Even though murder totals are up in some U.S. cities, “there is no crime wave,” criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University said Thursday at the American Society of Criminology convention in Washington, D.C. Speaking on a panel on trends in crime rates and policing, Fox said some cities in the past decade have reported homicide increases early in the year but declines later, leading to no change by year’s end. He said, “It is alarming that so many journalists and politicians have gotten carried away with the idea that crime is up.” Some cities that have reported increases in crime have been “victims of their own success” because their rates of violence have dropped so much in recent years that any increase is considered newsworthy, Fox said.
Another panelist, criminologist David Klinger of the University of Missouri St. Louis, praised the Washington Post for keeping a count of fatal shootings by police officers, 843 around the nation this year as of last week. Klinger cautioned that even if that total rises above 900 by year’s end, that might not represent an increase over earlier years because of incomplete data. He also noted that a media focus on killings by officers understates the problem because only a minority of people shot by police die, and “most bullets fired by police don’t hit anybody.” A third panelist, criminologist Cynthia Lum of George Mason University, urged journalists to increase coverage of crime prevention, and public trust and confidence in police. Both Klinger and Lum are former police officers. The panel was organized by Criminal Justice Journalists, which produces Crime & Justice News.