July 16, 2006
U.S. Lacks Information For Studying Crime
From washingtonpost.com: New national FBI statistics show violent crime increased in 2005 -- the first jump in 14 years. For a public accustomed to the annual reassurance that the nation is becoming safer, this news is troubling. Does it signal another epidemic of violence, rivaling the worst of the 1980s? Or is it just a blip in a long trend toward safer streets? It's a situation easy to politicize but hard to explain.
For those who study crime, the answer is simple: We don't know. Even though information costs are dropping quickly, criminal justice data are harder than ever to find. Key sources, such as those tracking drug use patterns or describing each criminal incident, have been discontinued or underutilized.
This sorrowful and potentially dangerous lack of information aside, available data do allow some informed speculation. The statistics are straightforward: Murder and aggravated assault increased significantly between 2004 and 2005, particularly in middle- and large-size urban areas. Importantly, crime was down in the largest cities, the smallest cities, and rural areas. Property crimes also generally declined, as did rape. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
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