People Think Crime Is Going Up, But It’s the Opposite

People Think Crime Is Going Up But It’s the Opposite

It can be tough to put things into perspective when violent crimes dominate news headlines.

According to the Pew Research Center, the public perception of crime rates in the U.S. is dramatically different than the reality. Crime has dropped by double digits since 2008, however, most people believe crime is actually getting worse. Here are some eye-opening statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program:


  • Violent crimes have fallen by 19 percent since 2008.
  • Property crimes have dropped 23 percent since 2008.
  • The number of violent crimes per 1,000 people has decreased from 80 per 1,000 in 1993 to fewer than 20 per 1,000 in 2015.
  • Violent crimes have plummeted by 77 percent since their peak in 1993.
  • Property crimes have dropped 69 percent since 1993.

However, the average American believes crime rates are on the rise. Researchers say there are several explanations for the discrepancy between perception and reality.

Violent Crimes in Major Cities

One reason for the gap between perception and reality is that violent crimes have increased in big cities like Chicago. An analysis performed by the Brennan Center for Justice estimates that violent crime rates over the past year have risen by six percent in the country’s 30 biggest cities. Because these crimes receive significant media attention, people in other parts of the country may be inclined to believe that crime rates are going up everywhere.

Delayed Reporting of Crime Statistics

Another possible explanation for the public’s skewed perception of national crime rates is a lag in the reporting of crime statistics. For example, both the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics delayed publishing their crime data reports for 2015 until the fall of 2016, meaning the most recent statistics aren’t an accurate reflection of the current state of crime in the U.S.

People Are Naturally Inclined to Think Crime Is a Problem

Researchers also point out that people generally seem to think crime rates are much worse than they are. A Gallup poll taken every year since 1989 reveals that people almost always believe crime rates are on the rise. In 21 out of 22 years, a larger share of respondents said crime rates were increasing.

Gallup has also conducted yearly surveys regarding local crimes since 1972. In all but six years since Gallup started conducting its surveys, a majority of respondents said crime rates were up in their local communities.

In an era of 24-hour news cycles and widespread social media exposing people to crimes from around the world, it’s easy to see why people tend to believe crime is a growing problem. It can be tough to put things into perspective when violent crimes dominate news headlines.

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SOURCE: Broden & Mickelsen, LLP

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.