Violent crime reports around the U.S. increased 3.9 percent last year compared with 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said today in its annual release of national crime data. That included a 10.8 percent rise in murders, bringing the total to 15,696. Reported property crimes were down 2.6 percent.
The data release coincidental with tonight’s first presidential debate may give talking points to Republican candidate Donald Trump, who has made “law and order” a central point in his campaign. Unlike Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton has issued a detailed criminal justice platform, but Trump is likely to say that crime has increased while Democrats have occupied the White House.
The FBI noted that the total of violent crime reports last year was 0.7 percent lower than the 2011 level and 16.5 percent below the 2006 level.
Today’s report, which is a compilation of reports from 16,643 law enforcement agencies, said that there were an estimated 327,374 robberies last year, up 1.4 percent from 2014, and 90,185 rapes, up 6.3 percent. The robberies involved an estimated $390 million in losses, with the average value of stolen property per robbery $1,190.
Firearms were used in 71.5 percent of murders, 40.8 percent robberies, and 24.2 percent of aggravated assaults. All of the data reflect crimes reported to police.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, which is issued separately, reports much higher estimates for robberies, rapes, and many other crime categories because it is based on interviews with a sample of U.S. residents asking whether they were victimized in the last year.
Property crimes last year resulted in losses the FBI estimated at $14.3 billion.
There were about 10.8 million arrests in the U.S. last year, down from 11.2 million the previous year. That figure provides a rough measure of law enforcement activity, which may or may not track the crime rate in a given year.
The FBI data have already been overtaken by at least two other reports based on surveys this year of major cities that are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the nation’s crime.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association, based on reports from 61 large cities, said this summer that homicides in the reporting cities had increased to 2,801 from 2,435 in the same period last year. Robberies were up to 62,988 from 62,349, but rapes declined to 12,465 from 12,771.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, in a survey of 30 big cities, said this month that crime overall for the year is projected to rise 1.3 percent, violent crime totals may rise 5.5 percent and murders would increase 13.1 percent, with Chicago alone responsible for nearly half of the increase.
As it routinely has in recent years, the FBI warned against using its data to rank city crime rates, contending that “these rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area, or region.” The bureau said rankings “lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.”