Twenty-five examples of increasing crime: is record fear of crime justified?

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Originally written for Crime in America. Republished with permission.

Data from the federal government and a variety of reputable sources indicate that violent and property crimes increased, not decreased in recent years.

Dozens of articles are stating that Americans are being unrealistic (silly?) as to the nation’s record fear of crime per Gallup.

You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Darry Sragow, a longtime Democratic strategist. “Adam Schiff isn’t safe, Karen Bass isn’t safe — if they’re not safe, who is?”

Yes, you can make any claim you want about crime based on data.

There is a comprehensive overview of crime data from this site, see Violent and Property Crime Rates In The U.S. 

Dozens of articles are stating that Americans are being unrealistic (silly?) as to the nation’s record fear of crime per Gallup. We’re told that we have never lived in safer times. We’re told that violent and property crimes are down considerably.

The data below substantiates both increasing and decreasing crime which confuses many readers. But denying evidence that crime has increased seems insulting to many.

“Americans are more likely than people in many other countries to believe that most elected officials don’t care what people like them think. More than eight-in-ten U.S. adults said this in a spring 2023 Pew Research Center survey.” This principle applies to America’s crime problems and fear of crime.

This article offers examples of increasing violent and property crimes followed by crimes reported to law enforcement suggesting that “some” crimes have decreased. Crime is reportedly down in some cities (true) while increasing in others (also true). 

Please note that federal numbers from the FBI (crimes reported to law enforcement) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey comprise two categories, official full-year crime reports issued in the fall for the preceding year “and” preliminary (unofficial) FBI crime reports. Data from both will be used here.

Because of methodological issues with the FBI (explained below) and National Crime Victimization Survey reports, I rely on research (including survey data) from additional reputable agencies plus media reports to gauge the extent of crime in the US. Because the current crime discussion encompasses multiple years, this article includes data from 2020 to 2024. 

Examples Of Violent, Property And Cybercrime Increases 

1. The latest full-year “official” report (August 2023) from the National Crime Victimization Survey for 2022 from the US Department of Justice states that violent crime increased by 44 percent per analyst Jeff Asher and The Marshall Project.

A 44 percent increase in violent crime is the largest ever recorded in the United States.

The violent victimization rate increased from 16.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons in 2021 to 23.5 per 1,000 in 2022. The rate increase is the largest ever recorded.

There were 6.6 million violent victimizations of persons age 12 or older in the United States in 2022, up from 4.6 million in 2021.

Many groups had large percentage increases in violent victimization.

2. Juvenile Crime Increases: The National Crime Victimization Survey data shows that the number of juveniles killing other juveniles was the highest it’s been in more than two decades. The homicide rate among persons ages 12 to 17 increased during the more recent five-year period, from 2.9 per 100,000 in 2018 to 5.4 per 100,000 in 2022.

There’s huge growth in the rate of nonfatal violent victimization for persons ages 12 to 17. It was higher in 2022 (27.4 per 1,000) than 2021 (13.2 per 1,000). Juveniles’ share of arrests for violent crimes rose in 2022.

3. Cybercrimes are more costly than street crimes and cause immense emotional distress for victims.  Per the FBI, cybercrime almost doubled from 2019 to 2023 with 37 billion in losses while recognizing that most are not reported to law enforcement.

4. Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the USDOJ, 23 million persons were victims of identity theft during the prior 12 months costing 15.1 billion dollars.  This is numerically far more than the 4 million victims from 2019 to 2023 identified by the FBI for overall cybercrimes. The 23 million crime identity theft victims are also far more than the 14 million general crime victims identified by the FBI in 2022.

5. Retail “shrinkage” (losses due to crime) is 112 billion dollars and rising rapidly. Stores are closing creating hardships and job losses. Evidence is everywhere that retail crime is on the rise. Media outlets across the nation continue to report ongoing acts of widespread shoplifting and store invasions.

6. Between 2014 and 2023, the number of people shot in road rage incidents surged more than 400 percent, from 92 to 481, according to a Trace analysis of data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. All told, angry drivers shot 3,095 people over that decade, or nearly one every day. One in four of those people — 777 — were killed.

7. Approximately 75,000,000 Americans were victimized in 2022 including violent and property crimes, cybercrime, and identity theft. It’s safe to suggest that tens of millions of Americans are victimized by crime every year.

8. If you combine violent and property crime with cybercrime and identity theft, you could suggest that most American households may be victimized by crime yearly.

9. Homicides have been at record highs for recent years per FBI numbers. The Major Cities Chiefs Association tells us that homicides increased 50 percent and aggravated assaults increased by 36 percent (2019-2022) in 70 cities. Homicides are currently declining in many cities. The reason? Murderers can’t continue at that rate, cities would become unliveable.

10. The FBI reported a 6.9% increase in hate crimes from 2021 to 2022 and a rise in law enforcement participating in reporting, Axios. Over 11,634 hate crime incidents were reported in 2022, compared with 10,840 the previous year per the FBI. 2022 is the latest official report from the FBI.

On average, U.S. residents experienced approximately 246,900 hate crime victimizations each year between 2005 and 2019 per the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) versus 11,634 reported by the FBI. Yet NCVS hate crimes are ignored by the media.

11. Associated Press-The estimated number of juvenile victims of fatal gun violence rose 11.8 percent.

12. If you take the polls from Pew and Gallup and combine crime with drug use and terrorism, crime (broadly defined) becomes a primary concern of Americans.

13. A growing share of Americans say reducing crime should be a top priority for the president and Congress to address this year. Around six-in-ten U.S. adults (58%) hold that view today, up from 47% at the beginning of Joe Biden’s presidency in 2021.

14. The 2021 US firearm homicides (81 percent of all murders) were the highest since the 1990s, Centers For Disease Control (CDC) data show. They recorded an 8.3 percent increase in 2021, CNN.

15. The risk of victimization while a person was out in public rose by nearly 40% by April 2020, National Academy Of Sciences.

16. From 2020 to 2021, the violent victimization rate increased from 19.0 to 24.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons in urban areas while remaining unchanged in suburban or rural areas. The rate of serious (excluding common assaults) violent victimization in urban areas also increased per the Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey.

17. Per Gallup, there is a big increase in the criminal victimization of urban households in 2021, 30 percent compared to 22 percent in 2020. Seven percent of urban residents were violently victimized compared to 3% of U.S. adults. The collective data (urban crime victimization-computer crime) indicates a growing crime problem for at least half of American households.

18. Per the US Department of Education, there were 38,303 crimes on college campuses in 2022, the highest number since 2013

19. With 350-400 million firearms in the hands of private citizens, and now that Gallup has stated that private firearms are in 52 percent of American households, Americans are now admitting that most firearm purchases are for personal protection. Sales of security devices have skyrocketed per industry reports.

20. Crimes cleared (i.e., arrests made or the suspect identified) have plummeted with a possible impact on crime reporting. The crises in police hiring (and staffing levels) per the USDOJ also play a part. If an officer takes an excessive amount of time to respond, the crime will probably go unreported.

21. Per the Associated Press, A coalition backed by retailers like Walmart and Target announced Thursday it has collected enough signatures to put a ballot measure before California voters this November to enhance criminal penalties for shoplifting and drug dealing.

Californians for Safer Communities, a bipartisan group made up of law enforcement, elected officials and businesses, said it has collected more than 900,000 signatures in support of the measure to roll back parts of Proposition 47. The progressive ballot measure approved by 60% of state voters in 2014 reduced certain theft and drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors to help address overcrowding in jails. Crime data shows the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles saw a steady increase in shoplifting between 2021 and 2022.

22. CNN And Mass Shootings: The dangerous pace of mass shootings escalated in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic and has persisted since then. Between 2019 and 2020, the total number of mass shootings each year jumped from 414 to 610. Then, 2021 became the worst year for mass shootings since GVA began tracking them in 2013, with 690 across 44 states and Washington, DC. There were 656 mass shootings in 2023.

23.National Public Radio And An Epidemic In Gun Deaths: Six months into the year, more than 21,000 people have died because of gun-related injuries in the United States. Doctors and public health officials have a word to describe the rising number of people killed or hurt by guns in recent years: epidemic.

Since the mid-2000s, the United States has seen year-after-year increases in the number of deaths and injuries from guns “that would mirror what we would consider to be a sudden increase consistent with an epidemic.” 

24. Elder fraud complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (or IC3) increased by 14% in 2023, and associated losses increased by about 11%, according to IC3’s 2023 Elder Fraud Report.

25. Los Angeles Times:  A trio of crimes involving Democratic lawmakers has put the spotlight back on public safety in the Golden State, an issue on which experts warn the party’s candidates could be vulnerable in November.

In the span of a week, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass was the victim of a burglary at Getty House in Windsor Square, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) had his suitcase stolen out of his car in the Bay Area, and a plainclothes police officer protecting San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan was punched by a pedestrian during a television interview. “Voters are thinking: You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Darry Sragow, a longtime Democratic strategist. “Adam Schiff isn’t safe, Karen Bass isn’t safe — if they’re not safe, who is?”

Examples Of Violent And Property Crime Decreases-Data From The FBI

First, the overwhelming number of crimes are not reported to law enforcement. Per the US Department of Justice, 42 percent of violent crimes are reported. 32 percent of property crimes are reported. It’s much less for juvenile, cybercrime (7 percent), and retail crimes. 

If FBI percentage increases “or” decreases are less than ten percent, it’s more than possible that crimes reported through law enforcement as offered by the FBI are not an accurate gauge of crime trends. Approximately 80 percent of crimes are property events, and only 32 percent of those are reported. It provides a sense that trend data based on crimes reported to law enforcement can be an unreliable indicator.

Homicides are the exception.

The FBI in March of 2023 released a preliminary full-year crime report for 2023 in record time. Throughout decades of FBI crime data, the release of full-year data has never happened this early. Ordinarily, we would have to wait for late fall for a full-year crime report. It’s possible that the data below could change when the full-year “official” report is released in the Fall of 2024 for calendar year 2023.

The FBI Released Preliminary Numbers For Metropolitan Areas (Cities and their Surrounding Counties) and Nonmetropolitan Areas

Overall Crime In The US in 2023:

Violent crime fell by 5.7 percent

Murder decreased by 13.2 percent

Rape decreased by 12.5 percent

Robbery decreased by 4.7 percent

Aggravated Assaults went down by 4.8 percent

Property crime is down by 4.3 percent

Burglary decreased by 9.8 percent

Larcery declined by 6.2 percent

Motor Vehicle Theft increased by 10.7 percent.

Arson declined by 8.2 percent.

The Main Difference Are Metropolitan Areas Compared To Nonmetropolitan Areas

For metropolitan areas, the decreases were much smaller for most crimes:

Violent crime decreased by 3.1 percent

Murder decreased by 14.2 percent

Rape went down by 13.3 percent

Robbery increased by 1.3 percent

Aggravated assault decreased by 1.7 percent

Property crime decreased by 4.0 percent

Burglary declined by 8.7 percent

Larceny went down by 6.1 percent

Motor vehicle theft increased by 13.1 percent

Arson fell by 7.1 percent

For Nonmetropolitan Areas, The Decreases Were Substantially Higher

The vast majority of Americans live in metropolitan areas. What the 2023 preliminary data from the FBI data for them means is that, beyond homicides and rapes (tiny numbers compared to overall crimes), auto thefts and robberies increased whereas most violent crimes (aggravated assaults and overall violence) were almost flat. The 4.0 percent decrease in property crimes is almost flat.

2022 Official Full-Year Crime Data From The FBI

The FBI offers 12 categories of crimes (13 including hate crimes). Four categories decreased, six categories increased and one (burglary) was flat. Hate crimes increased.

The FBI’s crime statistics estimates for 2022 show that national violent crime decreased an estimated 1.7% in 2022 compared to 2021 estimates (essentially flat).

Murder and non-negligent manslaughter recorded a 2022 estimated nationwide decrease of 6.1% compared to the previous year.

2021 Official Full-Year Crime Data from The FBI

You could legitimately state that violent crime did not increase in 2021 based on numbers from the FBI and the National Crime Victimization Survey.

But it’s equally correct to state that, per the FBI, homicides increased considerably between 2019 and 2021 (nearly 30 percent in 2020 and 4.3 percent in 2021). Rapes also increased in 2021.


The overall data for recent years from the federal government and a variety of reputable sources indicate that violent and property crimes increased, not decreased in recent years.

It’s a tad difficult to overcome the largest increase in violent crime in the nation’s history (44 percent) via the National Crime Victimization Survey’s last official report released in 2023. The same thought applies to record fear of crime via Gallup.

It’s clear that in recent years that homicides have decreased but after huge increases in previous years, the reduction in murders was inevitable. The national reduction in homicides in 2023’s preliminary data from the FBI is the largest since the 1990s.

It’s also clear that, per the FBI’s preliminary-unofficial report for 2023, crime did decrease but the reductions in nonmetropolitan areas were much better than in metropolitan areas where most Americans live. In metropolitan areas, robberies and vehicle thefts increased. When there were decreases, most were not substantial.

So any suggestion that we have never lived in safer times or that there are dramatic reductions in violent or property crimes is not “fully” substantiated by the data.

Yes, there was a national twenty-year reduction in crime which ended in 2015 with a 28 percent increase in violent crime and serious violent crime per the National Crime Victimization Survey.

Yes, you can make any claim you want based on data. There are suggestions that homicides and shootings are down (based on reported crimes) in 2023 and 2024 by Jeff Asher.

There are media reports about falling crime in some cities. But if you look at the data offered by the Major Cities Chiefs Association for all of 2023, there are plenty of examples of increases in homicides and other forms of crime in the cities studied. Regardless, crime reductions in some cities are good news.

But any sense that Americans are being silly regarding their record fear of crime is not confirmed by the totality of research for recent years. We need to reevaluate how we treat the perceptions of our fellow citizens who are directly or indirectly suffering from crime.

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