For the past several years there’s been something of a mixed message coming from the nation’s law enforcement agencies. Even as we’ve seen murder rates and incidents of other violent crimes going up in a number of major cities (not including New York and Los Angeles, by the way), the message was always tempered. These were localized problem areas and the overall crime rate remained at least stable, if not slightly decreasing across the entire country. In fact, we were still at nearly historic lows, compared to the bad old days of the early to mid-90s.
Now that’s changed. Up until this point the most recent data we had to draw on was from 2015, but this week the FBI released their full statistics for 2016. The news is bad across the board in terms of the worst offenders. Murder, assault and rape were all ticking upward once again. As the Free Beacon reported yesterday, if these are the signs of the time, the signs are poor indeed.
Murder and violent crime rates increased significantly in 2016, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation records released on Tuesday.
The agency’s Crime in the United States report shows an increase of 3.4 percent in the violent crime rate from last year and a 8.2 percent increase in the murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate. It shows the violent crime rate, at 386.3 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants, is the highest since 2012. The murder rate, at 5.3 per 100,000, is the highest it has been since 2008. The same is true for rape with 29.6 per 100,000. The aggravated assault rate, at 248.5 per 100,000, is the worst it has been since 2010.
The good news, if there’s any to be had, is that some categories of property crime are way down. Burglary and larceny are at all time lows. Automobile thefts are up slightly but are still barely half of what they were in 1997.
One thing to keep in mind is that these are total numbers, so while they technically qualify as a national trend, it’s not an indication that things are getting significantly worse everywhere. The lion’s share of the problem is still to be found in the same dozen or so major cities, with crime in rural and suburban areas not seeing the same type of spike. The reason that the numbers have turned upward for the entire nation is that those same cities are doing so much worse that it’s bending the curve for the entire country.
There’s one aspect of the report which demonstrates a trend which has been in place for a very long time and that’s the choice of weapons used by violent criminals. I first discussed this phenomenon when I wrote The Truth About Gun Deaths in October of 2014. Take a quick look at the Expanded Homicide Data Table 4 where they lay out the weapons used in killings in 2016. The breakdown of weapon types isn’t significantly changed from the 2011-2013 figures.
As usual, the weapon of choice is the handgun, accounting for 7,105 of the 15,070 murders recorded. But what about those “assault rifles” we keep hearing about? Specific weapon types aren’t broken down to that degree, but the total number of rifles of all types (including hunting rifles, bolt action, pump action, single shot, etc.) comes in at 374. That’s 2.4 percent of all murders. You know what’s used more commonly than rifles to kill people? Knives (1,604), blunt objects (472) and bare hands or fists (656).
In any event, we have to do better. The President has pledged to operate a Law and Order Presidency and help out our police in getting a handle on crime, particularly in the cities. One year from now we’ll get the first indication as to whether or not these efforts are paying dividends.