October-November, 2020

Study on U.S. Crime Rates

A recent analysis of crimes in the U.S. by The Pew Research Center, utilizing data from the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), shows that between 1993 and 2019 there has been a significant decrease in overall crime. The FBI data stems from reporting by law enforcement agencies and the BJS data from large-scale annual surveys. Both methodologies show that from record-high crime-rates in the 1990s, there have been decreases in violent crime between 1993 and 2019 either by 49% (FBI) or 74% (BJS); more specifically, there was a decrease in robbery of 68%, a decrease in murder/non-negligent homicide of 47%, and a decrease in aggravated assault of 43%)(FBI data for rape crimes was not included due to change of definition in 2013). Property crimes decreased in that period by 55% (FBI) or 74% (BJS).

Most crimes, both violent and property, are not reported to police. Property crimes are the most-reported type of crime. The BJS found that in 2019 40.9% of violent crimes were reported and 32.5% of household property crimes were reported. Auto-theft crimes, however, were the most-reported, with about 79.5% of those cases being reported. Of the violent crimes, aggravated assault was the most commonly reported offense (52.1%), 46.6% of robberies were reported, 37.9% of simple assaults, and 33.9% of rapes. The study found that people might not report a crime for a variety of reasons, including not wanting to get the “offender in trouble” or thoughts that the police would not do anything or fears of reprisal. The study found that most crimes that are reported are not solved. For example, the FBI data show that, nationwide, the “clearance rate” of cases was about 45.5% for violent crimes and about 17.2% for property crimes. The percentages of crimes reported and the percentages of cases cleared have “remained relatively stable for decades.” Homicides are the most likely type of violent crime to be solved or cleared (61.4%), with lower clearance rates for aggravated assault (52.3%), rape (32.9%), and robbery (30.5%).

The study found that public perception of crime rates contrasts with the actual crime rates. For example, since 1993 Gallup has conducted polls on perception of crime; there were 24 polls containing a question about rising crime in the U.S., and 23 polls asking about rising crime in the participant’s local area. Sixty percent of those polled – in 20 of the 24 polls – since 1993 indicated that crime was rising in the U.S. However, in none of the 23 polls about local crime did the responses that crime was rising locally exceed one-half of the responses. The most recent poll showed the widest divergence between perceptions of national and local rising crime rates in Gallup’s history, with 78% of the responses indicating that crime was rising in the U.S. but only 38% of the responses indicating a rise in crime locally.

Sources:  John Gramlich, “What the data says (and doesn’t say) about crime in the United States,“ pewresearch.org, November 20, 2020: 

Survey Asked Incarcerated People About

Researchers from The Marshall Project began surveys with incarcerated people in March 2020, addressing political views and, in the second survey, ideas about defunding the police, the Black Lives Matter movement, and about things that might have prevented their becoming incarcerated. The questionnaires were sent to 2,392 inmates – most of whom were in prisons, with 42% in jails – in 12 states; 20% of the respondents were Black, 50% White, and 30% were either Native, Asian, Latino, or of mixed heritage.

Over one-third of the respondents, when asked “what might have prevented them from committing the crimes that landed them behind bars,” responded with factors including access to mental health care and healthcare, affordable housing, better education, and a living wage job. Women were more likely than men (47% to 34%) to offer affordable housing as something that would have made a difference in their lives. Data shows that housing is also a key factor in success after release. One inmate in jail in California said that he was released early from jail, without any advance notice, due to over-crowding, but the bed for him at a treatment facility was not then available. He responded to the survey saying he “was doomed before [he] hit the gates. Just a roof over the head could’ve saved me, the rest would work itself out if you have the safety of shelter.”

In responding to a question about Black Lives Matter, 78% of Black respondents held a favorable view of the movement, but only 28% of the White respondents. Those percentages are higher than those found in a polling of adults in the general public, where 62% of Black adults and 22% of White adults strongly supported the movement.

About 90% of Black male respondents and about 75% of White male respondents were in favor of diverting funds from police to other services, including mental health and after-school programs.

Source:  Nicole Lewis, Anna Flagg, and Aviva Shen, ”What 2,392 People Think About #DefundThePolice,” themarshallproject.org, October 27, 2020: 

Coronavirus in Michigan Prisons

A recent analysis by The Marshall Project found that, as of the week of November 17, 2020, Michigan prisons had reported 9,763 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 75 deaths, and 5,253 recoveries. The rates are much higher than the rates in Michigan overall: for example, for the known cases, there are 2,825 per 10,000 prisoners, a rate that is 850% than in Michigan overall; the known deaths are 22 per 10,000 prisoners, a rate 155% higher than in the Michigan general population. The prison staff is not spared. In Michigan, there have been 1,468 confirmed cases of the virus, 705 recoveries, and 3 deaths of MDOC staff. The staff known cases are 1,227 per 10,000 staff, which is 313% higher than in Michigan overall. The known deaths are 2.5 per 10,000 staff, which is 71% lower than in Michigan overall.

Sources:  The Marshall Project, Katie Park and Tom Meagher, “A State-by-State Look at Coronavirus in Prisons,” marshallproject.org, November 20, 2020:

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor