Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Myths and Realities: Understanding Recent Trends in Violent Crime

The recent rise in crime is extraordinarily complex. Policymakers and the public should not jump to conclusions or expect easy answers.

By  Ames Grawert   and Noah Kim  Brennan Center

After years of decline, crime rose during the Covid-19 pandemic, partic­u­larly viol­ent crime. Using avail­able but incom­plete data, this analysis seeks to set out a clear and accur­ate summary of what is known so far about recent trends in crime and viol­ence.

While research­ers have begun to identify some of the factors that may have contrib­uted to this upward trend, it is far too soon to say with certainty why crime rose over the last two years. This uncer­tainty itself should guide our under­stand­ing of crime trends today. It under­scores the danger of jump­ing to conclu­sions — such as blam­ing specific, often newly imple­men­ted, policies. Lastly, the analysis points to prom­ising new solu­tions that may address some of the factors behind recent crime trends.

At the outset, it’s import­ant to note that this analysis focuses on the most seri­ous offenses known to law enforce­ment. Other visible social prob­lems like home­less­ness, and less seri­ous offenses such as shoplift­ing, also affect percep­tions of public safety and may be the subject of future analyses.

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