Feb 13, 2014 8:29 PM GMT
According to data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the United States is becoming safer nearly every year. In the 20 years through 2012, the U.S. violent crime rate has been almost cut in half. Just since 2007, the nation’s violent crime rate has declined from 471.8 to 386.9 incidents per 100,000 people.
While the prevalence of violent crime — which includes murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — has declined in many of the nation’s metropolitan areas, in some regions it has increased. In Bismarck, North Dakota, the violent crime rate more-than doubled — from 167.5 cases per 100,000 people in 2007 to 354.3 in 2013. Based on figures published by the FBI, these are the metropolitan areas with the greatest increases in violent crime rate.
Not all measures of crime produce the same results. While reported offenses of violent crimes were down slightly on a per capita basis in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, estimates that include non-reported offenses indicate that the violent crime rate actually rose in 2012. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Crime not reported to police and simple assault accounted for the majority of this increase.”
Although it remains difficult to precisely determine the violent crime rate, the exact relationship between crime and the economy is similarly unclear . Some experts believe that people are more likely to commit crimes as the economy stumbles, while others suggest this relationship is unresolved and that more opportunities to commit crime may arise as the economy improves.
“As you just sort of think through the mechanics of a crime, it makes total sense,” John Roman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, told 24/7 Wall St. “Your car is much less likely to be stolen if its in your garage than if its in the mall parking lot…and your home is much less likely to be burglarized if you’re in it than if you’re somewhere else spending money.”
In many of the metro areas where crime rose the most, the economy has been especially strong. This is the case with Odessa, Texas, an oil boom town that has experienced rapid economic growth and large inflows of people. Two other metro areas, Columbus, Indiana, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have also experienced strong growth in recent years.
One of the hidden factors that could be driving up crime rates in areas with thriving economies may be shifting local demographics, Roman explained. “The biggest predictor of committing a criminal act is being young, male, and relatively low-skilled. And when you have these big natural resource booms you’re attracting lots and lots of those people to your community.” As a result, it is not organized criminals driving up crime rates as much as it is likely younger men looking for work, Roman said.
Generally, aggravated assault was the most reported violent crime in 2012, accounting for more than 62% of incidents. This was especially the case in many of the areas that led the nation in rising violent crime rates. Even as most of these areas had dramatic increases in assault rates, most had declining murder rates, and some even had decreases in property crime.
Aside from changing demographics, another factor that may affect crime statistics may be the area’s reporting trends. According to Roman, if police signal they are cracking down on crimes such as domestic violence, they may be able to encourage more people to report a crime.
Drug use, too, may play a role in promoting crime in some areas. Heroin use is on the rise in a number of metro areas because crackdowns on prescription pill abuse “drives people into the black market for heroin,” Roman said. While heroin users are no more likely to be violent, the environment in which drugs are bought and sold is often more dangerous, leading to potentially higher crime rates.
Based on figures published by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. determined the 10 metropolitan statistical areas where crime rates rose the most between 2007 and 2012. In order to be considered, areas had to retain the same geographic boundaries during the period covered, and they had to retain a consistent reporting practices. For some MSAs, less than all areas reported offenses. For these areas, FBI estimates totals based on offenses from areas actually reporting. Additionally, we also reviewed unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as well as the BLS’s “Economy At A Glance” tables.
These are the 10 U.S. cities where violent crime is soaring:
10. Lewiston, Idaho-Wash.
> 5-year increase in violent crime rate: 44.5%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2007): 125.1
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2012): 180.8
> Murders per 100,000: 0.0
Between 2007 and 2012, the Lewiston metro area has experienced large increases in both robbery and aggravated assault. The area is relatively small, however. There were just eight robberies in 2007 and only 16 in 2012. For aggravated assault, there were only 83 reported cases in 2012, up from five years before. Property crimes rose during that time as well, from 1,883 to 2,135. Still, the city remained relatively safe, with violent crime less than half as prevalent as it was nationally. In one recent initiative to help deter crime, Lewiston pawn shops are turning to electronic monitoring systems to more-rapidly determine whether items brought into their stores are stolen.
9. Appleton, Wis.
> 5-year increase in violent crime rate: 46.1%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2007): 105.4
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2012): 154.0
> Murders per 100,000: 0.4
By many measures, the Appleton metro area is quite safe. There were just 154 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012, well below the U.S. rate of 386.9 such crimes. However, this marks a considerable increase from 2007, when the area had just 105.4 violent crimes per 100,000 people. According to The Post-Crescent, Appleton police have developed tactics for dealing with rising heroin use in the area. The city’s police chief also told the paper that the department would also continue to prioritize domestic violence. According to the Urban Institute’s Roman, such initiatives can change victims’ reporting behavior, and make them more likely to come forward. While crime is generally down in the area over the last five years, the number of reported aggravated assault cases rose from 145 in 2007 to 273 in 2012.
8. Bangor, Maine
> 5-year increase in violent crime rate: 46.8%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2007): 61.5
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2012): 90.3
> Murders per 100,000: 5.2
Bangor had the lowest violent crime rate of all metro areas in 2007 and remained among the nation’s lowest as of 2012. However, given the area’s small size, the slight uptick in violent crime — which rose from a total of 90 incidents in 2007 to139 incidents in 2012 — meant the increase in the violent crime rate was one of the largest in the country. Heroin use, which has been on the rise in the state, is up in the city as well, one officer told the Bangor Daily News. Addiction to heroin has caused broader health problems as well. According to The New York Times, Governor Paul LePage recently noted that more than 7% of infants born in the state last year were addicted to drugs.