Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses the politics of economic policy and crime. On these issues, Biden does not have messaging problems. He has reality problems.
On Oct. 16, the FBI released data for 2022 that showed a small drop in the nation’s violent crime rate, including homicide. That’s good news.
Unfortunately, the government’s other crime measurement system — the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) — tells a disturbingly different story. Its findings, released in September, show that violent crime victimization rose — by a lot.
One reason might be that fewer violent crimes were reported to the police in 2022 than in 2021. We don’t know why this might have been, but increasing police response times stemming from depleted officer ranks might have made some residents less inclined to file reports. Declining trust in or increasing fear of the police might have played a role as well.
Other reasons for the discrepancy might result from the different populations covered by the two data sources. As a household-based survey, the NCVS does not include people who are homeless or those in institutions such as prisons, jails and nursing homes. It also excludes crimes of violence against those younger than 12. If people included in the survey experienced changes in violence that differ from the changes experienced by those excluded from the survey, that could help account for the different violence rates.
Sixty-three percent of Americans describe the crime problem in the U.S. as either extremely or very serious, up from 54% when last measured in 2021 and the highest in Gallup’s trend. The prior high of 60% was recorded in the initial 2000 reading, as well as in 2010 and 2016.
Meanwhile, far fewer, 17%, say the crime problem in their local area is extremely or very serious, but this is also up from 2021 and the highest in the trend by one point over 2014’s 16%
More than three-quarters of Americans, 77%, believe there is more crime in the U.S. than a year ago, and a majority, 55%, say the same about crime in their local area.
Both figures are similar to what Gallup measured last year and rank among the most pessimistic readings in the respective trends. Gallup has asked Americans about the direction of local crime since 1972 and national crime since 1989. The high point in perceptions of increased local crime is the 56% registered last year, while the record high for national crime is 89% in 1992. Ratings of increased local crime were about as high as the current ratings in 1981 (54%) and 1992 (54%).
Forty percent of Americans, the most in three decades, say they would be afraid to walk alone at night within a mile of their home. This indicator of crime fears last reached this level in 1993, when, during one of the worst crime waves in U.S. history, 43% said they would be afraid. Between that year and 2021, an average of 35% of adults have feared for their safety within a mile of home, with the annual results ranging between 29% and 39%.