Newspapers lately have been filled with disturbing headlines about “spikes in crime.” In March, the New York Daily News wrote, “The murder rate in New York City has spiked an alarming 20% in the first two months of the year, prompting NYPD brass to rethink strategy to curb the deadly trend.” The Los Angeles Times reported “LAPD struggles with spike in violent crime, shootings.” Even the BBC asked “Why has the murder rate in some US cities suddenly spiked?”
These headlines, however, conflict with statistical data showing that we are actually enjoying some of the lowest crime rates in more than half a century. Why then do we continue to see headlines that seem to say the exact opposite? Moreover, how is it that most Americans inaccurately believe that crime is on the rise?
Well, when we don’t read past the headlines, it is hard to see the forest for the trees. A closer analysis of crime over time provides a less alarming and more accurate picture of crime trends than the short-term analysis headline writers often rely on.