August 03, 2020 at 06:09PM
Fears of a crime wave in America are overblown
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP claims that an “anti-police crusade” orchestrated by the American left has led to a “shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.” On July 22nd he announced he would send a surge of federal agents to police big cities. But the evidence that America is experiencing a serious crime wave is mixed at best. Although official national crime statistics may not arrive for another year, data from some two dozen big cities compiled by David Abrams of the University of Pennsylvania show that so far this year crime overall is actually down by around 10% compared with the same period in 2015-19 (see chart).
There are some important exceptions to this decline. Non-residential burglaries spiked in early June, coinciding with anti-racist protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd, when looting of retail stores was common. Domestic violence has also probably increased. Data are sparse because only a small fraction of victims report being abused, and because police departments can be slow to share what numbers they do have. Research by Emily Leslie and Riley Wilson of Brigham Young University finds that calls related to domestic violence from March to May rose by an average of 7.5% in 14 cities compared with the same period in the previous year.
Alarmingly, murder also seems to be on the rise. So far this year, homicides in big cities appear to be up by around 20% against the average for the same period in 2015-19. It is worth noting, however, that murder rates can vary a lot from year to year. One city which has seen a marked increase in violence in recent weeks is New York. Chris Herrmann of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a former analyst with the New York Police Department (NYPD), says this may be partly because many police officers who would normally patrol the outer boroughs have been redirected to Manhattan, where many of the protests are occurring. He also notes that covid-19 has forced jails and prisons to release inmates, including many convicted of, or awaiting trial for, violent offences.
Homicide rates tend to fall in September as the weather cools and teenagers head back to classrooms. But this year may be different. Many schools are unlikely to reopen. Courts have been shut, making it harder for prosecutors to stop gang violence. Michael LiPetri, chief of crime-control strategies at the NYPD, says the share of shootings involving gang members in his city has more than doubled since last year. And, as Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, points out, America’s covid-induced recession will take a serious toll on city finances, putting further pressure on the budgets of police departments.
Editor’s note: a longer version of this article was published in the US section of the print edition under the headline “Few signs of a surge”.
Author: | Post link: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/08/03/fears-of-a-crime-wave-in-america-are-overblown
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