Thanks to tough-on-crime policies put into place during the Reagan years, we’ve enjoyed nearly 21 consecutive years of reduced crime since the early 1990s. It was one of the greatest and only positive social trends in this country over the past generation, resulting in a 60 percent decline in violent crime. Now, thanks to a reversal of those policies, the crime wave is back. But instead of hanging this political vulnerability around the necks of Democrat politicians, Republicans are joining in the push to reduce incarceration even more and convincing Trump to go even further.
Last Tuesday, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), and it showed that “among U.S. residents age 12 or older, the number of violent-crime victims rose from 2.7 million in 2015 to 3.3 million in 2018, an increase of 604,000 victims.” This is significant because during every year between 1994 and 2015, the numbers in the NCVS declined.
We were beginning to think that the decline in violent crime would be a permanent trend. But the trend only persisted because bad guys were actually being locked up. That is no longer the case. The rate of violent crime is almost perfectly inverse to the rate of incarceration. Here is a chart of the murder rate from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting juxtaposed to the federal prison population.
The same can be said of the state prison population, which has declined dramatically in many states. The fact that the trend on violent crime reversing again is not setting off alarm bells reveals just how much the political priorities of the politicians have changed since last generation.
What was the culprit of the violent crime increase in this latest report? According to the NCVS press release, “This overall rise was driven by increases in the number of victims of rape or sexual assault (from 204,000 in 2015 to 347,000 in 2018), aggravated assault (from 561,000 to 694,000) and simple assault (from 1.7 million to 2.1 million).” Overall, the number of violent incidents increased from 5.2 million in 2017 to 6.0 million in 2018.
We have reported many cases here at CR of violent assaults and sexual assaults both by illegal aliens and citizens who accrue long rap sheets and barely serve any time, even for gun violence. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of those criminals released from state prison in 2016, the median time served for assault, which includes aggravated assault, was 1.4 years, and the median time served for rape was 4.2 years. But that is just among those who actually serve time. So many others get off with probation, and the trend toward weakness is getting even stronger and faster.