America’s Crime Problem Is Not What Most People Think It Is

Public perception of crime rate at odds with data

The Pew Research Center just released a note about “5 facts about crime in the U.S.” Their polling data shows that most people believe crime rates are going up in the U.S. while they are actually on a dramatic long term decline. Actual rates of violent crime are only about one quarter what they were in 1993.

Digging a bit deeper into their data reveals a genuine problem for the next generation of voters, however. Only 45% of crimes were reported to the police in 2017. Once reported, only 46% of violent crimes and 18% of property crimes were solved. So, only a disappointing 21% of violent crimes actually result in convictions (45% X 46%), and only 8% of property crimes (45% X 18%).

There are many reasons why people would not report crimes to the police and many reasons why witnesses would not come forward to help the police solve them, but a lack of trust between the public and the police must be right up there.

To trust, people have to believe the police will take them seriously, that their crime reports will be handled efficiently and courteously, and that the police will follow up with energy and competence. To help the police solve crimes, witnesses have to believe the time they spend will be well spent and that they will not be put in danger.

How can we build higher levels of trust between the public and the police so our children and grandchildren can inherit a safe, law-abiding society?