Is It True That Crime Is on the Rise in the United States? Yes and No


Conrad Casarjian has owned and operated Gold-n-Oldies on Revere Beach Parkway in Everett for 36 years. A gang crashed into his business in December, stealing a few pieces of jewellery and fleeing.

It appears the thief used a hammer to break into one of the exhibits and took only a few gold rings from the showcases, Casarjian told a local TV station.

The “smash and grab” was one of a number of robberies in the neighbourhood that Everett police are investigating.

Recently, CNN had reported on a “wave of ‘smash-and-grab’ crimes” afflicting US cities.

At least 18 suspects took thousands of dollars of products from a Nordstrom in Los Angeles, while over 80 suspects stole from a Nordstrom in San Francisco. A Walgreens and Louis Vuitton were also burglarized in the region.

And, as Casarjian’s experience indicates, they aren’t just a California phenomenon. A dozen individuals broke into a Louis Vuitton store in Chicago and stole $120,000 worth of goods. In Maplewood and Burnsville, Minnesota, coordinated thieves struck Best Buy locations.

These occurrences have people wondering: Is there a national rise in crime?

How to Interpret the Results of Research

Before discussing criminal justice, it’s vital to understand some basic statistics. First, no instant data. Because data collection and analysis takes time, we won’t have aggregate statistics on last year’s “smash and grab” criminal sprees until later this year.

Second, the US has no unified data collection mechanism. The vast majority of crimes go unreported (often due to a lack of trust in the system). And the statistics we do have are based on local departments reporting if they chose to. Less than half of law enforcement agencies sent data to NIBRS, according to the Pew Research Center.

Statistics can reveal general patterns, but they are prone to error, omission, and manipulation—not just by politicians. Police unions are formidable lobbyists adept at leveraging fear to win better pay and more control. Some retail trade associations have used similar strategies.

To summarise, crime statistics in the US are never complete because the country has 330 million residents and roughly 39,000 general-purpose administrations.

‘A Tsunami of Murderous Violence’, as one author put it…

Crime Rise in United States

But Will There Be Less Criminal Acts?

As many know, 2020 was a year of unprecedented violence. Notably, it was not a year of crime.

“There was no crime wave—just a tsunami of murderous violence,” said Philip Cook, a Duke University crime researcher, citing preliminary FBI numbers.

This wave of violence saw the highest spike in murder rates ever recorded (30%). (Around 21,500 murders occurred, or 6.5 per 100,000 persons.) Aggravated assault, the most prevalent violent offence, rose 12%. However, rape remained unchanged, while robberies and burglaries decreased.

The FBI reports that nonviolent crimes such as burglary and theft dropped in 2020.

This would be odd in a regular year, but given the nature of the epidemic, it makes sense. As a result, burglaries may have decreased.

Others, though, doubt the decline in crime. According to retired NYPD detective chief Robert Boyce, officers have eased off arresting criminals they would typically apprehend.

“No one is arrested anymore, “He remarked.

This may explain why, despite rising violence, the FBI reported a 24% drop in countrywide arrests in 2020.

“Suggesting that drug arrests, not consumption, had changed,” writes David Graham in The Atlantic.

This is why some deny that crime is declining.

“It’s ludicrous to claim overall crime is down when homicide is up 30%,” Thomas Abt, a senior associate at the Council on Criminal Justice and former Justice Department official, told The Atlantic.

Whether one believes Cook or Abt, the murder rate remains significantly below that of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The rise is substantial since crime was previously low.

Defunding the Police Plays a Role

Conservatives have been keen to link “defund the cops” to rising crime. That’s not the case, at least not if “defund” means fewer police agencies.

While many localities have increased violent crime, few have implemented “defund” programmes. Many who reduced budgets quickly restored them. No one has yet abolished their police force. The Defund the Police talking point has actually helped certain police unions get raises.

While the Defunding campaign failed to eliminate police, it may have changed the way they function. For example, stealing is no longer a crime in San Francisco. “Is it optional to pay for stuff here?” said New York Times journalist Thomas Fuller, who recently moved to San Francisco.

Walgreens had to close five stores in the Bay Area due to stealing.

Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso stated after the judgement that organised retail crime is still a problem in San Francisco.

Not only in San Francisco. When Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg released a letter urging prosecutors to lower most felony property offences (including severe ones) to misdemeanours on Jan. 3, many people were outraged.

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It should come as no surprise that lenient penalties and lax enforcement for property offences encourage the practise. Studies reveal that initiatives to abolish or lower property crime sanctions have increased such offences.

This is hardly the only instance where cities choose not to prosecute property offences. Cities like New York and St. Louis dropped prosecution against most suspected looters. The likelihood that police have ceased arresting suspects for numerous crimes is raised. Why? That it’s because prosecutors stopped charging people isn’t supported by the statistics. It appears more plausible that many police agencies and personnel are intentionally withholding property crime enforcement to argue for bigger budgets and thwart reform attempts.

In the absence of statistics for 2021 and the FBI’s preliminary data for 2020, it’s unclear what if any influence Defund the Police played. Pandemic policies, such as lockdowns and school closures, appear to be the major reason. These regulations keep kids out of school, community programmes, and occupations that would have occupied their time. In addition to preventing gangs and other illegal activities, many of these programmes assist youth find jobs.

Lockdowns also disrupted programmes dealing with mental health and addiction, preventing many from receiving the assistance they require. These measures’ economic instability is also likely an influence, given poverty is known to play a role in crime.

This was more likely due to police officers and municipal governments not pursuing some violent crimes, thus rewarding them, than budget cuts and shrinking police agencies.

Crime Rise in United States

Will Increasing the Number of Police Officers Be Beneficial?

2021 disappointed many anticipating for a return to normalcy after a year of strife.

Last year, homicides increased in a dozen US cities. Some cops claim it’s the worst they’ve seen.

“It’s been worse than a war zone lately,” remarked Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino in December, after the city shattered a 30-year-old annual homicide record with 7 weeks left in the year. “We’re enraged. It must end.”

While these figures are distressing, claiming US cities are battle zones is exaggerated. Last year, Rochester had 80 homicides. It’s not outstanding, but it’s still significantly safer than the world’s most hazardous cities, and safer than St. Louis per capita.

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According to FBI statistics, many American homicide victims knew their perpetrators. This is why much of the rise has come from areas that had struggled with violent crime prior to the epidemic, and continue to struggle. Americans seldom die through murder.

Despite this, several communities, like Portland, Oregon, are employing additional cops. But it’s uncertain if these “re-fund the cops” campaigns will work.

The evidence suggesting additional cops reduce violent crime is mixed, according to the New York Times. According to criminologist Aaron Chalfin of the University of Pennsylvania, crime drops around 54% of the time when police are added.

“Crime fluctuates for a million causes unrelated to the police,” Dr. Chalfin stated. “But we know there is an effect if you look across numerous cities over many years.”

We also know that the fear of being caught and punished is a major deterrent to crime. That won’t happen in America. In the first place, cops are terrible at detecting crimes, and during the epidemic, many seemed to abandon particular regions.

To summarise, recent crime figures do not justify expanding police forces or giving them greater money and power.

Which Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg?

Poverty is thought to cause crime. But, as economist Roger M. Clites points out, criminality promotes poverty.

“Criminals do not only harm others. Perpetrators lose economically. Many of those accused of crimes are underage. It damages people in several ways,” Clites stated. “They may serve time in prison instead of acquiring work experience. In the future, a criminal record may bar them from getting a They form attitudes and practises that hinder workplace involvement. For these reasons, many offenders end themselves poor.”

This is why most people think that crime is terrible for both offenders and victims. But solving crime is difficult.

The police unions say the solution is simple: recruit more cops! A dearth of officers is possible in some departments, but there are better remedies than just employing more cops or launching a flashy new federal programme.

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What Do We Do From Here?

Adding money to the problem—or extending government control in any way—is not the answer. Our criminal justice system already costs us between $81 and $180 billion annually. And we spend money on things that don’t work, like solving or preventing violent crimes.

Some of the remedies for a safer community are evident. One way is to minimise the number of laws. Prevent violent and victimless crimes. Stop providing them reasons to focus on foolish programmes like the War on Drugs. We need to remove incentives like civil asset forfeiture that encourage cops to track down small offenders to steal their money. Instead, cops should be like the fire department: respond only when called, and then focus on putting out the fire.

Ensuring that children, particularly those in high-risk neighbourhoods, have the education and support they need to remain out of trouble is another priority.

That individuals who are not dangers be not forced into a life of crime by a judicial system that strips them of their livelihood before they are even convicted.

We also need to improve policing openness and accountability. Continuing to hold communities hostage for salary raises and a pat on the back is reprehensible. Statistically, they are paid more when the rate of violence lowers and they are doing their tasks well.

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