Americans are worried about crime on their streets, but President Biden and the mainstream press corps don’t think that they should be. ABC News claims that “violent crime is dramatically falling.” NBC News asserts that “the drop in crime does not appear to be well understood by large majorities of Americans.” And in his State of the Union address, Biden bragged about a purported drop in crime that was allegedly a result of his efforts.

While the administration and its allies are trying to convince Americans that the crime spike that they think they’ve seen in recent years has been a mirage, the public should trust its own judgment. The best available figures, from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), show a whopping 58 percent rise in violent crime in urban areas from 2019—before the summer of George Floyd, BLM, and the “defund the police” crusade—to 2022, the most recent year for which finalized federal statistics are available.

The numbers are even worse on closer inspection. If one removes from that period the bar fights and other similar encounters that make up much of the “simple assault” category, urban areas have seen a 73 percent spike in more serious violent crimes. That’s a huge rise in violence in the nation’s cities that the media aren’t interested in acknowledging. They are also unwilling to admit that cities have retried the experiment in lax law enforcement first attempted roughly a half-century ago. The verdict is in, and once again, the results are not pretty.

Much as with inflation, however, Biden and his media allies are pushing the notion that Americans should be happy, because the worst of the spike could be in the rearview mirror. That’s a tough sell. While the recent homicide spike appears to have peaked in 2021, and the recent inflation spike in 2022, overall violent crime in urban areas and consumer prices across the nation are both noticeably worse now than they were just a few years ago.

Biden nevertheless has insisted that crime has generally been brought under control, and that his policies are to thank for it. In his State of the Union address in March, the president said, “The year before I took office, murders went up 30% nationwide.” While Biden wants to pin that huge increase on Donald Trump, the combination of policies that led to that historic homicide surge—lax prosecution, Covid lockdowns, and the stoking of race-based grievances—were clearly pushed by progressives far more than by conservatives.

Later in the speech, Biden suggested that his massive Covid stimulus package has helped reduce crime: “Now, through my American Rescue Plan, which every Republican voted against, I’ve made the largest investment in public safety ever.” In fact, less than 1 percent of the first $1.1 trillion in borrowed money disbursed under that bill went toward public safety.

Finally, Biden asserted, “Last year, the murder rate saw the sharpest decrease in history, and violent crime fell to one of the lowest levels in more than 50 years.” This statement is puzzling—in fact, one wonders what Biden is talking about. The FBI statistics released last year, which report 2022 figures, don’t show a record-setting decline in murder rates. They do report that 2022’s violent-crime rate was higher than 2014’s, the year that the Ferguson, Missouri riots—and President Obama’s reaction to them—sparked the anti-policing movement.

If Biden were instead relying on preliminary FBI figures for 2023, rather than on the 2022 data released last year, that’s problematic, too—especially since he made it sound like he was using fully processed, validated, and finalized federal statistics, as one would expect from a president during a formal address to Congress. The preliminary FBI figures for 2023, which contain no reporting from 21 percent of the nation’s law enforcement agencies, haven’t been fully processed or validated. There’s a reason such figures haven’t yet been released as final.

In truth, it’s hard to compare even the FBI’s 2022 numbers with any years prior to 2021, when the FBI switched to a new reporting system. Thirty percent of the nation’s law enforcement agencies in 2021, and 17 percent in 2022, didn’t use the new reporting system and therefore weren’t included in the FBI’s stats. Among the missing agencies in 2022 were giants like the New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco police departments.

Reliable federal statistics for 2023 likely won’t be released until September, when the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) typically publishes the NCVS. Around that time, the FBI will also release its finalized statistics for 2023. Those figures won’t easily lend themselves to comparisons with the FBI’s 2019 figures, compiled under the previous reporting system, and even comparisons with 2022 and 2021 could be distorted by the different mixes of reporting agencies involved. It’s also worth noting that FBI statistics don’t include crimes not reported to police. As self-identified victims tell the NCVS, nearly 60 percent of violent crimes, and about two-thirds of property crimes, aren’t reported to the authorities.

While the preliminary FBI statistics for 2023, based on not-yet-fully processed or validated data from just 79 percent of the nation’s law enforcement agencies, aren’t yet fully baked and can’t tell us much, it’s possible to glean some knowledge of 2023 trends by comparing that year’s homicide rates in major metros with those areas’ own data from prior years. According to Police Test Info, the half-dozen largest local law enforcement agencies, based on their number of sworn officers, are the New York Police Department, the Chicago Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the Philadelphia Police Department, and the Houston Police Department. Five of these six agencies reported declines in homicides from 2022 to 2023, ranging from 11 percent to 20 percent. (The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department showed a 9 percent increase.) Taken in combination, the six agencies showed a 14 percent decline in homicides from 2022 to 2023.

These declines, however, are nowhere near enough to compensate for the huge murder spike from 2019 to 2022. Indeed, homicides across all six agencies rose from 2019 to 2022 by a combined 46 percent. (Unlike the FBI’s national figures, this comparison involves the same mix of agencies for the two years in question.) Even as all but one of these departments saw welcome declines in 2023, the total number of homicides within their jurisdictions still rose by large margins from 2019 to 2023—by 23 percent in New York, 23 percent in Chicago, 29 percent in Los Angeles per the LAPD (and 47 percent per the LASD, which covers the whole county), 16 percent in Philadelphia, and 29 percent in Houston. Across all six agencies combined, the number of homicides rose 25 percent from 2019 to 2023.

When BJS publishes the 2023 NCVS early this fall, it won’t be surprising if it shows a similar trend—a reduction in urban violent crime from 2022 to 2023 that doesn’t come close to negating the 58 percent increase from 2019 to 2022. But for now, the only truly reliable national statistics for making cross-year comparisons only cover through 2022. According to those numbers, America’s urban areas have collectively seen nothing but increases in violent crime since our most recent experiment in lenient law enforcement began.

This surge in urban violence, of course, comes amid the scourge in many areas of tent cities, drug addicts on streets, marijuana stench, and orchestrated shoplifting, giving the cumulative impression that great cities are abandoning civilized norms. Cities today are pursuing the opposite of “Broken Windows” policing, ignoring pettier crimes, inviting a general sense of disorderliness, and effectively encouraging more severe acts of lawlessness. This reality is not a figment of Americans’ imaginations.

Photo: Jack Berman/Moment via Getty Images


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