November 28, 2022

Debunking, Not Defunding

By Stephen Tuttle | Nov. 5, 2022

If you watch a certain news channel, or listen to some Republican candidates, you would be inclined to believe crime is out of control. It’s those darn Democrats who have “defunded” the police and judges who let vicious criminals lose without bail. Why, it’s a miracle we aren’t gunned down the second we leave our homes and offices.

Reality is rather different, and the statistics are a little tricky.

Crime statistics compiled by the FBI are lacking for 2021 because they do not include data from 40 percent of U.S. cities, including both Los Angeles and New York City. (Submitting such data is voluntary.) What appears to be spikes in violent crimes per 100,000 people are deceptive because of the exclusion of large cities where the raw numbers are high but the per capita numbers less so.

Fortunately, the Major Cities Chiefs Association does keep track of such crimes and has published data from January 1 through June 30 of this year. They find violent crimes—murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—up less than 4 percent overall from the prior six months. Their data indicates that while robberies were up 12 percent and assaults up 3 percent, murders were actually down 2.4 percent and rapes down 5 percent.

Those numbers aren’t great, but neither are they the hellish festival of crime being claimed by some. And there has been no correlation yet established between the elimination of most cash bails in some areas and crime rates. Nor are there dots to connect between violent crime rates and claims of defunding the police, mostly because no police departments have been defunded.

Neither are these numbers anywhere near the peaks in violent crimes we’ve experienced this century. According to FBI data that does exist, the violent crime rate in the year 2000 was 500 reported incidents per 100,000 people, and as of 2021 it was 395 reported incidents. The most violent years, by far, were the 1980s and early 1990s, peaking at 758.2 reported incidents per 100,000 in 1991. The numbers have been steadily decreasing—with an occasional hiccup—ever since.

It’s also a myth that Democrat-controlled blue states are the most violent. The states, plus Washington D.C., with the highest per capita incidents of violent crime, according to FBI statistics, are, in order from the worst: Washington D.C., Alaska, New Mexico, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Arizona, Missouri, South Carolina, and South Dakota. That’s seven red states and three blue.

Conversely, the lowest violent crime rates are mostly blue states. Starting with the lowest rate, the top 10 are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Idaho, and Hawai’i. That’s eight blue states and two red.

Adding to the confusion, a left of center think tank called Third Way has analyzed the murder rates of all 50 states and determined the 25 Trump-voting red states have a collective murder rate a whopping 40 percent higher than the 25 Biden-voting blue states.

Data, of course, can be made to sing and dance depending on who's doing the collecting and analyzing. Those on the political right like to quote raw numbers and the handful of areas that are seeing spikes in violent crimes. Those on the left like to cite per capita numbers and historical trends, both of which contain more positive data. However, it is clear reports of our streets filling with rampaging killers unleashed by liberal judges have been greatly exaggerated. Once all the numbers have been mashed and compiled, it appears violent crime overall is up slightly and murder is actually down very slightly.

Similar exaggerations on the campaign trails involve defunding the police. There has been no great movement to eliminate police. The Guardian reports funding for police departments has been reduced by $840 million since 2019, but it’s less dire than that sounds. Most of the “reduction” has been through attrition; reallocation for mental health, social services, and housing; and removing some departments. Portland, Oregon, for example, reduced their police budget millions just by eliminating their responsibility for the city’s parking system. It turns out there are plenty of ways to “defund the police” without impacting the numbers of uniformed officers on the street.

(As an interesting aside, The Guardian also reports that the 25 largest cities controlled by Democrat mayors and/or city councils actually increased their police funding.)

Crime is not out of control, though some television talking heads and politicians definitely are. And despite the rhetoric from those farthest to the left, law enforcement isn’t going to be defunded any time soon; officers and deputies will still be serving and protecting as they always have.

You are, in fact, significantly less likely to be the victim of violent crime today than you were just two decades ago, the fear-mongering reports notwithstanding.


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