Vi­o­lent crime rises in U.S. af­ter years of de­clin­ing

FBI num­bers still near record lows

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY AN­DREA NOBLE

The num­ber of vi­o­lent crimes com­mit­ted across the U.S. rose by 4 per­cent last year, and homi­cides in­creased even faster, by 11 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to FBI crime data re­leased Mon­day that re­versed years of de­clin­ing may­hem.

De­spite the uptick, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said the crime rate re­mains at near-record lows, with the data show­ing that vi­o­lent crime is down 16.5 per­cent com­pared with a decade ago.

Law en­force­ment agen­cies re­ported more than 1.1 mil­lion vi­o­lent crimes last year, in­clud­ing 15,696 homi­cides. Prop­erty crime, which has de­creased more than 20 per­cent over the past 10 years, dropped another 2.6 per­cent.

The FBI re­leased the data just hours be­fore the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate between Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump and Demo­crat Hil­lary Clinton.

Crime has sur­faced as a cam­paign is­sue, with Mr. Trump cast­ing him­self as the “law and or­der can­di­date” and promis­ing to fight crime by pro­vid­ing fur­ther sup­port for po­lice. Mrs. Clinton has pushed for stricter gun con­trol laws and called for na­tional guide­lines on of­fi­cers’ use of force.

While crim­i­nol­o­gists ex­pected the FBI’s uni­form crime re­port num­bers to get play dur­ing Mon­day’s de­bate, they said it was dif­fi­cult to draw con­clu­sions about a trend from a sin­gle-year fluc­tu­a­tion.

Crime upticks from 2004 to 2006 gen­er­ated sim­i­lar con­cern af­ter a decade of de­clines, said Jef­frey Butts, di­rec­tor of the Re­search and Eval­u­a­tion Cen­ter at John Jay Col­lege.

“Every­one started to panic, there was all sorts of spec­u­la­tion, and then it started back down again in 2007 and 2008, and it just plum­meted from there,” Mr. Butts said of the over­all de­cline in crime rates. “On a year-by-year ba­sis, you can’t over­re­act or over-in­fer.”

The White House touted the sta­tis­tics as “near his­toric lows” that were fa­vor­able to Pres­i­dent Obama.

“The num­bers in­di­cate that since Pres­i­dent Obama took of­fice, the vi­o­lent crime rate has fallen 15 per­cent,” said White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest. “The coun­try is safer, as mea­sured by the vi­o­lent crime rate, than it was in any year un­der the pre­vi­ous four pres­i­dents.”

In re­cent days, the White House has down­played Mr. Obama’s abil­ity to limit protests in ma­jor cities, which have some­times turned vi­o­lent over po­lice shoot­ings of mi­nori­ties, say­ing polic­ing is a lo­cal mat­ter. But the White House said Mr. Obama is proud of his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s role in keep­ing crime rates lower com­pared with pre­vi­ous decades.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta E. Lynch said Mon­day morn­ing dur­ing a speech in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, that the vi­o­lent crime uptick shows law en­force­ment agen­cies still have work to do.

“But the re­port also re­minds us of the progress that we are mak­ing. It shows that in many com­mu­ni­ties, crime has re­mained sta­ble or even de­creased from the his­toric lows re­ported in 2014,” she said. “And it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that while crime did in­crease over­all last year, 2015 still rep­re­sented the third-low­est year for vi­o­lent crime in the past two decades.”

An anal­y­sis of crime data in 30 cities, re­leased last week by the Bren­nan Cen­ter, found that a 14 per­cent in­crease in homi­cides in 2015 was driven pri­mar­ily by upticks in three cities: Chicago, Bal­ti­more and the Dis­trict of Columbia. But ex­am­in­ing avail­able data from this year, the re­port in­di­cates that homi­cides are con­tin­u­ing at the same high pace only in Chicago.

“A few cities are see­ing mur­ders in­crease, caus­ing the na­tional mur­der rate to rise,” the re­port states. “In Chicago, mur­der is pro­jected to rise sig­nif­i­cantly, while crime rates fluc­tu­ate un­evenly in the rest of the coun­try. These lo­cal chal­lenges call for close at­ten­tion. But there is not a na­tion­wide crime wave, or ris­ing vi­o­lence across Amer­i­can cities.”

The FBI col­lects uni­form crime data an­nu­ally from more than 18,000 law en­force­ment agen­cies across the coun­try.

It also pro­vides in­sight into how many crimes are solved and the num­ber of ar­rests from po­lice de­part­ments.

De­spite the di­ver­gent trends in vi­o­lent and prop­erty crime last year, clear­ance rates for both cat­e­gories dropped.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The num­ber of homi­cides in­creased by 11 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to FBI crime data, re­vers­ing years of de­clin­ing may­hem.

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