FBI Uniform Crime Report Gives us Little to Cheer

October 17, 2017

Harrisburg, PA – The annual Crime in the United States report released on Sept. 25 raises more questions than answers and demonstrates some troubling trends about public safety in Pennsylvania and across the country. The report, written by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, and its findings offer important guidance to criminal justice policy experts and practitioners on the need to focus criminal justice reforms on bringing crime rates down.

According to the UCR program’s report, some communities in Pennsylvania experienced significant increases in crime in 2016. Although others might say that crime in Pennsylvania in 2016 decreased, this year’s annual report clearly points to the need for continued efforts to recognize that the primary focus of criminal justice is public safety.  As the Commonwealth considers even more criminal justice reforms, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) urged that elected officials and policy makers must take a closer look at the contributing factors to increased crime rates in the commonwealth.

“This year’s crime report shows us that in Pennsylvania, no one should be taking a victory lap,” said PDAA President and District Attorney of Berks County John T. Adams. “Let’s not cheer. Let’s continue to find solutions that work, solutions that take violent offenders off our streets and ensure that they receive the significant sentences that are proven to make communities safer. We must look closely at reform efforts to ensure that we do not make the same mistakes as other states.”

The report presents important data about crime in Pennsylvania. While the murder rate in Pennsylvania stayed essentially flat from 2015–2016, these numbers actually reveal a sustained increase from 2014–2015, when the murder rate increased by 8 percent. The report also shows that Pennsylvania has the dubious distinction of having the highest murder rate of all Northeastern states. There was a slight increase in the violent crime rate in Pennsylvania between 2015 and 2016, with Allentown, Lancaster, Pittsburgh and Scranton reporting increases in violent crime. In Pennsylvania in 2016, instances of rape and aggravated assault increased, while property crimes decreased.

By contrast, the majority of other Northeast states saw decreases in their violent crime rates. Only two other Northeastern states, New York and Massachusetts, have higher violent crime rates than Pennsylvania. The Crime in the United States report also showed that Texas and California, two states that have pursued significant criminal justice reform efforts, experienced increases in their violent crime rates in 2016.

According to the website, the FBI’s UCR program is “a nationwide, cooperative statistical effort of more than 18,000 city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies eligible to voluntarily report data on crimes brought to their attention.” Since 1930, the program has been generating this report to provide reliable information in order to better inform law enforcement, but the report has also become a vital source information for the public and can be found here.

About the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association: PDAA is comprised of approximately 1,200 members and is charged with providing uniformity and efficiency in the discharge of duties and functions of Pennsylvania’s 67 district attorneys and their assistants.  Since it was founded in 1912, the association has dutifully sponsored extensive training programs and reported legal and legislative developments of importance to Pennsylvania prosecutors.  In addition, the association is often called upon by legislative leaders, at the state and national level, to address public policy issues and efforts, which impact the prosecution of criminal cases, victim rights and public safety.