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Crime statistics in the U.S.

The topic of crime in the United States is very broad, technically covering any action that is punishable under a state or federal law. Any analysis of the topic therefore requires division into further sub-categories. One common way to do this is to limit analysis to crimes involving jail time (i.e. misdemeanors and felonies, which generally differ through the length of jail time involved), then differentiate between violent crimes and property crimes. Violent crimes are defined as offenses which involve force or the threat of force, while property crime includes offences involving the taking of money or property, but where there is no force or threat of force against the victims. Property crimes outnumbered violent crimes in the U.S. in 2020, numbering 6.45 million and 1.31 million respectively. Larceny was the most common property crime with 4.6 million incidents, while aggravated assaults accounted for around two thirds of violent crimes.

Crime statistics in different U.S. states

Looking only at the number of crimes in a geographic region does not show the full picture, as a higher population generally produces a higher overall number of crimes. Considering the crime rate per 100,000 residents is more useful, as it more accurately reflects the underlying likelihood of being involved in a crime. For both the property crime rate by state and the violent crime rate in U.S. states in 2020, Alaska and New Mexico saw high rates, while states in New England generally saw some of the lowest rates. Note that while Washington, D.C. technically topped both crime rate lists, this is a misleading result due to its strictly urban geography: when compared to the violent crime rate of other U.S. cities, Washington, D.C. was far behind places like Detroit and St. Louis.

Is crime increasing?

While surveys on the public perception of crime trends in the U.S. show a majority believe crime is increasing every year, statistically this is not the case. Both the overall property crime rate and the violent crime rate in the U.S. have decreased by around half since the early 1990s. While there is disagreement over why this has occurred – with suggestions ranging from higher levels of incarceration, to the effect of legalized abortion in reducing the number of children born into socioeconomic circumstances likely to lead to crime – it is clear that crime is not in fact increasing, regardless of the general perception to the contrary.


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