content which is the opinion of the writer.
- National Academy of Sciences: Violence in public places is increasing. It could be a partial answer to record-setting fear of crime.
- Traditional crime rates may present a misleading view of the recent changes in public safety.
Nationwide: Public crimes are most concerning to citizens, especially those that are stranger-to-stranger violent crimes. Is public violence growing?
Some speculate that violence in public is an expanding problem. Data on the topic is difficult to find, thus the reason for this article. Media accounts of transit or street-related crimes are daily occurrences. Traditionally, most violence is residentially committed by people who know each other.
The National Academy of Sciences states:
“The risk of victimization while a person was out in public rose by nearly 40% by April, 2020.”
It’s important to remember that reported violent crime decreased considerably during the 2020 COVID epidemic before increasing dramatically when COVID lockdowns were lifted. The number of homicides increased by nearly 30% in 2020. Violent crime was up 5.6 percent.
So a 40 percent increase in the risk of public violent crimes is concerning. The study states that the risk of violent street crime victimization was elevated throughout 2020 (emphasis added). Per the report, traditional crime rates may present a misleading view of the recent changes in public safety.
Per preliminary data from the FBI’s new National Incident-Based Reporting System (below), the most dangerous place for violence, by far, is in a residence. Schools (elementary-secondary) are fourth. Public paces account for the rest of the categories but not the majority of violence.
National Academy Of Sciences
Criminologists who examined crime trends between 2019 and 2020 found that people were more likely to be the victim of a violent crime while in public after March 2020 — than they had been in previous months.
Key takeaways from their research:
- The risk of victimization while a person was out in public rose by nearly 40% by April, 2020, even though the overall street crime rate nationwide had begun to decline (editor’s note-due to COVID lockdowns).
- The risk remained between 10 and 25% higher than it had been in 2019 during the remainder of 2020
- The criminologists used crime reporting data from Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York and merged it with anonymous cellphone location information to draw new conclusions about the trends
The researchers examined crime reporting data, national victimization survey results, and anonymized cellphone location information to show the places where people were being victimized over the study period.
Study authors Aaron Chalfin and Maxim Massenkoff wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
“While analyses of traditional crime data show discrete drops in offending, we find that, in 2020, the risk of outdoor street crimes initially rose by more than 40% and was consistently between 10 and 25% higher than it had been in 2019 through the remainder of the year.”
More From The National Academy Of Sciences Report
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought massive disruptions to economic and social life, including an unprecedented spike in homicides. Overall crime, however, was down.
We resolve this apparent paradox by showing that after accounting for the fact that people were spending more time indoors in 2020, the risk of victimization in public actually increased. These recent changes in crime and activity provide a stark illustration of how conventional crime rates can fail to capture changes in public safety (emphasis added).
This paper argues that changes in human activity during the COVID-19 pandemic led to an unusual divergence between crime rates and victimization risk in US cities. Most violent crimes declined during the pandemic. However, analysis using data on activity shows that the risk of street crime victimization was elevated throughout 2020.
People in public spaces were 15 to 30% more likely to be robbed or assaulted. This increase is unlikely to be explained by changes in crime reporting or selection into outdoor activities by potential victims.
Traditional crime rates may present a misleading view of the recent changes in public safety.
Where Violent Crime Happens-FBI Data
The data below is in anticipation of follow-up questions about where most violent crime happens. Where a violent crime occurs is instructive. Homes/residences
Strangers committed about 1.8 million nonfatal violent crimes, or about 38 percent of all nonfatal violent victimizations, Bureau Of Justice Statistics. The percentage will change from year to year but what doesn’t change is the fact that most violent crime involves people you know.
Per the FBI, arguments are the driving force in most violent crimes. The second most frequent category is a lover’s quarrel. Some of the most violent crime scenes I witnessed as a police officer were domestic violence incidents or attacks on people who knew each other, Violent Victimization.
- Public sidewalks roads or highways is the second-highest category for crimes against people; probably having a much higher rate of non-stranger victimization.
- Parking lots/garages are third.
- Schools (elementary-secondary) are fourth.
- Hotels/Motels are fifth.
- Bars/Nightclubs are sixth.
- Restaurants are seventh.
- Drug store/doctor’s office/hospitals are eighth.
- Commercial office buildings are ninth.
- Convenience stores are tenth if not including prisons.
First, one study, even from The National Academy of Sciences, does not fully support speculations that public violence is growing.
The debate over whether overall violent crimes are increasing gets very complicated with both the FBI and the Bureau Of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey suggesting that violence was flat for 2021, the latest reporting period.
But there is a ton of data from multiple reputable sources (i.e., The Centers For Disease Control, Gallup, The Bureau of Justice Statistics in urban areas) stating that criminal violence is increasing.
Per the data above, violence in public places is increasing and could be a partial answer to the growing and record-setting fear of crime. The study also challenges our understanding of violence based on crimes reported to law enforcement.
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.
National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.
An Overview Of Data On Mental Health at Mental Health And Crime.
The Crime in America.Net RSS feed (https://crimeinamerica.net/?
About the writer: Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.
Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of directing award-winning public relations 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. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Former police officer. Aspiring drummer.
Author of ”Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization” available at Amazon and additional booksellers.