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U.S. Dept of Justice Says "Despite Lower Murder Rates, Crime Overall is On the Rise"

Crime on the Rise Cover of the Village Voice

After a steady decline in crime since 1993, last year the U.S. Justice Department reported that crime rose for the first time in 20 years. The culprit responsible was not murder but simple assault that increased 22 percent, from 4 million in 2010 to 5 million in 2011, pushing the overall crime rate up 17 percent.

However, the FBI states that violent crime decreased by four percent from 2010 to 2011. So, why is there such a discrepancy between the two sources? It seems that the FBI considers simple assaults so low in severity that they don't include them in their FBI counts of serious crime; they only include aggravated assaults. The difference between the two is that simple assault is with no weapon.

So, is there reason to be concerned? Yes. Other statistics reported by the FBI show that property crimes rose 11 percent in 2011, from 15.4 million in 2010 to 17 million, household burglaries rose 14 percent, from 3.2 million to 3.6 million, and thefts increased by 10 percent, from 11.6 million to 12.8 million.

The bottom line is that just because the murder rate was the lowest in the U.S. in 2011 since 1983, and there was no significant increase in rape, sexual assault and robberies doesn't mean that we can all breathe a sign of relief. First of all, simple assaults affect people personally in loss of property, medical costs due to injury, time lost at work, and leaving both victims and others in the neighborhood feeling more vulnerable.

Second, the decrease in crime overall doesn't mean it isn't increasing where you live. Chicago is on track to hit the biggest homicide rate since 1997, Detroit's murder rate increased 10 percent in 2012, San Diego's crime went up 6.9 percent in 2012 including an increase in murders from 38 in 2011 to 47 in 2012. Even South Carolina, which had an overall decrease in violent crime of 2.2 percent in 2011, saw an increase in murder of 21 percent in 2011.

So, when reading about crime statistics, read between the lines. Is it really a decrease or just a convenient manipulation of statistics? All crimes affect people personally.

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