Preliminary data gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and presented in the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report indicates a slight increase in violent crimes across the country for the first half of 2015.
With the exception of an uptick of less than two percent from 2011 to 2012, violent crime has been on a steady decline since 2009. For January to June 2015, data suggests an increase of 1.7 percent in violent crimes, which includes murder, rape (revised definition), rape (legacy edition), robbery and aggravated assault, while all other categories of crimes continued to decrease.
The definition of rape was revised in 2013 by removing the word “forcible” and including the description “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.” The Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which collects and reports on crime statistics, at this point, still lists statistics for offenses for both the revised and legacy definition of rape in two separate columns.
Property crimes, which include burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft, from the same period showed a decrease of 4.2 percent. Arson, though considered a property crime, was not included with other property crimes because of “fluctuations in reporting,” but the data collected on arson showed a decrease for the first half of 2015 by 5.4 percent, compared with the same months of the previous year.
Among the different regions in the country, the northeast was the only area to see a decrease in violent crimes and also held the highest percentage drop in property crimes, followed by the midwest and the south. The west saw the greatest rise in violent crimes, an increase of more than twice that of any other region. The west was also the only region to see a rise in property crimes for the first half of 2015.
The FBI, however, warns against using either the preliminary data or full reports to draw conclusions or create comparisons with crime statistics. The reason for such caution is that law enforcement agencies are not required to report crime statistics to the FBI, but do so voluntarily. Therefore, the data presented, although useful, is incomplete at best.
“Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents,” the report warns. “Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.”
The report also points out that crime is a social problem and a concern shared by the entire community in which it occurs.