(The Center Square) – According to newly released FBI crime statistics for 2022, violent crime decreased nationwide but sharply increased in California. Between 2021 and 2022, the violent crime rate per 100,000 people increased from 481.2 to 499.5 in California and decreased from 387 to 380.7 nationwide. At the same time, statewide arrests decreased significantly from pre-pandemic levels, a statewide phenomenon not localized to just major cities.
Notably, 2021’s numbers did not include crime statistics from 43% of national police departments, including Los Angeles and New York City, the nation’s largest cities, due to the adoption of a new crime reporting system. While the adoption of the new system had been announced five years before, more than 4 in 10 police departments failed to prepare for adopting the new system on time, resulting in the FBI’s 2021 crime statistics providing an incomplete picture of crime in the United States. It’s thus not clear whether or not crime significantly increased in 2022 over 2021, or if improved data reporting simply captured more of the crime that was actually occurring. Conversely, anecdotal reports of victims of crime in big cities under-reporting crime due to perceptions that police or prosecutors can or will do little suggest that crime may still be significantly underreported.
For example, while there were 44,693 robberies reported in California in 2020, the FBI only received reports of 6,698 robberies in 2021, while receiving 47,619 reports for 2022, when most police departments went back to sending annual statistics to the FBI.
However, even if data is incomplete, increases in some types of crime have been substantial. Los Angeles Police Department logged an increase in stolen vehicles from 34,854 in 2019 to 55,845 in 2022, an increase of 60%. San Francisco Police Department reported a similar increase, with a rise from 8,863 in 2019 to 13,174 in 2022.
One of the most notable aspects of the change between pre-and-post-pandemic law enforcement is changes in arrests. California had a total of 1,062,995 arrests in 2019, with just 774,729 in 2022, a 27% statewide decline not localized to just major cities. LAPD made 54,060 arrests in 2019 but just 38,833 in 2022, a 28% decline, while SFPD made 14,337 arrests in 2019 and 10,249 in 2022, a 29% decline. While cities experienced a slightly higher decline in arrests than the rest of the state, the data demonstrates the overall decline in arrests is fairly consistent across the state and may have some connection to increases in certain crimes. Peer-reviewed literature is consistent in finding that increased arrests tend to correlate with lower crime rates, primarily due to deterrence but also due to incapacitation, or the removal of criminals from the public body.
“Incapacitation suggests that an increase in the arrest rate for one crime will reduce all crime rates; deterrence predicts that an increase in the arrest rate for one crime will lead to a rise in other crimes as criminals substitute away from the first crime,” wrote study author Steven D. Levitt, a University of Chicago economist best known for writing Freakonomics and its sequels. “Empirically, deterrence appears to be the more important factor, particularly for property crimes.”