Mark Holden is general counsel and senior vice president at Koch Industries. Ronal Serpas is a former superintendent of the New Orleans and Nashville police departments and the chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration.
There has been a surge of assertions about rising crime recently. At the Republican convention in July, GOP nominee Donald Trump said, “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement.” The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald echoed these concerns, noting that homicides increased by nearly 17 percent in the 56 largest U.S. cities last year and citing sharp rises in Baltimore, Chicago and the District. In an op-ed in last Sunday’s Post, Sean Kennedy and Parker Abt made the same case.
As two strong conservatives, let us set the record straight. These statements on rising murders are highly misleading. The truth is that Americans are still experiencing hard-won historic lows in crime.
When examining statistics on crime, researchers evaluate several factors: overall crime, violent crime, homicide and property crime.
By 2014, violent crime had fallen by half from its 1991 peak. Property crime was down 49 percent. Crime overall was 66 percent lower in major cities. No one disputes this decades-long trend.
Moving on to 2015, crime data collected directly from police departments in the 30 largest cities show that crime overall was the about same as in 2014 (in fact, it was down 0.1 percent). Violent crime was up by 3 percent, and murder by 13 percent. This is reasonably consistent with the FBI’s June 2015 midyear report, which showed violence up 1.7 percent and murder up 6 percent nationally, and the oft-cited Justice Department study by criminologist Richard Rosenfeld that found murder to be up 17 percent in major cities in 2015.
These numbers put the 2015 murder rate near 2012 levels — still very near to all-time lows.
This rise in homicide is alarming on its face. But half of 2015’s murder increase occurred in Baltimore, Chicago and the District — the very cities that those pushing the crime panic repeatedly use as examples. While we must work to address the issues driving this unacceptable localized violence, it is not the norm. These cities are outliers. As for violent crime overall, half of 2015’s increase came from a spike in aggravated assaults in Los Angeles.