Crime Increases in America Per Gallup



Per Gallup-Household crime is at its highest point since 2001.

Per Gallup-Twenty-nine percent of U.S. adults report that they or someone in their household was the victim of at least one form of conventional crime in the past year.

If the Department of Justice says that crime is at historic lows, why is Gallup suggesting that they are at historic highs?


By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. Post Master’s degree-Johns Hopkins University.


Per Gallup (November, 2016) Americans’ direct experience with crime is at a 16-year high, consistent with a gradual increase — from 22% in 2001 to 29% today — in the percentage saying that they or a household member was the victim of a robbery, vandalism or violent crime in the past year, see Gallup-Crime.

Per Gallup-household crime is at its highest point since 2001.

This is after Gallup offered another report on, “In U.S., Concern About Crime Climbs to a 15-Year High,” see Gallup-Concern.

Gallup previously stated that if cyber crimes were included, the household victimization rate would surge to 46% (November, 2014). If half of American households state that they are victims of crime, then there is little wonder about fear of crime.

But crime counts are moderated by the finding that personal crime (rather than household crime) is down, Overall, 16% of U.S. adults say that they were personally the victim of at least one crime in the past year, similar to the 17% found in 2015 and about the middle of the 14% to 19% range seen since 2001, see Gallup-Crime.

The index does not include two types of digital crimes that Gallup began measuring more recently — experiencing identity theft and having credit card information stolen. More Americans tend to report being victimized by these than by most conventional crimes. As Gallup reported last month, 27% of Americans say that they or someone in their household had information from a credit card stolen by computer hackers.

Differences-Gallup Vs US DOJ Data

The Department of Justice offers two sources on national crime data through crimes reported to police via the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Survey, see Crime in America.

Gallup is an often-cited third source on crime and the definitive source for fear of crime. There is no national fear of crime data offered by the Department of Justice.

Violent crime increased in 2015 per the FBI and while violent crime remained flat in 2015 per the National Crime Survey; when you look at long-range data for both, crime remains at historic lows.

How can household crime be at its highest point since 2001 per Gallup when the FBI and the National Crime Survey numbers are at historic lows?

Methods of Obtaining Data

There are differences as to what the Department of Justice measures and what Gallup offers on a yearly basis (i.e., cyber crime, vandalism) but there are consistencies in all three data sets that would lead one to consider their findings accurate. All (FBI, National Crime Survey, Gallup) are known for sound observations.

The National Crime Survey offers a separate report for victims of identity theft.

There are differences in the data provided based on age of respondents and the size of the sample used.

For example, Gallup interviews 1,017 adults age 18 and over where the National Crime Survey interviews 90,000 households and 160,000 people. Also, The National Crime Survey keeps respondents in a panel for three years and begins each with an in-person interview. National Crime Survey questions are more action oriented where Gallup’s questions are more direct. There are problems with the FBI and National Crime Survey for undercounting crime.  But from a methodological (survey design) point of view, the National Crime Survey would seem to have the better points of measurement.

But note that Gallup uses the same approach as many major industries as to brand perception. Companies live or die based on the accuracy of their data. If the methodology is good enough for General Motors, it may be good enough for data on crime.

Reporting Crime to Police

There are also startling differences in crimes reported to police. Sixty-nine percent of household crimes were reported to law enforcement per Gallup where the National Crime Survey reports that thirty-five percent of property crimes and forty-seven percent of violent crimes were reported to the police.

The difference could be based on the age differences (Gallup, uses age 18 and up, National Crime Survey uses age 12 and up). It strikes me as plausible that older individuals would have greater knowledge as to whether a crime was reported to police.

It’s equally probable that Gallup is recording more serious crimes; we have long speculated that The FBI’s numbers are more serious in nature where the National Crime Survey results indicate that many of the crimes documented were not reported to the police because respondents view the events as a personal matter, or that there was little the police would/could do to resolve incidents.

Bottom Line

I’m not enough of a methodologist to provide precise reasons for the differences between FBI, National Crime Survey and Gallup data or to tell you which is accurate or best when it comes to counting crime.

But there is a national discussion as to why fear of crime is up per Gallup (no one is questioning the quality of that data) and the observation that concern about crime isn’t following data from the FBI and the National Crime Survey showing that crime is at historic lows. I just wrote, “Are American’s Wrong about Crime?” in response to journalists and some criminologists suggesting that there was a disconnect between crime rates and perceptions or fear of crime, see Crime in America.

My guess is that many observers of crime have more faith in the expanded methods used by the National Crime Survey versus Gallup’s smaller numbers.

But the Gallup crime data indicate increases in crime versus historic decreases from the FBI and National Crime Survey and mimic the concurrent rise in fear of crime.

I’m not in the position to tell you which is the better measurement, but I will suggest that Gallup is using survey data accepted by corporate America and their crime numbers match the concurrent rise in fear of crime, thus it may be time to pay more attention to Gallup’s findings.

Crime in America at

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