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Blog Post · February 17, 2016

Preliminary Data Show Higher Crime Rates in 2015

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Preliminary data from the FBI offer discouraging news about crime trends in California’s largest cities. A number of cities—such as Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Riverside—reported increases in violent crime in 2015. The recently released FBI data also show that California cities are seeing property crime increases. These increases, particularly in property crime, are widespread and not trivial in magnitude. However, the data also show that cities in other states are also experiencing increases, especially in violent crime.

The FBI crime numbers cover January through June 2015 and are limited to cities with populations of at least 100,000 that report crime data to the FBI. In total, the data allow us to calculate year-over-year changes for 245 cities in 41 states throughout the country. The 66 California cities included in the FBI data contain about half of the state’s total population. The most recent statewide crime numbers showed that California’s crime rates continued to drop in 2014 and were at historic lows.

Comparing January through June 2015 to the same months in 2014 reveals that many US cities included in the preliminary FBI data saw increases in crime. Of the 66 California cities in the data, 49 saw increases in violent crime and 48 experienced increases in property crimes. Many of these cities saw double digit percent increases—34 in violent crime and 24 in property crime.

Violent crime rates went up in 24 of the 41 states included in the FBI data, and property crime increased in 14 states. However, the property crime rate for the included US cities with populations of 100,000 or more decreased by 29.6 per 100,000 residents, while the property crime rate for the California cities increased by 116.9. The increase in property crime in California cities stands in sharp contrast to the other four states with the highest populations: large cities in Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois saw decreases of between 111.1 (Texas) and 47.7 (New York) property crimes per 100,000 residents.

Among the 41 states with cities that are included in the FBI data, California’s property crime increase ranked 6th, while its violent crime increase ranked 12th. Most of California’s larger cities (46 of 66) were among the 100 cities nationwide that saw the largest property crime increases. Close to half (32, to be precise), were in the top 100 in violent crime increases. When we look at the data for the 25 largest US cities, we see that the biggest increases in violent and property crime rates occurred in Sacramento and San Francisco, respectively. California has six cities in this group, and all are among the ten that saw the largest increases in the property crime rate.

Again, these FBI numbers are preliminary, and they cover only about half of the state’s population. But they are a strong indication that recent crime increases have occurred across the state. They underscore the importance of monitoring crime trends and the need for careful analysis to identify key causes. If we can identify the factors that are contributing to higher crime rates, we can implement effective crime-preventive strategies.

Chart note: Changes in the number of violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents, January–June 2015 compared to January–June 2014. The table includes the 25 largest US cities included in the FBI data with crime statistics for both 2014 and 2015, ranging from New York City, with a population of 8,473,938, to Kansas City, MO, with a population of 468,417.
Chart source: FBI’s Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January–June, 2015.


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