Violent crimes reported to law enforcement agencies nationwide dropped .2 percent last year compared with 2013, the FBI said today. The estimated number of property crimes declined 4.3 percent during the same period.
The report might lessen some concern about violent crime increases being reported in several major U.S. cities this year, although the FBI’s national data for 2014 don’t contradict crime rises in some areas after the figures released today were compiled. (In August, for example, the New York Times reported that violent crime was up this year in 30 big U.S. cities.)
Overall, there were an estimated 1,165,383 violent crimes, which include murder and non-negligent homicides, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults, reported by law enforcement last year around the nation.
Murders, which are the most accurately reported crime, decreased .5 percent last year to 14,249, the FBI said. The total was a drop of nearly 15 percent from the 2005 national count.
There were an estimated 8,277,829 property crimes, including burglaries, larceny-thefts, and motor vehicle thefts. Financial losses suffered by victims of these crimes were calculated at about $14.3 billion, the FBI said.
The FBI’s report is largely consistent with the National Crime Victimization Survey of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, which reported in August that violent crime rates in the U.S. did not change significantly last year.
The victimization survey, which includes estimates of the many crimes that are not reported to law enforcement agencies, said that property crimes in the U.S. fell from 131.4 victimizations per 1,000 households in 2013 to 118.1 per 1,000 in 2014.
Pew Charitable Trusts, which advocates for lower incarceration rates in the U.S., said that including the new federal crime data, “crime rates are now about half of their 1991 peaks and have fallen to levels not seen since the late 1960s.” Imprisonment of dangerous offenders has played a role in this but Pew cited a number of other factors, including better policing, the waning of the crack cocaine epidemic, less use of cash in favor of electronic payments,and more car theft prevention devices.
Pew contended that “the most recent five-year data finds no clear causal relationship between higher incarceration and lower crime. On the contrary, 30 states have reduced both rates at the same time.” For more data, see Pew’s post here.
When he released last year’s crime data today, FBI director James Comey said the bureau plans to collect more data about shootings, both fatal and nonfatal, involving law enforcement and civilians, “and to increase reporting overall.”
Alluding to the controversy over the lack of good data since the uproar over last year’s police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and other incidents, Comey said, “We need more law enforcement agencies to submit their justifiable homicide data so that we can better understand what is happening across the country. Once we receive this data, we will add a special publication that focuses on law enforcement's use of force in shooting incidents that will outline facts about what happened, who was involved, the nature of injuries or deaths, and the circumstances behind these incidents.”
Comey expressed hope that improved reporting “will help to dispel misperceptions, foster accountability, and promote transparency in how law enforcement personnel relate to the communities they serve.”
Read the report here.