Despite FBI, Bureau of Justice Statistics Reports to the Contrary, Americans Believe Crime On the Rise

An early October Gallup poll suggests that two-thirds of Americans believe there is more crime in the United States than a year ago and nearly half say there is more crime in their local areas than in the preceding year. These results follow studies conducted by "both the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics [that] recently reported drops in property and violent crime from 2008 to 2009."

According to Gallup, Americans have a "general tendency to perceive crime as increasing" and generally think that rates are higher at times when they have a more negative perception of the nation's standing. The most recent rates of perceived crime increases, then, may be higher than those in the late 1990s and early 2000s--when the economy was strong and patriotism high--because of dissatisfaction with the nation's situation largely stemming from the recent economic recession.

A majority of Americans not only believe that crime is increasing; they also fear it is becoming a more crucial problem. The 60% of Americans in 2010 who said that crime in America is an "extremely" or "very serious" problem was higher than the 55% who said so in 2009 and was the highest figure since 2000. Following the same pattern as estimates of crime increases at the national and local levels, far fewer respondents said that crime was an "extremely" or "very serious" problem at the local level as at the national level, checking in at only 13%.

As might be expected, victims of crime were more likely (18% as compared with 10%) to rate crime as a serious problem that is increasing (62% compared to 43%) in their local area, though the relationship between being a victim of crime and estimates of crime's importance and changing levels of crime visible at the local level was not apparent at a national level.
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