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If violent crime rates are down, why do people feel so unsafe?

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Local police departments and federal regulatory authorities track crime rates across the United States. The disclosure of reports, arrests and convictions has made it easier than ever for members of the public, journalists and those involved in policy making to understand the current state of criminality in the United States.

Crime rates affect everything from property values to job opportunities. How people behave in public and the risks they decide to take often relate in no small part to their perception of the criminal risk that they might face. According to recent research, people in the United States feel more unsafe them ever. However, crime data shows that violent crimes are on the decline. In fact, 2023 saw some of the lowest overall violent crime rates of the last 50 years.

Why is there a mismatch between perception and reality?

Recent issues caused cultural trauma

2020 saw an uptick in certain types of criminal activity and major media focus on these issues. The average major media outlet may still focus on these issues without disclosing how crime rates have declined in the last few years.

Even though crime rates have dropped since 2020, many people still labor under the misconception that it is less safe in the United States now than it was just a few years ago. News outlets have contributed to these social fears. Major news outlets often fixate on crimes because they draw more attention from the public. High-profile murders and other violent crimes make people feel unsafe even when those criminal acts are statistical anomalies or occur across the country.

Even though the chances of someone experiencing a violent crime are lower in 2024 than people might realize, members of the public could be more likely to call the cops on others and report them for actions that are not actually crimes. They might also be more likely to react to a situation aggressively in an attempt to defend themselves, their property or other people.

Personal perception largely determines how people experience reality. The idea that violent crime has gotten worse can affect everything from the behavior of people in a neighborhood to the sentences imposed by judges hearing criminal cases. Additionally, understanding how social trends could affect the violent criminal allegations against an individual may help them to plan a better response to their pending charges.