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America's zombie "crime wave"
The outset of the pandemic in 2020 coincided with a surge in violent crime in the United States, with murder rates rising particularly dramatically. According to a lot of people with large megaphones, this crime wave continues today.
The October 6, 2023 edition of Fox News' Hannity covered the "ongoing crime wave" that is "wreaking havoc across America" as a result of "the left's radical policies." Guest host Pete Hegseth declared that violent crime was "crushing cities and American lives." Two days earlier, on October 4, Fox News host Martha MacCollum declared that Americans "feel outraged and unsafe." MacCollum played a clip of an unidentified man saying, "crime is out of control in every city in America." Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy appeared on Fox News on October 2 and laid out a plan to combat "the violent crime wave across this country." (Ramaswamy wants to keep more people confined to psychiatric institutions.)
NBC News reported in March 2023 that "violent crime is up nationwide and in major cities," without citing a source. In a Wall Street Journal column published in October 2022, former Attorney General Bill Barr (R) claimed that Democrats "unleashed a crime wave and diminished our sense of safety on the streets."
Last week, Congresswoman Mary Miller (R-IL) announced she was supporting Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) for House Speaker because he was "the leader our country needs" to combat "a crime wave in our cities."
But is there a crime wave in America? Without a doubt, people believe that crime continues to surge. A Gallup poll found that 78% of Americans believe that there was more crime in 2022 than in 2021. (Only 13% believed it declined.)
Comprehensive data for 2022, released by the FBI on Monday, tells a very different story. And preliminary data suggests that 2023 could feature one of the most dramatic declines in violent crime in modern history.
In 2022, homicides were down 6.1%, according to FBI data. The nation’s murder rate, the data shows, was 6.3 per 100,000 people. This figure is below 2020 levels, but slightly higher than 2019. Still, since 1991, the rate of murder has dropped 36%.
Nationwide, the FBI reports that the violent crime rate, including homicide, dropped “an estimated 1.7%” in 2022 compared to the year before. The rate of violent crime is the lowest it has been since 2014, and is nearly half of what it was in 1991 and 1992.
This downward trend, experts say, is expected to continue in 2023. According to crime data from the first half of the year, there is “strong evidence of a sharp and broad decline in the nation’s murder rate,” crime analyst Jeff Asher reports. Asher finds that preliminary data indicates that the nation is witnessing the “largest annual percent changes in murder ever recorded.” Murder, for example, was “down about 12 percent year-to-date in more than 90 cities that have released data for 2023, compared with data as of the same date in 2022.” While Asher acknowledges that these trends could change somewhat, this number is still “astonishing.”
Property crime has gone up. Here's why.
Property crime, on the other hand, “increased 7 percent” in 2022 compared to 2021. This was driven by an “11 percent surge in auto thefts.” The rise in auto thefts is likely due to a recent trend on social media platforms, including TikTok, that teaches viewers how to steal certain models of Kias and Hyundais.
According to Axios, the videos show people how to “break windows and remove parts of the steering column cover, then start the vehicle with a screwdriver, or a plugin from a USB device.” The viral videos take advantage of Hyundai Motors’ decision “not to install a theft prevention mechanism called an immobilizer in certain makes and models” of Kias and Hyundais since model year 2011. The craze developed into a “Kia Challenge,” which involves creating social media content about successful car thefts.
Following the trend, cities across the United States, including Seattle, Atlanta, and Baltimore, saw a significant increase in thefts of Kias and Hyundais. According to Vox, in Chicago, “Kia and Hyundai thefts increased by 767 percent in a year,” and in Rochester, New York, they increased by “almost 2,400 percent.” The trend prompted Kia and Hyundai to release “theft deterrent software” for over 8 million cars, and forced Hyuandai to “pay around $200 million to customers whose vehicles were stolen.”
According to Asher’s newsletter Jeff-alytics, even with the increase in property crimes in 2022, the property crime rate is still much lower than it has been in recent history. According to Asher, “the property crime rate in the US has fallen an astounding 61 percent since 1991 even accounting for the somewhat sizable increase in 2022.” As a whole, while property crime garners headlines, wage theft is a large problem.
The FBI’s 2022 numbers, which were collected from 13,293 law enforcement across the United States, only address violent crime and property crime. This means that the data does not reflect white-collar offenses like wage theft. And while property crime tends to grab headlines, wage theft is an even larger problem. "Property crimes accounted for roughly $30 billion in economic losses in 2019; in contrast, a 2014 estimate by the Economic Policy Institute found that wage theft cost workers nearly $50 billion every year," The Appeal notes.