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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

October 19: About the Phantom 2022-23 “Crime Wave”

It’s always a good idea to compare political rhetoric to facts, so it’s important to be aware of the latest official crime statistics, as I noted at New York:

Anyone whose major information source is conservative media or the rhetorical stylings of Republican politicians probably believes the United States is in the grip of an unprecedented crime wave. Indeed, one of the standard GOP talking points against the investigation and prosecution of Donald Trump is that prosecutors should be devoting their resources to fighting out-of-control crime rather than pursuing the former president. But beyond that, an alleged unwillingness to fight crime is a central element of GOP attacks on Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. And as has been the case for many decades, crime-wave rhetoric has provided a pretext for conservative politicians and pundits to engage in thinly veiled racist commentary on the dangerous nature of the Black and Latino citizenry in various urban areas.

The latest official crime statistics for 2022 (the most recent full year for which numbers are available), released this week by the FBI, poke a major hole in the premise of crime-wave talk:

“The FBI’s crime statistics estimates for 2022 show that national violent crime decreased an estimated 1.7% in 2022 compared to 2021 estimates:

“Murder and non-negligent manslaughter recorded a 2022 estimated nationwide decrease of 6.1% compared to the previous year.

“In 2022, the estimated number of offenses in the revised rape category saw an estimated 5.4% decrease.

“Aggravated assault in 2022 decreased an estimated 1.1% in 2022.”

Violent crime, and particularly the homicides that understandably get so much attention, are even lower if viewed in any sort of historical context, as Popular Information explains:

“Since 1991, the rate of murder has dropped 36%….

“The rate of violent crime is the lowest it has been since 2014, and is nearly half of what it was in 1991 and 1992.”

This downward trend, experts say, is expected to continue in 2023. According to crime data from the first half of the year, there is “strong evidence of a sharp and broad decline in the nation’s murder rate,” crime analyst Jeff Asher reports. Asher finds that preliminary data indicates that the nation is witnessing the “largest annual percent changes in murder ever recorded.”

Yes, property crime were up 7 percent in 2022, but as Popular Information also notes, it was mostly owing to what should be a temporary spike in certain auto thefts:

“The rise in auto thefts is likely due to a recent trend on social media platforms, including TikTok, that teaches viewers how to steal certain models of Kias and Hyundais.

“According to Axios, the videos show people how to “break windows and remove parts of the steering column cover, then start the vehicle with a screwdriver, or a plugin from a USB device.” The viral videos take advantage of Hyundai Motors’ decision “not to install a theft prevention mechanism called an immobilizer in certain makes and models” of Kias and Hyundais since model year 2011. The craze developed into a “Kia Challenge,” which involves creating social media content about successful car thefts.”

In its report on the phenomenon, Axios notes that “Kia and Hyundai both released new ‘theft deterrent software’ for more than 8 million vehicles in response to the trend.” So it may not last. And more to the point, crime analyst Jeff Asher observes, it’s not like we are in some historic property “crime wave” either: “The property crime rate in the US has fallen an astounding 61 percent since 1991.”

All in all, GOP fearmongering about crime parallels the party’s inflation alarms based on selective and outdated numbers. It can be effective, unfortunately; during 2022, Gallup found that 78 percent of Americans thought crime was higher nationally than in 2021. Turns out it just wasn’t true.


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