Burying the terrifying truth: would more crime reporting overwhelm the justice system?

Do Not Cross! by David von Diemar is licensed under Unsplash unsplash.com

Seven percent of 24 million identity theft victims reported the incident to law enforcement. Forty-two percent of violent crimes are reported. Thirty-two percent of property crimes are reported.

If we convinced Americans to report most criminal victimizations, it would shut down the justice system in a week.

There is a discussion about counting crime in the United States while understanding that the vast majority of crimes are not reported to law enforcement.

There was a time during my federal career (senior specialist for crime prevention) when crime reporting was examined and encouraged as a crime prevention measure. Also, the more crime reported, the greater the accuracy of crime trends.

Most Crime Is Not Reported

About 42% of violent victimizations were reported to police in 2022. A lower percentage of assaults were reported to police in 2022 (41%) than in 2021 (46%), due in part to a decrease in reporting of aggravated assaults (61% to 50%). The percentage of victimizations reported to police did not change for other types of violent crime.

About 32% of property victimizations were reported to police in 2022, which was similar to 2021.

Seven percent of 24 million identity theft victims reported the incident to law enforcement.

Data from the Anaheim (California) Police Department indicate that a major retailer reported 8% of shoplifting incidents in 2022 and 20% in 2023.

Why Is Most Crime Not Reported?

Crime statistics are difficult to understand with clarity. If some categories of crime decreased, (as the FBI reported in 2022) was it due to less crime or other factors?

Most violent crimes involve people who know each other which prompts many not to report. Your drunk friend could hit you with a beer bottle (an aggravated assault) yet it’s likely that you would see the incident as a personal matter and not report it to law enforcement. Yet when the National Crime Victimization Survey calls, you tell them about the incident; the names of assailants are not recorded.

Most property crime victims understand that the odds of “solving” a theft are slim.

Most police departments are ill-equipped to handle identity theft issues.

Most retailers do not see reporting of shoplifting to be in their financial best interest.

Thus, according to some, crimes reported to law enforcement are “important” enough to convey but it takes a national survey (the National Crime Victimization Survey) to understand the totality of crime.

Latest National Data From The FBI And The National Crime Victimization Survey

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.

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

But if the great majority of crimes are not reported to law enforcement (excluding homicides) how confident are we that crime really went down?

Per the National Crime Victimization Survey for 2022, violent crime increased in the United States by 44 percent.

Do Officials Mischaracterize Crime Reporting?

“The latest data indicates progress on declining crime rates, but the Justice Department recognizes there is far more work to do so that all Americans can be free from violence,” said the Deputy Attorney General.

Evidently, the Deputy Attorney General doesn’t want to admit that her US Department of Justice’s own National Crime Victimization Survey shows the largest increase in violence ever (44 percent), a record high.

Crimes Reported To Law Enforcement Have Additional Issues

Like all crime statistics, caution is urged with crimes reported to the police; there may be variables that affect the willingness of people to report crimes (i.e., the vast majority of crimes are not reported to law enforcement, excessive wait times for police officers to arrive due to losing thousands of officers to resignations or retirement impeding crime reporting, issues with police-community relations due to protests and negative media coverage of police use of force, police officers not writing reports because they believe that criminal justice reforms negate their efforts (a common topic in social media) or they are discouraged to create reports due to pressure over crime numbers or a lack of time to respond due to major incidents or a lack of expertise). 

Thus while the FBI reports 12 categories of crimes (13 including hate crimes) with four categories decreasing, six categories increasing and one (burglary) was flat, it’s more than possible (probable?) that the mostly small decreases (except homicides) recorded by the FBI could be increases when compared to the latest findings from the National Crime Victimization Survey.


We have what the US Department of Justice calls a “crisis” in police staffing. We have the largest increase in violence ever reported, again, per the US Department of Justice. We have a record fear of crime.

There are tens of millions of unreported crimes leaving any assessment of crime in America in a statistical void.

If we ever convinced Americans that reporting crimes is in their best interest, or if it’s mandated by insurance companies, we could shut down the justice system in a week.


See More

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.

The Crime in America.Net RSS feed (https://crimeinamerica.net/?feed=rss2) provides subscribers with a means to stay informed about the latest news, publications, and other announcements from the site.

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