Gun Control: Examining the 2005 FBI Crime Statistics

November 17th, 2006 10:30 AM

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Murders in the United States jumped 4.8 percent last year, and overall violent crime was up 2.5 percent for the year, marking the largest annual increase in crime in the United States since 1991, according to figures released Monday by the FBI.

Robberies nationally increased 4.5 percent, and aggravated assaults increased 1.9 percent, while the number of rapes last year fell 1.9 percent, the report said.[1]

Wouldn’t you like to know where those murders and robberies occurred? Was it diffused throughout the country, or are there other possible demographic factors? One caution: It is always problematic to derive reliable trends from two year’s data. Even the CNN article notes:

The director of the Justice Department Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jeff Sedgwick, said, “It’s certainly a matter of concern. But the question is this – ‘Is this a real increase or is it ... statistical noise, which you see with year-to-year changes?’ ”[2]

According to final FBI data for 2005, the number of murders increased 3.5%, robberies increased 3.9%, and aggravated assaults increased 1.8%. The best piece of news was that rapes decreased 1.2%. Accounting for a population increase of about 2.8 million, the rates per 100,000 population increased somewhat more modestly: murder, 2.4%; robbery, 2.9%; and aggravated assault, 0.9%; while rape decreased 2.1%.[3]

Should We Ban Cities?

Gun banners often claim firearms availability increases violent crime rates, even though no reliable studies offer corroborating proof. After sorting 8,138 cities by size, FBI statistics show that larger cities are far more violent: cities of populations of over 250,000 average around double the national crime rates in all categories except rape, where they average up to 50% higher. (See Table 1) At the other end, small cities under 25,000 average well below national violent crime rates in all categories. It appears there may be a link between violent crime and overcrowding.

Table 1 – Violent Crime Rates, 2005[4]

City Size Violent Crime    Homicide    Rape    Robbery    Assault

Over 1M      827.9                11.1         32.2        355.9       428.7

500k-1M     990.2                13.9         45.4        367.6       563.3

250k-500k 1015.0                12.9        53.4         370.3      578.4

100k-250k   615.1                  8.2        38.8         209.0      359.1

75k-100k     525.1                  6.0        36.9         162.3      319.9

50k-75k       443.2                  4.1        32.8         134.4      271.8

25k-50k       373.4                  3.6        32.5         102.6      234.7

10k-25k       306.0                  2.7        28.8           71.7      202.9

5k-10k         313.6                  2.5        28.8           52.7      229.6

2500-5k       289.6                  2.5        26.0           39.4      221.7

1k-2500       296.4                  2.2        22.9           30.0      241.3

Under 1k      355.9                  2.5        22.6           59.6      271.2

[U.S.]           469.2                  5.6        31.7         140.7      291.1

Where In Each State Is Crime Increasing?

The FBI reports data according to three community types:

1. “Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs)—Each MSA contains a principal city or urbanized area with a population of at least 50,000 inhabitants. MSAs include the principal city; the county in which the city is located; and other adjacent counties that have, as defined by the OMB, a high degree of economic and social integration with the principal city and county as measured through commuting.”

2. “Cities Outside MSAs—Ordinarily, cities outside MSAs are incorporated areas.” (Called non-MSA in the following tables.)

3. “Nonmetropolitan Counties Outside MSAs—Most nonmetropolitan counties are composed of unincorporated areas.”[5]

Corroborating Table 3, the FBI notes that MSAs average higher violent crime rates than the national average across all categories, with rates generally decreasing as we move into nonmetropolitan (rural) counties. (See Table 2)

Table 2 – Violent Crime by Community Type, as Percent of National Average, 2005[6]

Community    Violent Crime    Homicide    Rape    Robbery    Assault

MSA                      108                 108           105         115         105

Non-MSA                86                   57           114           46         100

Non-Metro               45                   53             67           11           56

Most of the violent crime increase occurred in MSAs, with four of the five indices increasing since 2004 at or above the national rate changes. The one exception is in rape, where MSAs were the only community type to better the U.S. rate change. (See Table 3)

Table 3 – One-Year Violent Crime Trends by Community Type, 2004-2005[7]
(Percent Average Rate Change)

Community    Violent Crime    Homicide    Rape    Robbery    Assault

MSA                       2.5                   5.1         (2.4)       3.7            2.5

Non-MSA               0.8                 (1.5)          7.4        1.4          (0.1)

Non-Metro              0.8                 (9.1)          2.9       (0.1)          0.8

U.S.                         1.8                  1.9          (1.7)       3.8           1.5

Right-to-Carry Influence?

Sorting FBI data by violent crime rate uncovers some interesting results. The seven least violent states are all shall-issue right-to-carry (RTC). Of the seven most violent states, three are non-RTC (includes D.C.) Since about 75% of all states are RTC, 43% of the worst being non-RTC makes these states over-represented at the unpleasant end. The five states with the lowest murder rate are RTC, but two of the five worst are non-RTC. The eleven states with the lowest robbery rate are RTC, but of the eleven worst, 5 are non-RTC. Nine of 10 states with the lowest assault rates are RTC, while 3 of 10 with the highest rates are non-RTC. The only exception is in rates of rape, where three of the 10 lowest are non-RTC, while only one non-RTC state is in the 10 worst.

Overall, non-RTC states average 27.8% higher violent crime rates, most notably 43.8% higher murder and 85% higher robbery rates, than RTC states. (See Table 4) The exception is rape: non-RTC states averaged 21.1% lower rates, reversing a 9-year trend where 10 states with RTC laws enacted during 1995-1996 saw their rates of rape drop faster than non-RTC states.[8]

Table 4 – Violent Crime Rate Averages, 2005[9]

Population    Violent Crime    Homicide    Rape    Robbery    Assault

RTC                    394.4                 4.8          35.6         93.6       260.4

Non-RTC            504.0                 6.9          28.1       173.2       295.7

Pct Difference        27.8               43.8         (21.1)        85.0         13.6

Between 2004 and 2005, RTC states saw a 1.1% increase in their violent crime rate, compared to non-RTC states’ 2.1% increase. (See Table 5) The main influences in non-RTC states experiencing a greater increase in the violent crime rate is due to the first two categories noted in the CNN article: murder and robbery.

Table 5 – RTC Violent Crime Rate Trend Comparison, 2004-2005[10]
(Negative Percent = Decreasing Rate)

Population    Violent Crime    Homicide    Rape    Robbery    Assault

RTC                      1.1                   0.3         (2.0)         1.6           1.4

Non-RTC              2.1                   1.9         (4.4)         6.8           0.2

Separating community types by RTC status indicates a moderate benefit imparted by personal self-defense. Of the 15 different categories–five violent crime categories for each of the three community types–RTC states were better in 10 of 15. In all three community types, RTC states bettered the national rate change for overall violent crime, while non-RTC states saw larger increases in MSAs and non-MSA cities. The one exception is in rape, where non-RTC states led in two of three community type comparisons, though some counterbalance occurs because RTC MSAs saw a greater drop than the national one-year rate change and non-MSA cities without RTC saw a 19.2% increase in rape. (See Table 6)

Table 6 – One-Year Violent Crime Trends by Community Type and RTC Status, 2004-2005[11] (Percent Average Rate Change)

Community    Violent Crime    Homicide     Rape    Robbery    Assault

MSA RTC                  0.7                6.5          (2.1)          0.3           1.1

MSA non-RTC           2.8                2.9          (4.8)          7.7           0.7

Non-MSA RTC        (2.1)              (0.8)          4.7          (1.3)         (3.1)

Non-MSA non-RTC  8.1                 9.7         19.2          15.1           5.4

Non-Metro RTC        0.9                (6.6)          3.0           4.1            0.7

Non-Metro non-RTC 1.1               15.1            1.2        (10.5)          2.1

U.S.                           1.8                 1.9            (1.7)         3.8           1.5

It should be noted, however, that RTC communities remain less violent, leading their non-RTC counterparts in eleven of 15 categories, including the overall violent crime rate. (See Table 7)

Table 7 – Average Violent Crime Rates by Community Type and RTC Status, 2005[12]

Community      Violent Crime    Homicide    Rape    Robbery    Assault

MSA RTC                 417.3              5.2          37.0        110.3      264.9

MSA non-RTC          523.8              7.2          27.6        185.5      303.5

Non-MSA RTC         354.0              3.4          35.8          54.1      260.6

Non-MSA non-RTC  438.2              1.9          44.5          67.7      324.1

Non-Metro RTC        194.9              3.1          22.0          13.7      158.5

Non-Metro non-RTC 201.1              2.2          21.4          14.5      163.1

Conclusion

Yes, violent crime rates increased in 2005, especially in the categories of murder and robbery. Most of this increase occurred in large metropolitan areas and in cities not part of a larger metropolitan area that reside in non-RTC states. Right-to-carry communities are generally the safest places to live, and non-metropolitan counties in RTC states are the safest places for women. So the next time a gun controller says we need to ban guns because crime is going up, kindly give them this paper and remind them that they have already contributed enough, thank you very much.

About the Author

Howard Nemerov publishes with ChronWatch, News Busters and other sites, and is a frequent guest on NRA News. He can be reached at HNemerov [at sign] Netvista.net.

Endnotes



[1] Terry Frieden, Violent crime takes first big jump since ’91, CNN, June 12, 2006. http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/06/12/crime.rate/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Table 1 – Crime in the United States by Volume and Rate per 100,000 Inhabitants, 1986-2005. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/documents/05tbl01.xls

[4] Compiled from Table 8 – Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by State by City, 2005. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/documents/05tbl08.xls Email request for spreadsheet.

[5] FBI Crime in the United States, 2004, Appendix III – Uniform Crime Reporting Area Definitions, page 507. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_04/documents/CIUS2004.pdf

[6] Compiled from Table 5 – Crime in the United States by State, 2005. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/documents/05tbl05.xls Email request for spreadsheet.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Rape rate trends compiled from FBI crime data 1995, 1996, 2004, and 2005. Email request for spreadsheet.

[9] Compiled from Table 4 – Crime in the United States by Region, Geographic Division, and State, 2004-2005. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/documents/05tbl04.xls and Table 5 – Crime in the United States by State, 2005. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/documents/05tbl05.xls Email request for spreadsheet.

[10] Compiled from Table 4 – Crime in the United States by Region, Geographic Division, and State, 2004-2005. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/documents/05tbl04.xls Email request for spreadsheet.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.