An analysis by the moderate Democratic group Third Way counters the media narrative that the U.S. is experiencing a crime wave.
Third Way, a center-left national think tank, concluded in a recent report that the numbers show a different story than the media narrative of out-of-control crime.
“Contrary to the media narrative, overall crime decreased in 2020 compared to 2019,” the report concluded.
The report found that besides an increase in homicides in 2020, no increase in other crimes was found — something one would expect to see if homicides were due to police reform protests and legislation, the nonprofit said.
The report therefore concluded that the increase in homicides is an “outlier.”
The paper, which gathered data from 22 states, found “no difference in crime trends between Republican-led and Democrat-led states.” The report argues, therefore, that policy differences were not the reason behind the crime, which did not significantly change from 2019 to 2020.
“There seems to be a hysteria that began about a year and half ago to try and convince Americans that we’re undergoing another crime wave,” said Jim Kessler, Third Way’s executive vice president for policy. “At a certain point, we just wanted to look at what the actual data was. And it doesn’t bear up.”
“What we’re seeing is really scant evidence of a crime wave,” he added.
The report further blamed right-wing news outlets like Fox News for pushing an exaggerated narrative and stoking fear.
At the same time, a Morning Consult poll found that 78% of voters were concerned about crime, with 73% believing that crime is increasing.
Regarding the increase in homicides, experts have multiple theories, such as from emotional stress and economic strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
Analysts like Jeff Asher, co-founder of AH Datalytics, did not see a link between homicides and regional politics.
“It’s an American problem, not a Democratic or Republican problem, and not just a big-city problem,” Asher said.
Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said it would be difficult to determine the effect of police reform policies on crime trends, because they take years to implement. In addition, measuring homicide rates from 2019 to 2020 can be problematic because rates were already increasing before reforms were implemented.
“It’s going to be difficult to determine the impact of policing reforms on homicide rates,” Rosenfeld said.
The nonprofit’s report indeed concluded that there was no apparent correlation between police reforms and increased crime.
Third Way’s report did not comment on another possible explanation for the disparity between homicides and other crimes: the selective enforcement (or lack thereof) of certain crimes due to more cautious policing.