Violent crime in the United States declined slightly during the first half of 2017, even as the number of murders increased over the same period, according to FBI statistics released Tuesday.
The FBI released a limited set of preliminary statistics capturing the first six months of 2017 and showing that crimes including rape, robbery and aggravated assault all fell over that period when compared to the year before, while there were more murders and an uptick in motor vehicle thefts.
The overall decline in violent crime — which fell by 0.8 percent in the first half of 2017 — comes on the heels of two consecutive years of such figures increasing across the country.
While violent crime levels have remained near historically low levels even amid the recent increases, President Trump’s administration has used dire tones in warning of rising violence. Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly said last year he was worried that the uptick was “the beginning of a trend,” a suggestion that was questioned by some experts.
Sessions last month spoke of “combating this surge in violent crime” when he announced plans to deploy more violent crime prosecutors across the country.
In an op-ed published by USA Today on Tuesday afternoon, Sessions touted the new statistics as a positive sign for the Trump administration.
“When President Trump was inaugurated, he made the American people a promise: ‘This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,'” Sessions wrote, quoting from Trump’s inaugural address. “It is a promise that he has kept.”
Sessions noted that “our work is not done,” but he outlined steps the Trump administration had taken, saying it had brought more cases against violent criminals, pursued more federal firearm prosecutions and convicted human traffickers and gang members alike. He also pointed to the decline in violent crime over the first half of 2016 while saying that even though the number of murders increased again, that uptick had slowed.
“Publicly available data for the rest of the year suggest further progress,” Sessions wrote. “For the first time in the past few years, the American people can have hope for a safer future.”
The FBI data released Tuesday found that the number of murders went up in the Southern and Midwestern United States while declining significantly in the Northeast and slightly in the West. Violent crime fell in most parts of the country, though it increased slightly in the South.
Some trends seen during the previous midyear FBI reports continued in the newest data. During each year since 2014, the first six months have seen motor vehicle thefts increase and arsons decline when compared to the year before. Property crimes have fallen each year, as have burglaries, albeit by shifting percentages.
The country’s overall violent crime levels were pushed upward in 2016 in part by the increase in killings in some major cities such as Chicago. That city saw a drop in both murders and shootings in 2017, according to Chicago police statistics.
What happened in other big cities last year varied across the country. New York City saw a remarkable drop in murders, shootings and crime, with all three numbers continuing to decline.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, had 317 homicide victims last year, up from 277 the year before. Baltimore ended 2017 with a record-setting 343 homicides, prompting the city’s mayor to abruptly replace the police commissioner amid increasing pressure to combat the crime there.
Even though some big cities were still seeing more violence in 2017 than the year before, the Brennan Center for Justice said in an analysis last month that it expected the overall crime rate and violent crime rate in the country’s largest cities to decline slightly.
The FBI data made public Tuesday collected data voluntarily collected by law enforcement agencies and submitted to the bureau’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The full report for 2017 is expected to be released later this year.
This post, first published at 2:56 p.m., has been updated to include Sessions’s op-ed.