The Amazing Drop in American Violent Crime—Crime in America.Net

 For those of us who lived and worked through the dramatic rises in crime in the 1960’s and 1970’s and the crack-cocaine era of the 1980’s, the drop in violent crime in America is nothing short of astounding.

Violent crime numbers are at historical lows as to crimes reported to law enforcement agencies through the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The National Crime Survey also indicates record low numbers for crime. For a comparison of the two different methods of measuring crime, see

Yes, there are cities with significant crime problems and readers of this article from those metropolitan areas must certainly be confused by what they read here. Never-the-less, the drops in violent crime are significant.

Overall violent crime has been in an almost continual decline for the last 20 years. It was 758.2 per 100,000 population in 1991. It increased slightly (compared to 2004) in 2005 to 469.0 and 2006 to 473.6 but decreased in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The last recorded 100,000 rate was 454.5 in 2008 with preliminary 2009 figures continuing the downward trend.

Murder was 9.5 per 100,000 population in 1991. Between 2000 and 2006 it ranged between 5.5 and 5.7 before declining to 5.4 in 2008. 2009 preliminary data indicates another decrease.

Robbery has gone from 272.7 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 145.3 in 2008 with a couple years of slight increases in 2001 and 2006. Rape went from 42.8 in 1992 to 29.3 in 2008. Aggravated Assault went from 441.9 per 100,000 population to 274.6 in 2008.

2009 data indicates continued drops for all three violent crimes. Again, all of this is documented in

A comparison of crimes in American cities, states and crime rates for countries can be found at

Why the Drop?

It’s disconcerting to many when we say that no one really knows why crime in America has dropped to record lows. We were told by the criminological community that crime was supposed to increase due to crack babies or the failing economy or the increase in the most crime-prone age groups but all failed to live up to expectations.

The only major correlate is the vast increase in prison population, but many criminologists cannot bring themselves to the conclusion that prisons significantly reduce crime.

For a full discussion of   possible reasons for falling crime, see:

Crime in America.Net staff.



  1. You ought to check out the fascinating book Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt. It summarizes his and John Donohue’s controversial paper “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime.” Basically, they argue that the ability of lower class people to get abortions cut down the population of future criminals, and the argument’s fairly compelling. Whether or not you approve of the concept, it’s worth a read.

    • Thanks for the suggestion; we will read it and post comments.
      Best, CIA staff.

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