Safety in America New FBI Data Show Crime Declines in 2017

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The latest round of data from the FBI clearly shows that we continue to live in a period of safety that is unprecedented within many of our lifetimes.

Below you can see a more detailed description of results for property crimes, violent crime, and homicide, including trend data going back to 1985 and an exploration of the number of places (cities with more than 100,000 residents) that experienced shifts in the crime rate between 2016 and 2017. The presentation differs from most other published summaries of crime trends in several important respects:

Measures of change. Most reports focus heavily on year-to-year percentage change. However, percentage change tends to exaggerate the actual change in risk to public safety for jurisdictions with low crime rates, and underestimate the implications for jurisdictions with very high rates. Instead, we focus on the actual change in risk to public safety (as measured by absolute change in rates per 100,000 population).

Emphasis on city-level rates. Many reports emphasize average rates for national-, regional-, or state-level aggregates. Those reflect primarily the number of people affected and are strongly influenced by a few cities with very large populations. Our analysis focuses on city-level rates to emphasize the number of places affected and differences among cities. In the following charts, we include average city-level rates for 203 small cities (with populations of 100K to 250K), 48 medium-sized cities (250K to 500K), 23 large cities (500K to 1M), and 11 very large cities (1M and more).

Long-term context. Some reports focus exclusively on the most recent year-to-year change. However, a certain amount of year-to-year fluctuation is normal. Like several others, our analysis places recent changes in the context of long-term trends so readers can judge whether a single year’s change is outside the ordinary.

Number of cities. Most reports focus on 30 to 60 of the largest cities or the cities with highest crime rates. However, there are many more cities with smaller populations, and smaller cities also tend to have lower rates of crime (especially for violent crimes). We include summaries for up to 285 cities with populations of 100,000 or greater for which data were reported in enough years to support long-term trend analyses.†

Property Crime

In every year since 1995, average city-level property crime rates were highest for large cities and lowest for very large cities and small cities (see Figure 1).

In all four population groups, the 2017 declines in average city-level property crime rates were very small in relation to the long-term decline. These changes resulted in the lowest rates in more than three decades.

Figure 1 Fbi Crime Data

Changes in City-Level Property Crime Rates 

Across 276 cities with adequate data, the 2016 to 2017 changes in property crime rate ranged from a decrease of 1,106 crimes per 100,000 people to an increase of 1,244 per 100,000.

Changes for most cities were concentrated in a much narrower central range.

100 of 276 cities experienced minimal change—plus or minus 125 crimes per 100K (represented in Figure 2 in the two bars adjacent to zero).

124 of 276 cities experienced greater than minimal decreases in property crime rates.

52 of 276 cities experienced greater than minimal increases in property crime rates.

Figure 2 Fbi Crime Data New

Violent crime

For small, medium-sized, and very large cities, the average city-level rates of violent crime declined.

For large cities with populations between 500,000 and 1 million, the average city-level rate of violent crime increased from 853 to 885 per 100,000.

In all four population groups, the 2017 changes in average city-level violent crime rates were very small in relation to the long-term decline, and rates remained at or near their lowest levels in more than three decades.

Figure 3 Fbi Crime Data

Changes in violent crime rates

Across 273 cities with adequate data, the 2016 to 2017 changes in violent crime rates ranged from a decrease of 230 per 100,000 people to an increase of 257 per 100,000.

Changes for most cities were concentrated in a much narrower central range.

In the context of the very wide overall range (a range of 487 crimes per 100,000), 119 of 273 cities experienced minimal change (plus or minus 25 crimes per 100,000, represented in Figure 4 in the two bars adjacent to zero).

75 of 273 cities experienced greater than minimal decreases in violent crime rates.

79 of 273 cities experienced greater than minimal increases in violent crime rates.

Figure 4 Fbi Crime Data New

Homicide

The average city-level homicide rate declined slightly from 12.6 to 12.1 homicides per 100,000 across the 48 medium-sized cities and from 10.9 to 10.4 homicides per 100,000 across the 11 very large cities.

The average city-level homicide rate increased slightly from 12.7 to 13.4 homicides per 100,000 across the 23 large cities and from 5.9 to 6.5 per 100,000 across the 204 small cities. In all four population groups, the 2017 changes in average city-level homicide crime rates were very small in relation to the long-term decline, and rates remained at or near their lowest levels in more than three decades

Figure 5 Fbi Crime Data

Changes in Homicide Rates

Across 273 cities with adequate data, the 2016 to 2017 changes in homicide rates ranged from a decrease of 22.1 homicides per 100,000 people to an increase of 17.7 homicides per 100,000.

Changes for most cities were concentrated in a much narrower central range.

In the context of the wide overall range (a range of 39.8 homicides per 100,000), 173 of 280 cities experienced minimal change (plus or minus 2 homicides per 100,000, represented in Figure 6 in the two bars adjacent to zero).

46 of 280 cities experienced greater than minimal decreases in homicide rates.

61 of 280 cities experienced greater than minimal increases in homicide rates.

Figure 6 Fbi Crime Data New