Crime Rates in the US: A Reality Check


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An NBC News report challenges the prevalent belief among Americans that crime rates in the United States are soaring, citing FBI statistics that indicate a decline in crime across the nation. According to NBC News reporter Ken Dilanian, 77% of Americans holding the belief that crime is escalating might be influented by social media and news coverage, creating a perception that contradicts factual data.

Dilanian references FBI data, highlighting a significant decrease in crime over the past year. He cites criminologist Jeff Asher, who notes an 8% drop in national crime rates during the third quarter of 2023 compared to previous years. Property crime also fell by 6.3%, reaching its lowest level since 1961.

Despite these statistics, the prevailing perception among most Americans remains at odds with the reality of declining crime rates. Dilanian points to a recent Gallup poll, indicating that a staggering 77% of Americans believe crime rates are on the rise, a sentiment shared across political affiliations.

Asher suggests that that media coverage of crime incidents contributes significantly to this disparity, attributing it to the overwhelming volume of news stories and viral videos, alongside the probable influence of social media.

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.

Addressing concerns about rising retail theft, Dilanian emphasizes that data doesn’t necessarily support the notion of a skyrocketing trend. He also mentions the Justice Department’s 2022 survey, indicating that a substantial amount of crime remains unreported and noting an increase in reported violent crime instances.

Asher attributes much of the heightened concern about crime to media consumption and suggests a partisan aspect, citing that Republicans might be more inclined to belive crime is escalating, especially during a Democratic administration. However, he acknowledges that this perception is not exclusive to one political group.

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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