Perception versus Reality: Analysis of Crime Statistics

By Green, Herbert | Nation's Cities Weekly, February 21, 1994 | Go to article overview

Perception versus Reality: Analysis of Crime Statistics


Green, Herbert, Nation's Cities Weekly


Many Americans believe the picture painted by the media to be the true indicator of escalating crime and violence in our cities and towns. However, a reView of recent FBI and Justice Department Uniform Crime Reports shows that crime overall in Our nation is experiencing a downward trend and only certain categories of crime have increased modestly or remained steady.

Both the perception and the reality Of increasing crime and violence are greatly influenced by the way crime is reported. According to Dr. Art Larigio, a psychologist and criminal justice professor at Loyola University of Chicago, most people think crime is going up because perceptions, like our opinions: are based more on the stories we hear from friends, and from newspapers, radio, and television, than on statistics.

During a press conference at the NLC offices on January 5, NLC President Sharpe James noted that while violent crime has increased overall, the picture is mixed since two categories of violent crime have declined for more than a decade. Murder, the crime that resonates among our nation's cities and towns, has been in a significant decline for more than a decade. Robbery is on the decline as well.

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, as a long-term trend, the crime rate reported in 1992 is no higher than that reported in 1987, and statistics on reported crimes were even higher in 1983 than those reported in 1992. The Justice Department's National Crime Victimization Survey found that in 1992 crimes against white households were the lowest experienced in 18 years, while crimes against black households did not change from levels experienced in 1989. Survey resuits also showed that 28.1 percent of urban households were victimized by crime, versus 21.4 percent for suburban households, and 16.8 percent for rural households. Yet, many people view crime as a more important issue than jobs and the economy, according to national polls. Survey results show that many people are twice as worried about being murdered now than they were a year ago and that only one-third of people surveyed feel safe on public transportation alone at niht.

Respondents to NLC's 10th Annual Opinion Survey of Municipal Elected Officals cited violent crime as one of the top three dominant issues of great concern to local government officials for 1993 and during the next two years. Violent crime and gangs rated rated two and number three as "deteriorated conditions" in local communities during the past five years.

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