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Violent Crime Edges Downward

Crime, murder and mass shootings have dominated headlines Over the weekend, a shooting in Cincinnati wounded nine people, and another in Detroit killed one and wounded four.

Overall crime data tells a different story. Nationwide, shootings are down four percent this year compared to the same time last year. In big cities, murders are down three percent.

If the decrease in murders continues for the rest of 2022, it will be the first year since 2018 in which they fell in the U.S., reports the New York Times

The declines are small but welcome news after two years of large increases left the murder total nearly 40 percent higher than it had been.

“I would say I have a heavily guarded optimism,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Still, the murder rate “is still significantly higher than it was two or three years ago,” said Jeff Asher, co-founder of AH Datalytics, which tracks U.S. crime data and is the source of the newest city-by-city numbers.

The likely causes of the spike in murders in 2020 and 2021 are receding. Disruptions related to COVID probably led to more murders and shootings by shutting down social services, which had kept people safe, and closing schools, which left many teens idle.

The aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 also likely caused more violence, straining police-community relations and diminishing the effectiveness of law enforcement.

A similar trend played out before: After protests over policing erupted between 2014 and 2016, murders increased for two years and then fell.

An analysis by Bloomberg found that headlines about shootings in New York City increased while the actual number of shootings remained relatively flat.

The constant stream of bad news is one reason Americans consistently say crime is getting worse when it is not. Between the 1990s and 2014, violent crime fell more than 50 percent across the U.S. For most of that time, a majority of Americans told Gallup that crime was up compared to the year before.

The media's bad news bias potentially leaves people more scared for their safety than they should be. It also may drive more people to believe that punitive criminal justice policies are needed, or that reforms are increasing crime when they are not.

Former President Trump last month Donald Trump recounted several murders in grisly detail and called for “tough,” “nasty” and “mean” anti-crime policies.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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