Americans Perceive Crime Rise

November 18, 2010

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Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Government & Politics | Local & Directories / Small Biz | Regulatory

Two-thirds of Americans say there is more crime in the US today than there was a year ago, according to results of a new Gallup Poll.

Americans Tend to See Crime Increasing

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In 2010, 66% of Americans view crime as increasing, and 17% say it is decreasing. Gallup analysis indicates Americans generally view crime as on the rise. Going back to 1989, 84% of Americans thought crime was increasing. This rate stayed above 80% until the mid-1990s, and then dipped to a recent low point of 43% in 2002, before shooting back up to 62% in 2003.

Sixty-six percent is still an improvement on recent figures. For example, 74% of Americans said crime was increasing in 2009, as did 67% in 2008 and 71% in 2007.

Outlook on Local Crime More Positive

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Americans are somewhat more positive about the trend in crime in their local area, but still are more likely to see it going up than going down. Only 49% say it is locally on the rise in 2010, with 30% seeing a local decline. This figure has remained lower than the percentage of Americans saying crime overall is increasing during the past 20 years, hitting a two-decade high of 54% in 1989.

These trends, based on Gallup’s annual crime survey, come at a time when both the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics recently reported drops in property and violent crime from 2008 to 2009 in separate studies, as well as documenting longer-term declines in both types of crime.

6 in 10 View Crime as Serious

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Apart from whether the crime rate is increasing, 60% of Americans believe the crime problem in the U.S. is “extremely” or “very serious,” up from 55% in 2009 and tied for the highest Gallup has measured since 2000. A majority of Americans have typically rated the U.S. crime problem as extremely or very serious in the 11-year history of this question.

As is usually the case, Americans are much less concerned about the crime problem in their local area, as 13% say the crime problem is extremely or very serious where they live.

Unsurprisingly, Americans who have been victimized by crime in the past 12 months are about twice as likely as those who have not been victimized to describe the crime problem in their local area as very serious (18% to 10%). Crime victims are also substantially more likely to perceive crime as increasing in their local area (62% to 43%). However, being a victim of crime bears little relationship to the way one perceives the overall crime situation in the US.

4 in 10 Americans Fear Local Crime

Nearly 4 in 10 Americans, 37%, say they would be afraid to walk alone at night within a mile of their home, according to results of a new Gallup Poll. Current level of fear of local crime is close to the average level of fear on this measure across the 35-year Gallup trend. According to the trend, the highest level of public fear about being victimized when walking alone at night was recorded in 1982. At that time, nearly half of adults, 48%, said they were afraid, while 52% were not afraid.

About the Data: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 7-10, 2010, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental US, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

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