The two most commonly cited sources of crime statistics in the U.S. both show a substantial decline in the violent crime rate since it peaked in the early 1990s. One is an annual report by the FBI of serious crimes reported to police in approximately 18,000 jurisdictions around the country. The other is an annual survey of more than 90,000 households conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which asks Americans ages 12 and older whether they were victims of crime, regardless of whether they reported those crimes to the police.
Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 48% between 1993 and 2016. Using the BJS data, the rate fell 74% during that span. (For both studies, 2016 is the most recent full year of data.) It’s important to note that the FBI reported a 7% increase in the violent crime rate between 2014 and 2016, including a 20% rise in the murder rate —from 4.4 to 5.3 murders per 100,000 residents. The BJS figures do not show an increase in the violent crime rate between 2014 and 2016, but they do not count murders. The BJS figures for 2016 also reflect a survey redesign, making it difficult to compare directly to prior years.
Opinion surveys regularly find that Americans believe crime is up nationally, even when the data show it is down. In 17 Gallup surveys conducted since 1993, at least six-in-ten Americans said there was more crime in the U.S.compared with the year before, despite the generally downward trend in national violent and property crime rates during much of that period.