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Framing And Crime Statistics

Over the last few years we've seen dramatic increases in crime across the nation. I can quote the numbers, do that whole song and dance if you like, but you should be perfectly capable of going to the Bureau of Justice statistics, or the FBI's website and pulling up the data for yourself. But just in case it's your first day on the internet here's the year over year homicides in the United States from 1990-2020.

Now, the reason I love this chart is because most people can agree that murder is quite serious, and this perfectly illustrates the perils of the long term trends vs a sudden term crisis. Obviously the nation has seen a a much higher per capita homicide rates in our recent history. The argument that "crime was higher not that long ago" holds true for almost all other categories as well. In fact, if you were to start the trend at the 1990's and just compare that data to current crime data, you could legitimately make the claim that we should be celebrating.


This is because whenever you're dealing with statistics, you can always find a way to frame them in such a way to further your agenda. If you're in the camp of downplaying criminality, you zoom out to the "overall trend" and call it a day. Which brings us to why the 2nd component of this chart is so crucial. You see the year over year percentages really tell the tale. The 2020 murder spike was a nearly 30% increase year over year. The next highest spike in this overall downward trend was about 11% in 2015. Meaning the 2020 spike was 3 times higher than anything we've seen in the last 30 years. Now if you're a keen observer, you might be under the impression, that I am mistakenly overlooking the year 2001. If you believe this, then my response is that you, are mistakenly overlooking the year 2001. While it is true there was a 20% year over year increase in 2001, that can largely be attributed to just 1 day on the calendar. Here's a wikipedia article on it if you're still not following along.


For those of you who are caught up, yes, homicide rate increase from 2019 to 2020, was larger than the rate of increase caused by the deadliest terrorist attack in American history. Now that framing is a bit dramatic to be fair. Clearly 9/11 cannot be boiled down to the number of people who lost their lives, as if those were standard homicides. However, the most important takeaway from zooming out to the "overall" trend should be, we as a nation lost more ground year over year in 2020 than any other. But hey, that's just my framing

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