FBI data show sharp drop in violent crime but steepness is questioned

The Biden administration is taking credit for a sharp drop in violent crime though one expert says the declines are likely overstated

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Biden administration is taking credit for a sharp drop in violent crime nationwide earlier this year but one expert cautions that the declines in FBI data are preliminary and likely overstated.

The data show steep drops in every category of violent crime in every region in the first three months of 2024 compared to a year earlier, continuing a downward trend since a coronavirus pandemic surge.

Murder and rape were both down 26%, robbery was down 18%, and aggravated assault fell by 13% in the first quarter. Overall violent crime was down 15%, reflecting drops in every region, from 10% in the West to 19% in the Midwest, according to the FBI data released Monday.

Property crime meanwhile decreased by 15%, according to the data trumpeted by President Joe Biden in a statement.

“My administration is putting more cops on the beat, holding violent criminals accountable and getting illegal guns off the street — and we are doing it in partnership with communities. As a result, Americans are safer today than when I took office,” Biden said.

The declines were consistent with previous reports showing improvement since crime surged during the coronavirus pandemic. But a crime data analyst was skeptical the latest declines were quite so steep.

Violent crime almost certainly did fall earlier this year but the FBI almost certainly overstated by how much, Jeff Asher with the data consulting firm AH Datalytics wrote in an online post.

The preliminary data for 77% of the U.S. population is prone to reporting errors, which law enforcement agencies have months to correct before making final submissions, Asher noted.

The declining trend is likely correct but other data show different rates of declining violent crime by city and even a slight increase in violent crime in New York in the first three months of 2024, Asher wrote.

“I would urge strong caution into reading too much into the raw percent changes and focus on the overarching picture. Almost all crime data is imperfect and the quarterly data adds an important imperfect piece to the national crime trend jigsaw puzzle,” Asher wrote.

In 2020, homicides surged 29% for the biggest one-year jump in FBI records. Experts suggested the massive disruption of the pandemic, gun violence, worries about the economy and intense stress were to blame.

Violent crime fell back to near pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and dropped further in 2023.