U.S. Crime Rate Continued to Drop Last Year, FBI Data Shows

Jack Berman via Getty Images
Jack Berman via Getty Images

Data released Tuesday by the FBI shows that crime rates took a precipitous tumble in 2023, with the new fourth-quarter numbers continuing to reflect a post-pandemic trend that runs counter to the right-wing narrative that crime is rising nationwide.

The rate of all violent crime in the United States went down by 6 percent in 2023 as compared to the year prior, according to the data. Homicides plunged by 13 percent, robbery and aggravated assault both dipped by 5 percent, and property crime dropped by 4 percent. Motor vehicle theft, however, was the only category that saw an increase, by 11 percent.

The stats are based on numbers provided by around 15,000 law enforcement agencies, just over 79 percent of the total of 19,000 agencies in the country.

The data has not yet been audited and analyzed, with the FBI expected to release its full report in October. But crime analyst Jeff Asher told NBC News that, once that data drop occurs later this year, it is likely that the final numbers will reflect “the largest one-year decline in murder that has ever been recorded.”

The Biden administration celebrated the numbers as a win, with President Joe Biden saying in a statement that it was “good news for the American people.

“In 2020, before I took office, the prior administration oversaw the largest increase in murders ever recorded,” he continued. “My Administration got to work on day one to fix that.”

Biden touted his public safety and gun control policies, adding, “Keeping communities safe is my priority. While we’ve made major progress, we still have more work to do.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in his own statement that his office was “encouraged” by the data, saying it was indicative of the success of a crime-prevention strategy the Justice Department launched in May 2021 to counter the wave of violent crime that surged during the pandemic. (Homicides spiked nearly 30 percent in 2020, FBI data showed, according to Reuters.)

“Since then,” Garland said, “our prosecutors, agents, and grantmaking experts have worked in close partnership with police departments and communities across the country to go after the recidivists and gangs that are responsible for the greatest violence; to seize illegal guns and deadly drugs; to make critical investments in hiring more law enforcement officers; and to fund evidence-based, community violence intervention initiatives.”

In direct contrast to the reality reflected by the data, Americans widely perceive crime as a spiraling issue. In a Gallup poll published last November, 77 percent of respondents said they believed crime has gotten worse in the last year.

“The perception doesn’t match the actuality in a lot of places because people are bad at perceiving risk,” Asher told NBC News.

Social media hysteria, traditional media reports spotlighting gruesome crimes, and Republicans loudly attacking Biden and the Democratic Party as soft on crime don’t do anything to dissuade that perception.

When Fox News tackled the subject of falling crime rates in a segment earlier this month, a contributor blamed the downward trend on lenient prosecutors fudging the numbers.

“I mean, statistics are only reflective of what is put into the system, right?” Katie Pavlich asked. “So, if you have a number of prosecutors across the country who are downgrading serious felonies to misdemeanors, that makes it look like violent crime or burglaries…aren’t really happening.”

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