Defined as murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults, violent crimes went up to 1.24 million in 2016, a 4.1 percent rise from the year before. At 1.19 million, according to tables compiled by the FBI, the 2015 figure was also an uptick after violent crimes dipped to a low of 1.15 million in 2014.
These small bumps aside, the number of violent crime in the United States remains well below the level of 1.42 million reported a decade ago, when the rate was 471 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the country.
The historic trend of decreased violent crime rates is even more pronounced when compared with two decades ago, when the violent crime rate was 611.
In addition, when violent crimes are mixed in with property crimes like burglary and theft, the total crime rate dropped 1.3 percent in 2016, continuing a 15-year trend of decreasing overall crime rates.
This year’s hike by 49,000 means about 13 more violent crimes for every 100,000 people living in the United States.
As a candidate on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump repeatedly cited the murder-rate uptick, which jumped nearly 8 percent in 2016, and the overall increase in violent crime as justification for his calls for a return to “law and order.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the numbers the FBI released on Monday for similar purposes, calling on law enforcement to work together across the country to fight “the rising tide of violent crime.”
“For the sake of all Americans, we must confront and turn back the rising tide of violent crime,” Sessions said in a statement on Monday. “And we must do it together. The Department of Justice is committed to working with our state, local and tribal partners across the country to deter violent crime, dismantle criminal organizations and gangs, stop the scourge of drug trafficking and send a strong message to criminals that we will not surrender our communities to lawlessness and violence.”
But activists note the uptick in crime reported Monday by the FBI is driven in large part by increases in small parts of the country, not necessarily symbolic of a larger trend. As the Brennan Center for Justice found in a preliminary analysis of the data, Chicago accounted for 20 percent of the overall increase in murders last year.
“The data debunk claims from the Trump administration that crime is out of control, but do highlight cities where violence is concerning,” Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement. “Chicago, for example, has had serious issues that need to be addressed. But by painting the entire country with too broad a brush, the President Trump and Attorney General Sessions are peddling fears and distracting from the frank and honest conversations needed to find solutions to these real problems.”
The crime rates in the FBI’s annual report on crime in the United States are estimates because, while the agency receives data from law-enforcement agencies all across the country, not all provide an entire year’s worth of information.