FBI: Preliminary data shows drop in 2014 crime rates

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report Monday that shows a decline in the crime rate for the first half of 2014, putting it on track for a drop three years in a row.

The report uses data from more than 11,000 law enforcement agencies across the country and divides crimes into three main categories: violent crime to include murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault and robbery; property crime to include burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft; and arson.

Burglaries marked the greatest change with a 14 percent drop, followed by robberies and rape – both with a more than 10 percent drop. Likewise, although there was still a decrease, aggravated assaults saw the smallest change at a less than two percent drop.

The report also made a distinction in the rate of rapes according to a definition updated in 2013 and the legacy definition. The definition was changed by removing the word “forcible,” leaving the offense to be defined by “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

While overall there appeared to be a decrease in rapes, the number dropped by over 10 percent under the new definition, and actually increased nearly five percent by the old definition.

There was a marked difference in the decrease in crime rates among metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties, with non-metropolitan counties hovering at right around twice the decrease as their metropolitan counterparts.

Similarly, each region of the country saw stark differences in the changes in crime rates. The Midwest experienced the greatest drop in crime, with more than double that of the West, which saw the smallest drop.

While ofverall offenses nationwide were down, crime within each state’s cities and counties varied tremendously. For example, in Alabama, homicides in Birmingham dropped by 50 percent, but murders were up by 64 percent in Mobile.

The FBI warns against using the preliminary data to determine rankings across the country.

“Some entities use the information to compile rankings of cities and counties,” the report states. “Such rankings, however, do not provide insight into the numerous variables that shape crime in a given town, city, county, state, tribal area, or region. These rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that can create misleading perceptions that adversely affect communities and their residents.”