Violent crime is not on the rise nationally and in fact remains at historically low levels, a Department of Justice report released today says.
The DOJ's annual Crime Victimization Survey found that violent crime rates (defined by the department as rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault) have not changed between 2014 and 2015. Since 1993, when the annual report was first released, those rates have dropped from 79.8 victimizations per 1,000 people to 8.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons. That's almost a 76% drop in the rate of violent crimes experienced by people over the age of 12:
"There were no statistically significant differences in the rates of violence across any of the four regions (Northeast, West, South, Midwest) in 2015," the report reads. It also found that in 2015 less than 1% of people over the age of 12 reported having been the victim of a violent crime.
“Americans are safer today than at almost any other time in modern history. As expected, the National Crime Victimization Survey confirms our nation’s historic, steady, and stable crime decline,” said Ronald Sullivan, Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, in a statement following the report's release.
While at first glance those numbers might seem to contradict a recent FBI report that found a slight increase in violent crimes, criminal justice experts said that rise was not statistically significant–and that it still leaves us well below the peak crime levels of the 1980s, '90s and early 2000s.
"Crime is something that is very hard to measure well, and the two studies estimate it in different ways using different sources; it's not a question of which one is 'better,' but rather what they suggest when viewed together," said John Pfaff, professor of law at Fordham Law School, emphasizing that it's important to not create criminal justice policies based on an artificial panic about crime rates. "Which means that the NCVS results do not necessarily mean the UCR ones are 'wrong' (or vice versa), but they certainly provide yet another reason to view claims that crime is clearly rising with caution, and to make sure we do not over-react in response."
The reports also differ because the FBI's data is gathered through self-reporting from police departments, based on crimes reported to law enforcement. The Department of Justice's report is put together using information from a representative survey of U.S. households, including both crimes reported to law enforcement and those that weren't. The DOJ report also excludes fatal crimes like murder, which is included in the FBI report.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said that America's cities are “rife with crime,” “reaching record levels.” While homicide rates in some of the nation's largest cities rose between 2014 and 2015, some of those rates are already falling again, Pfaff told Fusion last month.