The FBI says violent crime fell again across the nation last year, continuing a two-decade-long downward trend.
The 2014 edition of the Uniform Crime Report released Monday said violent crime dropped nationwide by 0.2 percent. New England saw the sharpest declines, with double-digit falls in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Outside of the Northeast, the numbers varied greatly: Illinois saw an 8.3 percent decline, for example, while Florida saw reports of violent crime increase by almost 17 percent.
The UCR is the most well-known measure of crime in the United States, but it’s not flawless. FBI Director James Comey, who told reporters in April that it was “ridiculous that I can’t tell you how many people were shot by the police last week, last month, last year,” announced a new initiative Monday to collect more data on police shootings in the wake of high-profile incidents over the past year. But activists warned that police departments would still submit data on a voluntary basis instead of through a desired mandatory system.
As I noted in May, much statistical information about the U.S. criminal-justice system simply isn’t collected. The number of people kept in solitary confinement in the U.S., for example, is unknown. (A recent estimate suggested that it might be as many as 80,000–100,000 people.) Basic data on prison conditions is rarely gathered; even federal statistics about prison rape are generally unreliable. Statistics from prosecutors’ offices on plea bargains, sentencing rates, or racial disparities, for example, are virtually nonexistent.