As midterm elections approach in the United States, one of the key issues Republicans have been keen to focus on is violent crime, which has been generally going down in the US since the 1990s.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that violent crime fell nationwide in the period from 1990 to 2021.
Violent crime reached a peak of 1.93 million crimes in 1992, but has since recorded a record low of 1.15 million violent crimes in 2014.
After years of decline, crime—particularly violent crime—rose during the Covid-19 pandemic, when President Donald Trump was in the White House.
Using available data, the Republican Party is responsible for creating the problem but its candidates seem like the only ones talking about recent trends in crime and violence.
According to incomplete data released by the FBI, violent crime fell by an estimated 1% in 2021 compared with the previous year. However, the number of murders increased by more than 4%.
Between 1991 and 2014, the national murder rate plummeted by more than 50 percent, from 9.8 to 4.4 killings per 100,000 people.
By comparison, the murder rate for 2020 stood at around 6.5 — a rate last seen in the late 1990s but still well below the high point of the last quarter century.
The fall in violent crime was largely driven by a drop of nearly 9% in the robbery rate over that period.
There are questions about the reliability of the FBI’s crime report as it excluded data from some of the biggest US cities, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
It’s important to point out that last year, the FBI switched to a new data collection system.
According to one analysis, nearly 40% of law enforcement agencies have failed to report their 2021 crime figures – so we may only have a partial picture of the most recent crime rates.
Crime rates changed dramatically across the United States in 2020. Most significantly, the murder rate — that is, the number of murders per 100,000 people — rose sharply, by nearly 30 percent.
Assaults increased as well, with the rate of offenses rising by more than 10 percent.
Both increases are part of a broader surge in gun violence. More than 75 percent of murders in 2020 were committed with a firearm, reaching a new high point, and cities that report data on shooting incidents, like New York, saw significant increases in this form of violence as well.
More than nine months into 2022, national-level data on crime in 2021 remains unavailable. This is due in part to a transition in the way the government collects crime data. Indeed, because of this transition, reliable government data on crime trends in 2021 may never be available for some states and even many large cities.
It is worth noting that the historic drop in crime rates started around 1989, when unwanted children who were not born because the landmark Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision made safe and legal abortion an option for all American women would have been turning 16 years old, the age at which most criminals become active.
The conservative Supreme Court’s Roe vs Wade reversal—a longtime goal of the Republicans—will probably usher in a period of rising crime some 16 years in the future.
Also, while the GOP has a lot to say about crime, the Republicans have no prescription for solving the problem. Democrats have increased the number of law enforcement officers since the 1990s but budget-cutting conservatives have advocated police layoffs and other cuts in their austerity agenda.
Longer sentences and mandatory penalties have failed to reduce crime, according to every measure of the problem, and surveillance systems that diminish privacy have been ineffectual at helping authorities catch more crooks.
In fact, the vast majority of crimes reported to police remain unsolved year after year.
“In 2018, the rate of arrest for serious felony crimes reported to police was about 22%. But because twice as many crimes happen as the police find out about it, the arrest rate for all crimes that happened was half what police reported – just 11%,” said Shima Baughman, a professor of criminal law at the University of Utah whose review of 50 years of national crime data confirms that, police don’t solve most serious crimes in America.
Republicans are not proposing anything that will solve more crimes, and result in more criminals getting caught, which is the only true deterrent.
Deadly school gun violence in America in now a regular occurrence—with incidents only becoming more frequent and deadlier—but this is another issue where Republicans are bankrupt.
Almost none of the Republican elected officials in the US are willing to take a position in favor of eliminating the easy access to firearms that makes America unique in the world. Until the country finds a way to prevent gun from getting into the hands of unstable and evil people, shootings will remain a problem.
From the first day of his campaign, Donald Trump sounded the alarm about crime in the United States. He vowed to end “American carnage” in his inaugural address in 2017. After he lost his bid for a second term on a platform of “law and order” Trump’s presidency inspired some of the worst sedition and rioting the nation ever witnessed.
Crime rates surged and the effectiveness of the entire justice system is being called into question as such prominent Republicans as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene say they want to abolish the FBI.
As long as voters keep punishing Democratic officials who fail to clean up problems fast enough, the Republican contenders who create them will continue to have a chance of getting the opportunity to make newer and bigger catastrophes.