Confusion over violent and property crime data for 2023

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Readers are confused by groups analyzing cities for crime data instead of using national figures from the US Department of Justice. I explain why city data is being used and the differences in the findings and methodologies used by the three principle groups offering crime data for 2023.

Summation

We have new data from Jeff Asher stating that murder is down, violence is flat (slight decrease) and property crime increased (especially auto theft) based on an analysis of city crime for the first half of 2023.

The data Asher offers is a bit different from a previous report from The Council on Criminal Justice stating that homicides are down, overall violence is down and some forms of property crimes decreased except auto theft for the first half of 2023.

The Major City Chiefs Association offered data for the first quarter of 2023 stating that homicides, aggravated assaults, robbery, and rape have all decreased in 2023.

Differences In The Number Of Cities Analyzed

The Council On Criminal Justice examined 37 cities but homicide statistics were available for 30.

The Major City Chiefs Association analyzed 70 US and nine Canadian cities.

Jeff Asher uses data from 109 cities for homicides and 41 cities for violent and property crime data.

It’s possible for cities to dominate crime rates and totals for states.

Why Use City Instead Of National Crime Metrics?

Those writing about crime in 2022 and 2023 are using city metrics because the FBI is implemented a new reporting system (The National Incident-Based Reporting System) but is experiencing a lack of participation by some law enforcement agencies. The discrepancies between the FBI’s old (Summary Reporting System) and the new metrics may be resolved with the FBI combining both methods of counting crimes for the upcoming report for 2022 scheduled for the fall of 2023. The FBI counts crimes reported to law enforcement agencies. Most crime is not reported.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics National Victimization Crime Survey (contemplating its own redesign) does not count homicides but they do report on violent crimes and property crimes.

The last full crime reports from the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics was for 2021. Both are US Department of Justice agencies. Both will release crime data for 2022 in the late summer or fall of 2023.

The problem is that people want to know what’s happening now and the only way to get current crime data is through an examination of publically accessible city crime dashboards. There will come a point where the FBI will start releasing quarterly national crime data.

Context

This is an update to my recent article, Did Homicides and Violent Crimes Decrease In 2023? Some context to reports on crime is necessary:

The projected decrease in homicides and violence is good news “but” readers need to understand that the FBI recorded decreases for the first six months of a given year in the past only to find that violence was either flat or increased for the full year.

There are multiple cities throughout the United States reporting an increase in violence and homicides.

Per Forbes’s 15 Most Dangerous Cities in the US in 2023, the following cities were not included in The Council On Criminal Justice’s report: Birmingham, Alabama, Baltimore, Maryland,  Cleveland, Ohio, New Orleans, Louisiana, Shreveport, Louisiana, Baton Rouge, Louisiana,  Oakland, California, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Kansas City, Missouri. See the Council’s list of cities.

The bottom line, as all authors point out, is that while predictive, the first six months of data offered for 2023 can change.

Article

There are three sources beyond the FBI and The Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey offering crime data for 2023, The Major Cities Chiefs Association,  The Council on Criminal Justice, and Jeff Asher.

The baseline for comparisons is often 2019. Note that The Major Cities Chiefs Association states that homicides increased by 50 percent and aggravated assaults increased by 36 percent since 2019. With increases this large, there was bound to be a recession to the mean (or average).

A decrease in homicides in cities for the first six months of 2023 was first reported by Jeff Asher.

2023 Crime Summation From Jeff Asher

To summarize the crime trends so far: murder way down, violent crime about even (down slightly), burglary and theft down, auto theft way up. There are still five more months left in the year, so these trends could change, but big cities paint a picture of what is happening nationally. The big city picture is getting increasingly clearer as the year goes on but we won’t know for sure how clear the picture is until the FBI releases data next October.

2023 Crime Summation From The Council On Criminal Justice

Twenty of the study cities recorded a decrease in homicides during the first six months of the year, ranging from a 59% drop in Raleigh, NC, to a two percent drop in Nashville, TN. Ten cities experienced an increase in homicide, ranging from about five percent in Seattle to 133% in Lincoln, NE. Motor vehicle theft rose by 33.5% in the first half of the year. In other findings, gun assaults (-5.6%), robberies (-3.6%), nonresidential burglaries (-5%), larcenies (-4.1%), residential burglaries (-3.8%), and aggravated assaults (-2.5%) all fell in the first six months of this year compared to the same timeframe last year. Drug offenses rose by one percent and domestic violence by zero-point-three percent. Property crime trends were more mixed as motor vehicle thefts (+104.3%) and nonresidential burglaries (+5.1%) were higher in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2019 (emphasis added), while drug offenses (-38.7%), residential burglaries (-26%), and larcenies (-7%) were lower.

 

In nine Canadian cities, homicides were down but aggravated assaults, sexual assaults, and robberies increased.

Property Crimes

Jeff Asher states that growing police response times (due to thousands of police officers quitting) may have an impact on the reporting of crime. There is data from a variety of sources stating that property crimes are up when property crimes have traditionally been decreasing or flat per the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Per Gallup, Americans are most likely to have experienced theft. Retail shrink hit $94.5 billion in 2021, a 53% jump from 2019, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey of around 60 retail member companies, CNN. The data on vehicle theft (above) is astounding. The media is offering endless reports of retail stores leaving cities because of crime. Identity theft is up considerably.

A finding that property crimes are down seems to conflict with other data sources.

As Jeff Asher states, A six percent increase in property crime doesn’t sound like much, but property crime nationally fell 19 straight years between 2003 and 2021 and in 28 of the last 30 years — 2022 data is not yet available. Any increase in property crime would represent a reversal of the long term trend. It isn’t hard to pinpoint what is driving the increase in property crime: auto thefts. Auto thefts began rising in July 2022 and there is not a ton of evidence that these crimes have started to fall yet. Auto thefts in the sample are up an astounding 42 percent this year relative to last year with an increase occurring in 33 of the 42 available cities. Removing auto thefts from the property crime counts in the 42 city sample would change the YTD difference in property crimes from +6 percent to -2.6 percent.”

Conclusions

Are homicides and violence down for 2023? Yes per The Council On Criminal Justice and The Major City Chiefs Association. Violence is flat (down slightly) per Jeff Asher but homicides have decreased considerably.

Some property crimes are up mostly driven by a staggering increase in auto thefts potentially ending a multi-decade decrease.

Fear of crime is at all-time highs. There are reputable sources (The CDC, The National Academy of Sciences, Gallup and the Bureau of Justice Statistics for urban areas) indicating big increases in city violence in recent years.

It’s interesting that robberies, sexual assaults, and aggravated assaults are all up for the Canadian cities measured for 2023 per The Major Cities Chiefs Association. Why are they up in Canada and down in the US? Are Canadians more willing to report crimes? Are police-community relations or non-stranger violence impeding crime reporting in the US?

Crime and violence was a major topic in the recent Congressional elections and will remain a topic of importance in the upcoming presidential elections. In a poll by the Pew Research Center, violent crime ranked as the third most important issue for registered voters in the congressional election, with 60% of the vote, tying with health care and trailing only the economy (77%) and gun policy (62%), USA Today.

Statistics are only meaningful when you can see, feel, taste and touch the difference in citizen safety. There is every possibility that citizens do not perceive a decrease in violent crime. When considering identity theft, auto theft, and other forms of property crimes,  citizens may indicate an increase in their own victimization.

Citizen safety is the prerogative of the beholder. When homicides are up by 50 percent since 2019 and aggravated assaults have increased by 36 percent during the same time period per The Major Cities Chiefs Association, a 10 percent decrease in homicides doesn’t have much relevance for the average person.

Per CNN, Oakland, California, is facing double-digit rises in crimes like robbery and rape in the past year. The situation has grown so dire, according to some residents, that the local NAACP chapter has called for a state of emergency. Watch the video of a lifelong resident leaving the city because of crime.

Crime statistics and personal perceptions can move in two different directions.

Editor's note: All quotes are edited for brevity.

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The opinions reflected in this article are not necessarily the opinions of LET
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Comments

David

When it comes to property crimes such as Residential Burglary and Automobile Burglary, I would suggest that any decline in reported cases is skewed by the fact that individuals in many cases, particularly when the loss is small, simply have given up reporting them as nothing is accomplished. It can take many hours in some municipalities to see an officer as they are non-violent, which puts them at the far bottom of importance. Departments throughout our Nation are woefully understaffed, which results in an inability to respond to this type of crime. In my city, Las Vegas, we have two phone numbers, 311 and 911. 311 is for non-life-threatening situations, and 911 is for threatening situations. As both numbers are answered by the same people and they are terribly understaffed at this point, it can take several minutes sometimes to speak to anyone on 911 so you can imagine the wait for 311. On Nextdoor there are frequent comments to the effect individuals called 311 and after 30 minutes of waiting, they hung up. Thankfully, there are 80 individuals currently in training so this issue may begin to improve in the next 90 days.

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