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Crime rates have been falling for 35 years; why is public perception the opposite of this?

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Here’s some preliminary data for crime rates in 2023, which indicate that both homicide and violent crime continued their overall pattern of generational decline, after an uptick during the pandemic.

The bottom line here is that crime rates skyrocketed between the mid-1960s and the late 1980s, and then went into a roughly 35-year long decline, that has now brought homicide, violent crime, and property crime rates down to what they were prior to the generation-long increase. (Why this has happened is the subject of an onging raging debate in criminological circles, which features lots of theories, buttressed by lots of somewhat contradictory and confusing data). This means that if you’re under 55 crime rates have been falling for pretty much your entire adult life.

On the other hand:

Sixty-three percent of Americans describe the crime problem in the U.S. as either extremely or very serious, up from 54% when last measured in 2021 and the highest in Gallup’s trend. The prior high of 60% was recorded in the initial 2000 reading, as well as in 2010 and 2016.

Meanwhile, far fewer, 17%, say the crime problem in their local area is extremely or very serious, but this is also up from 2021 and the highest in the trend by one point over 2014’s 16%.

There’s an obvious parallel here with views on the state of the economy, with lots of Americans saying the economy overall is terrible, although it just so happens that things are pretty good for themselves and people they know.

What could possibly account for this consistent structural divergence between reality and perception?

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