Paradox: Crime Rates Down, Public Thinks Problem is Worse

Why do many Americans think crime rates are rising when official data show the opposite? Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox says, “What matters is you can turn on a television set and see plenty of crime. We are saturated with crime.”

Once crime-filled Zone 6 precinct has become the Atlanta’s most peaceful corner  when it comes to theft and violent crime. That’s partly due to an influx of wealthier residents, more effective police crime-fighting strategies, improving schools, and a blossoming local economy, the Christian Science Monitor reports.  Overall, Americans became 62 percent less likely to become the victim of a violent crime between 1993 and 2014. So far, so far, 2017 is on track to have the second-lowest violent crime rate of any year since 1990, says the Brennan Center for Justice. Still, surveys find many Americans convinced that a general crime threat against law-abiding Americans is rising. That sentiment has at times found an outlet in President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who together have painted scenes of worsening urban “war zones.”

“The reason people so easily embrace this idea that things are bad out there … is because there is a level of discord. If we were all getting along and not distrusting our neighbor, we wouldn’t be so easily persuaded by a short-term spike in crime into thinking that the sky is falling,” says Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox in Boston. Instead, “it doesn’t matter that the homicide rate is half of what it was 25 years ago – those are just numbers,” he says. “What matters is you can turn on a television set and see plenty of crime. We are saturated with crime.” Some of the concern about threats in rural Trump country may be justified, though perhaps the object of their concern is misplaced. A 2013 Annals of Emergency Medicine study found that the personal risk of injury death – including violent crime and accidents – is more than 20 percent higher in the countryside than it is in large urban areas. In other words, while homicide risks remain higher in cities, people are safer in cities than in rural areas when accidents are also factored in.