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Crime Spike in 2011

The Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual survey of crime victimization, and the news is not good.  Violent crime (excluding homicide) is up 17% from 2010 to 2011, and property crime is up 11%.

These numbers are obtained from surveying a representative sample of people, as is done in public opinion polls, about crimes committed against them personally.  That is why it does not include homicide.  It provides a cross-check on the FBI's numbers of crimes reported to police, which suffers the defect of not including unreported crimes.  The BJS press release is here.

Page 7 of the report notes that the FBI's numbers did not increase much in the same period.  "Because the NCVS and UCR measure an overlapping, but not identical, set of offenses and use different methodologies, congruity between the estimates is not expected."  "Looking just at NCVS victimizations that were reported to police, the change in the number of overall violent and property crimes from 2010 to 2011 was not statistically significant."  Is crime up while people are reporting it less?  The percent reported in Table 8 shows some changes in reporting rates for all crimes, with the overall reporting rate down 4% for violent crime and 6% for property crime.  The reporting rate for rape shows a dramatic drop.  The drop is a matter of concern, but it does not account for the variance between the two crime measures by itself.

The good news is that violent crime remains 72% below the levels of 1993, when tough policies began to take hold.  Whether the 2011 increase is the result of the growth of soft policies (mislabeled "smart" by the people who have forgotten history and are trying to condemn us to repeat it) remains to be seen.

Update:  AP has this story on the report.  The story quotes James Alan Fox noting that the NCVS counts non-aggravated assaults that don't show up in the FBI numbers.  That is true.  See the third paragraph of the original post.  Looking at Table 2 of the report, we see that "violent crime" went up 17%, while "serious violent crime," a closer match to the FBI's violent crime index, went up 9%.  The difference in crimes included in the two indexes is a partial explanation, but probably not a complete one.

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