A recent NBC News report questions the commonly held notion among Americans that crime rates in the US are rapidly increasing, citing FBI data that shows a decrease in crime across the country. According to NBC News reporter Ken Dilanian, a significant number of Americans (77%) who believe that crime is on the rise may be swayed by social media and news coverage, which can create a misperception that differs from the actual data.
According to FBI data, crime rates have notably decreased over the past year, as highlighted by Dilanian. Jeff Asher, a criminologist, points out a significant 8% drop in national crime rates during the third quarter of 2023, compared to previous years. Additionally, property crime has seen a substantial decline of 6.3%, reaching its lowest level since 1961.
The majority of Americans perceive crime rates as increasing, despite the fact that statistics show a downward trend. According to a recent Gallup poll, 77% of Americans believe that crime is on the rise, a belief that transcends political affiliations.
The prevalence of crime in the media, according to Asher, substantially contributes to the aforementioned disparity, with news stories and viral videos potentially exacerbating the issue, and social media likely playing a role in perpetuating this phenomenon.
The article also references the FBI's annual crime report for 2022, highlighting a decrease in violent crime back to pre-pandemic levels and a 6.1% drop in murder rates. Asher adds that while some cities like Memphis and Washington D.C. have seen increases in murder rates, they represent outliers rather than the norm.
Dilanian highlights the fact that data does not necessarily indicate a sharp increase in retail theft, despite concerns about the issue. He also references a Justice Department survey from 2022, which suggests that that a significant amount of crime goes unreported, and notes a rise in reported instances of violent crime.
Asher suggests that the alarm about crime may be fueled by the way news outlets present information and notes a potential political slant in how people perceive crime rates, with Republicans possibly being more likely to believe crime is on the rise during a Democratic administration. However, he recognizes that this phenomenon is not limited to one political affiliation.
Throughout 2023, there have been reports of ordinary Americans expressing apprehension about crime in major cities. Instances include government employees in San Francisco resorting to working from home to avoid potential crime incidents. Moreover, business owners in cities like Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Oakland have faced closures as customers avoid areas perceived as high-crime zones.
Major retailers, citing significant theft losses, have closed stores in various cities, with some businesses choosing to exit areas like San Francisco entirely.
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