But what do ordinary citizens say?
A majority of Americans say there is more crime in the United States than there was a year ago. And it doesn’t matter what year you pick. Americans, as Gallup Inc., the national polling company, has found as a long-term trend, believe crime is going up in their community.
For instance, in 2014, 63% of Americans believed crime was increasing (McCarthy, 2015). This percentage is well below the recent high of 74% in 2009. As the percentage of Americans who say crime is up hits one of its lowest points in the past 10 years, just about one in five Americans (21%) say crime is down. Another 9% of Americans say the level of crime has remained the same (McCarthy, 2015).
The Gallup pollsters have consistently found that people in the United States believe crime is up in their area—despite the fact that statistics show that with a handful of exceptions, serious crime has decreased nearly every year from 1994 through 2012. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, the overall violent crime rate for rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault fell from 80 victimizations per 1000 persons in 1994 to 19 per 1000 in 2010. In the first decade of that trend, public opinion followed, with the percentage perceiving crime was up falling from 87% in 1993 to 41% in 2001 (McCarthy, 2015). But this shot up to 62% in 2002 and has remained fairly high ever since (McCarthy, 2015).
So, what is the answer to the question? Who is right? Is there a crime problem in the United States?
Maybe the best—and simplest—answer is that it depends on your perspective. Maybe you will be in a better position to answer this question for yourself after you have read Chapter 2, in which you will be able to review the statistics and the most authoritative information available about the extent of crime in the United States. However, perhaps like most decent and rational people in our society would likely contend, you may be of the opinion that as long as there is one murder, one rape, one terrorist bombing, or one burglary, there is still too much crime. Furthermore, you might further argue that our goal should be the elimination of all crime.