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The Next Batch of Crime Statistics Won’t Be Much Fun For the Media

Crime trends have been mixed in the last few years, with some crimes increasing (mostly involving violence) and others declining (the majority of property crimes). In spite of the facts, I’ve noted in the past how the media has systematically distorted the reporting of crime statistics to create the impression that crime is spiraling out of control.

If the 2007 patterns observed so far in the largest U.S. cities are any indication, the alarmist media is going to have to work hard to find a way to spin this round of crime statistics into doom and gloom. Of the ten most populous cities, I was able to locate year-to-date crime data for five of them.

New York City reports a 13% decline in homicide, an 11% fall in robbery, and a 7.5% reduction in burglary this year. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and his crew are having a good year as well: homicide is down 20%, robbery 6%, and burglary 2%. The numbers in Chicago are not quite as good: the murder rate is flat, with robbery down 7% and burglary down 2%.

Crime is also down across the board in San Diego, although I do not have exact percentages because the data for 2006 and 2007 were displayed in slightly different forms.

Of the five cities I examined, the only one that partially bucks the trend is Phoenix, which has seen a decline in homicide, but increases in both robbery and burglary.

Will an inventive media be able to use these crime data to scare people into thinking crime is getting worse? Most likely, yes. Never underestimate the creativity of journalists. Indeed, The Economist has already gotten a jump on the rest with an article describing Phoenix as a “crime-ridden mess.”