Crime on the Rise

Why more crime? Be careful when interpreting the experts' explanations.

By Colin Allen, published October 1, 2002 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Considering the recent spate of killing sprees in Oklahoma, Arizona and the Washington, D.C. area, it might not come as a surprise to learn that the rate of overall crime in America has increased for the first time in a decade. According to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report, released on October 28, the number of murders, rapes and every other type of violent criminal act—with the exception of aggravated assault—rose in 2001. And the number of murders increased for the second straight year.

"When discussing crime rates, you are discussing a variable influenced by so many factors that it is really hard to identify the most causative factors," explains Mark Zelig, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist with a nation-wide practice based in Salt Lake City, Utah. "I think unless someone sits down and really looks at a number of the different variables that are operating, we are going to be really hard pressed to give you a good explanation."

And while the FBI's statistics provide some of the most detailed information on crime, looking only at the national composite for specific crimes does not offer much useful information for individual Americans. Regional information may better help people find methods for decreasing crime in their own neighborhoods, Zelig concludes.