The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, which includes data collected from 12,723 law enforcement agencies across the country. The entire country saw a 5.4 percent drop in violent crime from last year’s numbers. The area in which crime dropped the most was arson, which is technically a property crime but is tracked separately from that statistic. Larceny saw the smallest decrease, only 4.7 percent, of any of nationally tracked categories.
However, one troubling detail that jumps out (and seems to contradict the percent change numbers) is what seems to be a marked increase in instances of rape. This is not the case, exactly.
In 2013, the FBI included all rape cases instead of only cases classified as “forcible rape.” The specific legal definition of this term is ambiguous but seems to exclude via implication those sexual assaults where the victims are drugged or otherwise mentally incapacitated. Since the percent change only reflects “forcible” cases, it is not wholly accurate. It won’t be until this time next year that a true comparison can be made. Therefore, the report does not necessarily suggest that instances of rape are on the rise but instead speaks to how many rape victims were marginalized in the past by the “forcible” distinction.
Further analysis of the minutiae of the report shows that even with a drop in violent crime nationally, some regional areas did see an increase in crime. The small lake town of Erie, Pa., saw its violent crime rate rise by 12 percent. While Huntsville, Ala., saw its overall crime rate drop slightly but had 11 more murders in the first half of 2013 than it did in the same period of 2012.
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The FBI cautioned people from drawing comparisons between the figures for specific cities. That can “lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities,” it said in a press release. Instead, it suggests that only careful analysis of this data and the extenuating circumstances of each law enforcement district can lead to accurate comparisons.