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With Reliable Data Lacking, Crime Rise Of 2020-21 May Be Reversing

Murder and violent crime in the U.S. rose sharply in 2020 and 2021, though some trends may have begun to reverse last year. The extent of data remains much sparser than policymakers and the public would prefer, frustrating people's ability to understand the developments, says the Brennan Center for Justice in a new analysis.


Murder and gun violence now appear to be declining. The trend began to slow in 2021 and last year, murder and shootings appear to have .


Other types of crimes continued rising last year. Citing a Council on Criminal Justice study, Brennan says that while assaults dropped last year, robberies and motor vehicle theft rose. Data from New York City similarly shows a a major decline in murders and shootings, accompanied by a rise in other types of crime, including robberies.


Attempts to blame bail reform for rising crime "vastly overstate the evidence," Brennan says.


Rsearch shows that bail reform, which makes it easier for people to remain out of custody while awaiting trial, was not a significant driver of post-2019 increases in crime. One recent study found that “neither violent nor nonviolent crimes or charges increased markedly immediately after jurisdictions implemented bail reform,” and any increases were likely offset by the reductions in the “adverse effects of pretrial detention.”

An analysis, focusing on New York City showed that eliminating bail increased rearrest rates in cases where the defendant had a recent violent arrest or open case, but that is a small proportion of cases. The study suggested that eliminating bail for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies actually reuced drearrest rates.

Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show that the average “time to crime” — the time from when a gun was lawfully purchased to its recovery at a crime scene — was much shorter in 2021 than in previous years.

The FBI’s annual crime data on 2021 relied heavily on estimates due to a change in the way crimes are reported to the bureau.

While 2022’s data will likely be better, it too may fall short of the level of certainty that the public expects and rigorous research requires, Brennan says. "Until we have more reliable data, our understanding of national crime trends remains incomplete — though data from cities and states generally remains reliable," the center says.

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