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Are Declining Cops And Correctional Officers Related to Increased Crime And Fear?
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 10/07/2019

Fear If violent crime and fear of crime numbers are high, do they have implications for politics and justice reform?

Crime in America is increasing per the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice through their National Crime Survey. From 2015 to 2018, the total number of violent victimizations increased by 28%. The rate of total violent victimizations also increased. The number of violent incidents increased from 5.2 million in 2017 to 6.0 million in 2018, Violent Crime Increases.

Serious violent crime is increasing, Serious Violent Crime. There are media reports of crime and fear issues for many (not all) American cities.

Criminologists have cited a disconnect between declining rates of crime and citizen perceptions of fear. Many have suggested that there is no rational basis for high fear numbers during a period of declining crime. There was a twenty-year period of mostly steady reductions in violence until we started getting mixed results in 2015, Crime in America.

But with US Department of Justice data indicating that violent crime increased, the discussion over whether current levels of fear are justified seems to be a moot point.

Two Quick Summations:

Mass Shootings: In the wake of two August mass shootings that claimed the lives of 31 people in one weekend, Americans are more worried about themselves or a family member being the victim of a mass shooting than they were after two previous massacres.

Currently, 48% of U.S. adults are “very” or “somewhat” worried, compared with 39% in 2017 after one gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas and 38% in 2015 after a San Bernardino shooter left 14 dead, Gallup

Worry About Crime: 75 percent of Americans worry about crime and violence (April, 2019), Gallup.

Fear Of Crime Was The National Top Concern in 2018

Per Gallup, 75 percent of Americans worry about crime and violence (down from 78 percent in March, 2018), which was the same as health care, the top concern, Fear of Crime.

Gallup asked those polled if they worried about topics a great deal or a fair amount. Crime was ranked the same as health care using a combined score.

Half of Americans Believe Crime is Very or Extremely Serious

In 2018, just under half (49%) of Americans believe the problem of crime in the United States is very or extremely serious — a 10-percentage-point drop and the first time the number has been below 50% since 2005, Serious Crime Concerns.

More Fear of Crime Data

56 percent of Americans believe that crime needs to be reduced-Pew.

68 percent of Americans believe that crime is increasing-Gallup.

Two-thirds of gun owners say protection from crime is a major reason they own a gun-Pew, Crime in America.

Data on Policing

Note that Americans provide police officers with very high marks. This observation is important as to where Americans are placing responsibility for crime and fear. It’s obviously not law enforcement.

Per Gallup, 85 percent of Americans either have a great deal or some confidence in law enforcement. The media and Congress are at the bottom of the ratings, Confidence in Law Enforcement.

Gallup’s 2018 Global Law and Order report state that US and Canadian police are the world’s most trusted law enforcement officers, World’s Most Trusted.

There are several additional reports indicating a high level of confidence in law enforcement, Cops Leaving. The article cites massive problems with recruitment, retention and the possible connection with rising violence.

Conclusions-Crime and Fear

Critics often cite a gap between crime statistics and data on fear, but violence in America is increasing based on the National Crime Survey. Fear numbers (while declining for some indexes) remain high.

It’s inevitable that politics and criminal justice policy will be influenced by violent crime counts and fear. Citizen and community safety is a bedrock principle people use to judge the effectiveness of politicians or political parties. Fear gives us a guidepost as to citizen concerns.

It’s clear that Americans want assurances that accountability for criminal offenders will be a priority. The #MeToo and crime victims movements are based on that assumption. The question of accountability is also linked to the availability of police officers, which is declining.

Research indicates that crime is the top issue (beyond weather) for reporters and consumers. There are endless crime-related television shows.

With increasing crime data and high numbers as to fear about crime, both will influence national and local politics and discussions as to criminal justice reform.

There are studies from advocates indicating that Americans favor criminal justice reform, ACLU , but increasing violent crime and substantial fear plus the #MeToo movement would indicate otherwise.

Diverse Numbers

Please note that crime statistics are primarily based on the numbers cited above from the National Crime Survey and from the FBI and their national counts of crimes reported to law enforcement. Most violent crime is not reported to the police. The FBI numbers for the last eighteen months were either flat or down, Crime Rates.

The fear of crime (or concern about crime) numbers are also mixed with recent declines (see above). But polling data are rarely as high as the numbers presented as to fear of crime.

Reprinted with permission from https://www.crimeinamerica.net.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com or for media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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