Monday, September 15, 2008

FBI: US crime down overall in 2007

The FBI issued its annual report on crime data today; see their web page devoted to the new data. Let's walk through a few highlights from the topline numbers. Bottom line, reported crime last year was down across the board:
Nationwide, violent crime fell for the first time since 2005. Property crime declined for the fifth straight year. And each of the seven specific offense categories—from aggravated assault to murder—was down from 2006.
DOJ created this graphic analyzing this year's overall crime trends:

It should be mentioned that national crime data are fairly flawed. Not all information gets reported. And year to year fluctuations may not mean much or necessarily depict a long-term trend. Still, less crime reported on its face must be be considered good news.

Though crime rates are declining overall, it's not necessarily because police are solving more crimes. Clearance rates remained low: "Nationwide in 2007, law enforcement cleared 44.5 percent of violent crimes and 16.5 percent of property crimes by arrest or exceptional means." The highest clearance rate was for murder, at 61.2% nationwide. Here's a graphic depicting clearance rates for various crimes:

I was also interested to learn that the vast majority of arrests are not for violent or property crimes: "In 2007, the FBI estimated that 14,209,365 arrests occurred nationwide for all offenses (except traffic violations), of which 597,447 were for violent crimes, and 1,610,088 were for property crimes. That means just 15.54% of arrests were for violent crimes or property offenses, a figure which seems surprisingly low to me.

Some of that can be explained by the drug war: "Law enforcement made more arrests for drug abuse violations (an estimated 1.8 million arrests, or 13.0 percent of the total number of arrests) than for any other offense." What's more, 42.1% of drug arrests were for pot possession.

Murder in large cities was predictably higher than the suburbs - towns with more than 100,000 people had a murder rate of 4.7 per 100,000, compared with 2.9 per 100,000 in towns with 25,000 to 99,999 people. But murder rates in the smallest towns were higher still, the FBI reports, with towns under 25,000 having a murder rate of 5.5 per 100,000. That also seems like a surprising outcome. Overall, 87% of murder victims knew their killer.

Texans reported 1,172 murders in 2007 and 6,853 forcible rapes, 79,103 auto thefts, and 181,502 home burglaries. See this table for city by city index crime details.

There's a lot more information and fodder for commentary in this annual report for those interested.

MORE: TalkLeft looks at the numbers and informs us that " contrary to the notion often expressed by crime warriors that there is less crime because more offenders are locked up, this Justice Policy Institute factsheet (pdf) shows the opposite: Areas with lower incarceration rates experienced greater crime reductions."


Anonymous said...

Why do you think auto thefts went down so much? (see the first chart)

The Stark Raving Viking said...

Crime is down, yet there are more arrests and a higher percentage or American prisoners than ever before.

States get Federal Tax Dollars to process, put restraining orders, for divorces, arrests, taking away children for whatever excuses, for putting on probation and parole, and putting in prison as many citizens as possible.

So, for state playing the numbers game, getting as many tax dollars from the Fed coming as possible means not acting in the best interest of the public and fudging the numbers by lying, committing perjury, making false allegations, obstruction justice, racketeering, and retaliating against internal whistle blowers.

It lawyers, judges, and prosecutors has to obey laws, there would be less false arrests and imprisonment. We'd have more taxpayers, intact families, less crime, and less need for lawyers, police, judges, and prosecutors.

If the CIA wasn't bring in massive amounts of heroin and cocaine to fund their covert ops, assassinations, execution and torture camps, and wars, there would be far less drugs on American streets and far less citizens in jail.

Lawyers legislate unfairness and no accountability [my points here]

One state is leading the nation on what other state can get away with. The most rampant public corruption is currently in Connecticut.

Anonymous said...

Auto Thefts?
My guess would be a larger percentage of cars with more effective anti-theft devices?
Now that new digital security cameras are coming out and prices dropping I wonder if they will have an effect on property crimes

Anonymous said...

"It should be mentioned that national crime data are fairly flawed. Not all information gets reported. And year to year fluctuations may not mean much "

Doesn't this mean that this means nothing?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Doesn't this mean that this means nothing?"

It means that the data is the best we've got; it's what exists, for better or worse.

I included that caveat because these data IMO are frequently misused to latch onto a single year trend - e.g., this year's decline or small increases overhyped in other years - when for many reasons it could be just a blip or caused by something else. For example, crime numbers drop both when there's less crime and when there's less reporting of crime.

I wouldn't say the data mean "nothing" - it's the best avaialble on the topic and there's a deep body of historical data for comparison - but it should be taken with a grain of salt.

W W Woodward said...

Grits you stated, "(M)urder rates in the smallest towns were higher still, the FBI reports, with towns under 25,000 having a murder rate of 5.5 per 100,000. That also seems like a surprising outcome."

Actually it's not so surprising -

The NUMBER of homicides in metropolitan areas is always larger than that of small towns. However , the homicide RATE for small towns is ALWAYS greater than that of the metropolitan areas.

For example, the homicide rate in Lubbock [population about 250,000] with somewhere in the neighborhood of two or three homicides per month is going to be considerable less than that of Spur [population 1008] with maybe 1 homicide every two to three years. Dallas, with a population of approximately four times that of Lubbock, can run 40 homicides per month and end up with a homicide rate considerably less than that of Lubbock or Spur.

I submitted monthly National Crime Reports (NCR) to the FBI for 13 years. Comparing small town crime rates to metropolitan area rates is, “comparing apples to oranges”.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Woody, it's surprising because I think most people believe murder is a big city problem when statistically you're more likely to be murdered in a small town. That was my meaning.

By aggregate numbers, absolutely, big cities generate more. But per capita, at least regarding the likelihood of getting murdered, small towns are less safe. To me, that's not apples and oranges, just basic math.

Anonymous said...

Although general small fluctuations of these numbers doesn't mean as much, One has to ask why if crime is not 'skyrocketing' do elected officials make out like it is year to year.

We hear Kill the sex offenders, Murder the murders, vigilante justice for all; when in reality this is strictly media/government based FUD pushed into the limelight by small groups of people that have a stake in it either through government handouts(money), or they see political gain on the horizon.

To see that the numbers are relatively the same as last year, or the year before show show the people (but won't) that their tough on crime governments are actually blowing hot air. As much money spent, their plans at fighting crime have made no significant impact whatsoever.

Deb said...

For Austin, then, that means that APD is clearing less than average violent crime and property crime cases.

But more significant is that our violent crime went up in 2007 according to FBI while arrests also went up: BUT NOT FOR VIOLENT OFFENSES. I.E., we are working against the findings of the JPI report you cite, and incarcerating more and more low-level alleged offenders and focusing less and less on investigating violent crime.

This is a very dangerous trend and if the Chief's really serious about intending to implement the citation option, he better do it quick and to the maximum extent the law allows.

See the report on for the above Austin findings.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know where the 14,000 Inmates who were to go to rehab and then home are today? There has been no mention of them and their where abouts since the last Legislative Session.

Our prisons are not getting smaller, they are getting more populated and paroles are being given and then taken away. The rules for parole state all information should be in prior to the parole hearing, but the BPP accepts letters from some who do not even know the person being paroled and then the parole granted is taken away and a set off given!! What is fair about this? Absolutely nothing! A granted parole should be granted as soon as given and the option by the BPP to just take it away and cause the family to have to pay more money for another hearing is absurd. Most families have borrowed the money for the first hearing and have yet to get that paid off and now are met with another bill to have to pay off. What in the world is the reason for this. Who is the person benefitting from this insane act? How can someone gain parole and then have it snatched away from them? This is the most absurd policy in the world, but this is not a policy. The rules are made up as they go by those who feel they have the right to do whatever, because the answer to no one.

I truly believe Senator Whitmire is the only person who gets what is going on and he is trying his best to get this mess straightened out. May the Lord bless him and keep him safe in his journey. He has a tough road to travel but at least he is traveling it. He does recognize how unfair the system is and I read a quote from him stating, "All Legislators, I urge you to read the letters you receive from Inmats, that is where you find the facts." This is not an exact quote, but close enough to what was stated.

Crime is still high, if you look at the number of people in prisons. Give back the good time and work time and get those out who did not deserve this to begin with and let them get back to their children and families and have a life. Life is short and the older one gets, the more that fact is realized. Let those out who have been granted a parole and stop letting someone write a letter who does not even know the person who is in prison and making that person suffer more. The rules for parole state all information is supposed to be in prior to the hearing, but the BPP accepts letters without checking out the source and uses any excuse to revoke a parole, thus dashing the hopes of the person in prison and the entire family and think about this person's children, they get excited because their Dad/Mom is coming home only to hear two men have decided someone who writes a letter and does not even know their Dad/Mom can keep him/her locked up and away from them. This is a disgrace and something has to be done and soon!!

dr.bless you

Anonymous said...

anon @ 10.44 ~ no one has to pay for a parole hearing. Families may choose to pay a parole lawyer to do the work that they could do themselves, but they dont HAVE to have a lawyer. There are plenty of people who have been granted parole with a home-made packet.

W W Woodward said...


Statistics – Hmmm. Statistics will also tell us that one is more likely to be a homicide victim in a mall or bar parking lot in the USA than in combat in Iraq. I have no intentions, however of moving to Iraq. Nor am I inclined to move from Spur back to Dallas where the sound of gunfire and sirens is a fairly frequent event especially during night-time hours.

As Murphy said, “I’m not so concerned about the bullet with my name on it as I am about the one that is addressed to ‘whom it may concern’.”

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Statistics will also tell us that one is more likely to be a homicide victim in a mall or bar parking lot in the USA than in combat in Iraq"

That's not true at all, Woody, what in God's name are you talking about?

A 5.5 out of 100,000 chance of getting murdered in a small town is greater than a 4.7 out of 100,000 chance in a big city. Period. There's nothing to debate about that. You're discussing your (mis)perceptions, but in this case those conflict with the facts, at least according to the data for 2007.

W W Woodward said...


"That's not true at all, Woody, what in God's name are you talking about?"

From the beginning of 2003 through 2007 FBI/NCR statistics indicate 84,375 US citizens were victims of murder & non-negligent manslaughter (intentional homicides). (The FBI homicide numbers also do not include deaths from automobile accidents.) During the same time period (2003-07) approximately 3,855 US military personnel were victims of intentional homicides in Iraq (combat zone) as per

It follows; for the last five years our neighbors have intentionally killed considerably more of our fellow citizens than do enemy soldiers and/or insurgents/terrorists. Even if we were to go back to the 9/11 deaths which the FBI report did not see fit to include in the 2001 statistics.

Comparing these numbers is what prompts me to profess that one is probably safer in a combat zone than on the streets and parking lots of the USA.

I’ve already stipulated (9/15) that the homicide RATE is greater in lesser populated areas than in metropolitan areas for the same reason that a frog in a small pond displaces a proportionally larger amount of water than the same frog in a large pond.

Bear in mind, a “homicide” is not necessarily always a “murder”. The National Crime Report (NCR) doesn’t differentiate between the two. If a homicide, ultimately determined to be a justifiable homicide, is originally investigated as a murder or intentional manslaughter and reported as such to the NCR it will go into the FBI statistics as a “murder” or “intentional manslaughter”.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Okay, but if you stipulate that the RATE is higher, then you've stipulated that the likelihood of getting murdered is higher. Totals don't mean much without knowing what to compare it to.

If you broke the Iraq casualty stats down to a per 100,000 soldier rate comparable to the way they do murder stats, I don't think the numbers would look so low-key.

What the rate tells you is the relative chance you'll get killed. The relative chance you'll get killed is higher in Iraq than here, and according to the best available data, (slightly) higher in small towns than in cities with more than 100,000 people.

It makes some some sense when you think about it. Folks in small towns are more likely to have guns and perhaps more likely to engage in so-called "honor killings" that routinely make the Old South's murder rate higher than the rest of the country. Most murders (87%) were family or acquaintances, after all.

Most gun deaths aren't from bullets labeled 'to whom it may concern'; they hit exactly who they're aiming at.

Anonymous said...

The most valuable accomplishment of the JPI report was that the FBI has posted a warning that you better be careful when you try to interpret their data.

As you know lots of snowbirds come to Texas and criminal behavior is increased because of their presence (mostly they are victims) but the crime rates are based on the number permanent residents and as a consequence snowbird destinations have very high crime rates. LOL in trying to get the FBI to chance their procedures.

Similarly crime rates for universities are based on the number of students that live in the dorms (a university with mostly commuter students or a large hospital looks like a crime hotspot). Because crime numbers are reported as well as rates it is possible to compensate for this but the numerically illiterate get lost in the process.

W W Woodward said...

Okay, I’ve had an opportunity to do some thinking on this FBI Uniform Crime Report murder rate business.

Spur, Texas, (Pop 1008) experienced one homicide during a 12 month period between 1 Jan and 31 Dec of 2006. That single homicide translates into a per capita homicide (“murder”, if you prefer) rate of 100/100,000 which you say, and I agree, is a substantial figure. From your earlier comments on this post it appears that you believe Spur’s single homicide in 2006, after being converted into a murder rate by “per capita mathematics”, would make Spur, Texas, an inhospitable, violent, unsafe place to live and raise children. For the record, the 2006 homicide has not yet been adjudicated as a murder but was reported in 2006 as such in compliance with the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report’s (UCR) reporting guidelines.

Now, please bear with me while I make a couple of observations that appear to be logical extensions of the same “per capita math” methods used to establish Spur, Texas as a hotbed of feuding, trigger happy, banjo pickin’, pistol dueling, rednecks. Let’s look at the math on the 999 people of Spur who didn’t get “murdered” during the referenced 12 month period in 2006. Using the same “per capita math” I find that 99,900 of the 100,000 people who, just for information purposes, don’t live in Spur were not murdered during the 12 month period under discussion. Additionally, in 2007, when there were no homicides in Spur, “per capita math” shows us there were 100,000 of 100,000 who were not Spur, Texas, murder victims and, Judas on a Rope! - Spurs’ murder rate dropped to Zero per capita. Sounds pretty safe to me. Especially since Dallas during the same time frame was still cranking out about 40 homicides per month.

One can get killed in a large metropolitan area for; simply being in the wrong part of town, wearing the wrong color clothing, using sign language for the deaf that might be confused with gang signs, approaching the wrong person to ask for directions. If you’re figuring on getting killed in Spur, you’ll have to really go out of your way to piss somebody off.

Like in I said in my earlier comment, “Apples and Oranges.”