Fewer Crimes Reported

















A bright ray of sunlight shone in May when “Crime in the United States,” a preliminary annual report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was released for 2009. A series of tables show a continuing downward trend in the overall number of crimes reported across the nation for the third straight year in a row. This happy result seems particularly surprising given the severity of the economic recession and the stresses and criminal behavior ordinarily associated with prolonged high unemployment and home foreclosures. The number of violent crimes (like rape, murder and aggravated assault) declined by 5.5 percent in comparison with 2008, a statistically significant drop, and fell in both cities and rural areas. In fact, cities with more than a million people saw their violent crime rate fall by 6.9 percent, higher than the national average. There was one exception to the dropping crime rates, however: the number of murders reported in small cities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000. There the murder rate rose by 5.3 percent.
According to the report, property crimes also decreased by 4.9 percent overall. But in cities with more than a million inhabitants, property crimes fell by 7.9 percent. Motor vehicle thefts fell by the widest single margin: 17.2 percent. And even the rate of arson fell across the country by 10.4 percent.

The F.B.I. report is purely statistical and makes no attempt to explain why reported crimes are down. Until sociologists or others begin to explain the reasons, Americans ought to feel good about the falling crime rates during this tense time in our national history. Does anyone have information (not just idle speculation—there’s too much of that going around already) about WHY we are experiencing a decline in crime? I’d love to learn.

Karen Sue Smith


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Kate Smith
7 years 11 months ago
Karen, this blog post was very interesting!  Thank you for writing it.
In my area of NY, I was able to document something, from the persepctive of a lawyer, of course, not a statistician.
In the year before an election, police officers are given orders to take investigatory reports, not incident reports when they respond to most crime.  Investigatory reports are not included in statistics given to the state office that collects stats and then gives them to the FBI.  In NY, incident reports are counted. 
I heard this from officers, saw it in action too, but I also heard it from an insurance company which became very familiar with the problem of getting accurate reports to support claims.
I'd love to see a statistician compare crime rates and election calendars.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
Criminals - those who commit crimes - come from all economic classes.  Poor people are just the ones who get caught/blamed/locked up.
There are a heck of a lot more poor people in our prisons than people with means.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
P.S.  Sometimes breaking the law and committing crimes has absolutely nothing to do with morality.  Sometimes the laws themselves are immoral.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
Maybe this is too much to ask, but could we also consider a reprieve from the terribly harsh sentencing (LWOP - Life Without Parole) that so many have been asked to carry for relatively minor crimes?
Michael Cremin
7 years 11 months ago
It's entirely likely that part of why crime is going down is due to long incarcerations, and more strict sentencing. Likewise, police work has become much more scientific, which helps to catch and prosecute more criminals, keeping them off of the street.
Since my first sociology course in high school, I was taught that poverty is the main reason for crime. Now, with poverty at a very high level, crime is actually decreasing. I wonder what the sociologist will make of it?
7 years 11 months ago
Poverty does not cause crime (as Michael rightly observes).

The lack of morality causes crime. One does not lack or lose his/her morals merely because one is poor. Surely the number of impoverished people who do not commit crimes dwarfs the number of impoverished people who commit crimes; just as the number of wealthy criminals are dwarfed by the number of wealthy law-abiding people. The commission of a crime is an act of free will, perhaps tinged by a comparative lack of money (at any income level), not an inevitable act caused by poverty.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Chilean clerical sex abuse survivors Juan Carlos Cruz and James Hamilton attend a news conference at the Foreign Press Association building in Rome May 2. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
“I saw someone who was caring for someone, not worrying about if we are gay, straight, brown, white.”
The Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry, primate of the Episcopal Church, speaks during the wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, near London, England, Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Owen Humphreys/pool photo via AP)
Fabricated and impersonal, too many Catholic preachers hide themselves, forgetting that personality matters in preaching,
In this image made from video, Archbishop Philip Wilson, center, heads to Newcastle Local Court, north of Sydney, Australia Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)
Philip Wilson was found guilty of failing to inform police about allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by a priest in the 1970s.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 22, 2018
The Holy Spirit might be the forgotten person of the Holy Trinity.
James Martin, S.J.May 21, 2018