Ask the average American about crime, and chances are they’ll say the number of murders, rapes, thefts, and assaults is going up. In 2016, the level of concern about crime and violence hit a 15-year high, according to Gallup. And in a separate 2015 Gallup survey, 70% of people said crime was higher than it was a year earlier.
But statistics don’t support Americans’ anxiety about rising levels of violence. Crime rates in 2016 are projected to be roughly the same as they were in 2015, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, and crime overall is lower than it has been in a generation. In 1990, there were more than 9,000 crimes per 100,000 people. In 2015, that figure had fallen to just over 3,000 crimes per 100,000 people. Murders are down too. Twenty-five years ago, the homicide rate in the U.S. was 9.8 per 100,000, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. By 2010, the number of murders had fallen to 4.8 per 100,000.
“Our findings directly contradict the ‘out-of-control’ narrative we heard from President-Elect Trump this year,” Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program and an author of the analysis, said in a statement. “Crime nationally is projected to remain at all-time lows.”
The Brennan Center analyzed data from the 30 largest cities in the U.S. to make predictions about the trends in crime. (The report was released before the end of 2016, so final crime numbers for the year were not yet available.) Overall crime in the nation’s biggest cities was expected to increase 0.3% and violent crime was up 3%.
While there’s no evidence of a nationwide trend toward more murders and other violent crime, violent crime rates were up in 13 of the 30 cities studied. Does that mean these cities are overrun with criminals and should be avoided? No. In some cases, the rise in crime was small. Others had large percentage increases in violent crime but still had far less crime per person than cities where crime was flat or falling.
It’s also possible the year-over-year crime increase could be temporary. Some of the cities with the biggest increases in murder in 2015 had some of the most significant decreases in 2016, the report’s authors noted. In other words, these numbers could be statistical blips, not evidence of a long-term trend. Nevertheless, these are the 13 cities with rising crime rates in 2016.