Late last month the FBI published new data regarding crime rates and clearance rates for various offenses. The numbers are, in one sense, very good, with an overall decline in violent crime. On the other hand, the report shows some figures that are somewhat bizarre. Here’s what we mean:
- Violent crime is down. The highlight and most prominent aspect of the report is that violent crime is down across the country, which one exception (see below). Violent crime as reported by the FBI includes murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, robbery, aggravated assault, and rape. In Phoenix, the violent crime rate was down more than 5% between 2017 and 2018 (with rape as the only exception). Murder in Phoenix was also down, by more than 12%.
- Rape is up. The FBI shows an increase in reported rapes. Many believe that the increase does not necessarily reflect an upward trend in the commission of sexual assault, but rather in increase in the number of people willing to come forward, perhaps spurred on by changes in attitude, including the “Me Too Movement.” In addition, both the feds and some states have in recent years changed their definition of the crime, which has led to an increase in the numbers. Because of these factors, what looks like an anomaly compared with the trend in other violent crimes, may simply be an increase in the scope and reporting of the crime.
- Clearance rates are down. Although this is the second year in a row that saw a decline nationally in the murder rate, the clearance rate for violent crimes remains low. Clearance includes arrest, identification of a probable suspect, and other means. The low clearance rate is particularly notable in the case of rape in Arizona. For example, the clearance rate for rape in Phoenix is only 11%. In Tucson, it’s only 6%. Compare that to Philadelphia, which has a clearance rate for rape of over 50%.
- Drug possession, marijuana in particular, continues to clog the system. You might wonder why, with the decline in violent crime, the United States continues to have by far the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The answer appears clear – drugs! While nationally around 520,000 people were arrested for violent crimes in 2018, more than 660,000 were arrested for marijuana related offenses. What is even more startling is that this comes at a time when 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, and 33 states (and D.C.) have legalized medical marijuana. And before you assume that the drug arrests are largely for dealing and manufacturing or cultivating drugs, you should know that nationwide, over 85% of all drug abuse arrests are for drug possession.
All in all, with the exception of rape clearance rates in Arizona, we’d say the news about crime is pretty good. On the other hand, the drug issue continues to fuel controversy and fill our jails and prisons.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004