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FBI quarterly report shows 15% drop in violent crime compared to last year

Examining the accuracy of FBI crime data
Examining the accuracy of FBI crime data 04:56

The latest preliminary quarterly crime figures from the FBI show dramatic decreases: a 26% drop in murders, robberies down by nearly 18% and violent crime overall down 15% in the first quarter of 2024, compared to last year in the same period. 

The FBI released only percentages Monday, however, and not the underlying figures, because at this point just 72% of law enforcement agencies have provided their crime data. The bureau will disclose more complete figures once 80% have participated. 

Jeff Asher, co-founder of AH Datalytics, which tracks and analyzes criminal justice data, noted that three months of unaudited crime data could be considered "often accurate, if imprecise." However, he characterized the overall direction as showing a "very large decline in murder and sizable declines in violent and property crime," in an interview with CBS News' John Dickerson on Monday.

Asher pointed out that 2020 saw a roughly 30% increase in murders, followed by another smaller increase in 2021. In 2022, there was a "small decrease," and last year, he estimated there was "an 8% to 12% decline in murder."

"We'll almost certainly have a third straight year of declining murder — we should be roughly at or below where we were in 2019 in terms of murder," Asher said.

He estimated that overall there was probably "a sizable decline" in violent crime in 2023, and if that also proves to be the case in 2024, "we're talking about ... some of the lowest violent crime rates that we've seen since the early 1970s."

Attorney General Merrick Garland said that he understood over three years ago addressing the spike in violent crime that occurred early in the pandemic "would be one of the greatest challenges we would face at the Justice Department."

"That is why we have poured every available resource into working with our law enforcement and community partners to drive down violent crime," Garland said in a statement Monday. "But we know there is so much more work to do, and that the progress we have seen can still easily slip away." He promised that the department would continue to find and prosecute "the principal drivers of gun violence," invest in programs to enable more police officers to be hired and support community violence intervention programs.  

Perceptions about crime are likely to play a role in this year's elections, which did not escape President Biden, who hailed the latest FBI report and in a statement Monday claimed credit for working with communities in "putting more cops on the beat, holding violent criminals accountable, and getting illegal guns off the street."

"As a result, Americans are safer today than when I took office," he said — an inherent criticism of his predecessor and 2024 opponent, former President Donald Trump.

In April, Trump was asked about an earlier FBI report showing crime rates declined in 2023. He refused to accept that the report was accurate. 

"The FBI fudged the numbers and other people fudged numbers. There is no way that crime went down over the last year. There's no way because you have migrant crime," he told Time. "Are they adding migrant crime? Or do they consider that a different form of crime?"

Asked whether he thought "local police departments," the source of the data, "are wrong," he replied, "I don't believe it's from the local police. What I saw was the FBI was giving false numbers." But he offered no proof to back up his contention.

Asher said it's likely that murder rates will largely be "some of the lowest we've reported in 60 years," though he added, "you're still talking about 18,000 or 19,000 murder victims" nationwide.

"It's still an issue that needs to be solved," he said. "And a lot of work needs to be done, even if trends are very positive."

Andres Triay contributed to this report.

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