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Is There A 2020s Crime Wave?

A professor in the Department of Sociology evaluates reports on crime within the U.S. to help explain the context of crime rate statistics.

By Tiarra Drisker ‘25

Current news trends seem to highlight crime. While some sources say there is a drastic increase in crime — or crime wave — happening, other sources say that crime has actually decreased since 2020. Robert Durán, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology, sheds some light on the reality of crime within the U.S.

According to Uniform Crime Report Data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Crime Victimization Survey data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the U.S. is safer than it has been in the past 30 years in terms of violent crime and property crime. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that the firearm homicide rate increased nearly 35 percent reaching its highest level since 1994 in 2020. The FBI has also reported that this was the largest increase in homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 population in the United States from 2006 to 2020. With this seemingly conflicting data, the question remains: Is there a crime wave?

“Most people have an extremely limited understanding of crime,” Durán noted. “News reports tell us about the crimes occurring around us, but often do not provide the patterns and trends to get a better grasp of what this information means. Public opinion polls continue to show general population perceptions of crime differ drastically from the data sources we have available to measure crime.”

Durán encourages citizens to consider the context of print and broadcast media before drawing conclusions about crime rate statistics.

“It is hard to imagine numbers similar to the early 1990s,” Duran said. “The problem is the fear of crime has been used regularly to provoke fear and enhance levels of punishment which is not equally applied to everyone in U.S. society.”

As some statistics do show an increase in homicides by firearms, some may still wonder what could be causing this increase. Durán suggests that it is related to the “new normal” the U.S. has had to adjust to due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Everything changed in U.S. society from how we work, interact with others, eat, shop, communicate, and live life,” Durán said. “There has been a significant loss of life. The CDC has estimated that at least one million people have died. People don’t want to work dead end jobs or put up with things the same anymore. It has brought about new ways of looking at life, death, [and crime].”

Many sociologists associate an increase in crime with lack of equal resources in a community. When people within society feel they are disadvantaged or lack necessary resources, there tends to be an increase in crimes. Durán says this is why it is important for the U.S. to address the inequalities within communities across the nation. 

“Decreasing incidents of crime requires addressing inequalities that exist in U.S. society where certain population groups are disproportionately impacted in housing, education, employment, income and wealth, health care, immigration status, etc. U.S. society is very unequal,” Durán explained. “Most of the focus on decreasing crime has been focused on reducing street crime which is concentrated primarily on the poor and people of color. However, there are other forms of crime such as white-collar crime, green collar crime, state crime, and political crime that are often disregarded and not taken as serious but have a significant impact upon our society. These types of crime require greater oversight and accountability to decrease.”

No matter the type of crime, it is vital for citizens to understand the magnitude and context behind crime statistics in order to make informed decisions about their safety and their interactions with the community around them. 

“My concern is a population living in fear, arming themselves with guns, thinking the worst of others, responding with hate, and using political ideologies to fuel differences and hurt people,” Durán shared. “Crime has often been used by people in political power to enhance levels of social control, yet such an approach often creates fictional ‘evil doers’ while masking the criminal acts of those in power.”