UMSL criminologists behind new report showing declines in violent crime across US

by | Jul 24, 2023

Curators' Distinguished Professor Emeritus Richard Rosenfeld and doctoral candidates Ernesto Lopez and Bobby Boxerman co-authored the report for the Council on Criminal Justice.
Richard Rosenfeld, Ernesto Lopez, Bobby Boxerman

Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus Richard Rosenfeld (at left) and doctoral candidates Ernesto Lopez and Bobby Boxerman co-authored “Council on Criminal Justice report on Crime Trends in U.S. Cities: Mid-Year 2023 Update.” (Rosenfeld photo by Derik Holtmann; Lopez and Boxerman photos by August Jennewein)

Richard Rosenfeld described the findings as “heartening” in his interview with New York Times reporter Tim Arango.

The Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri–St. Louis was discussing a new Council on Criminal Justice report on “Crime Trends in U.S. Cities” in the first half of 2023. It showed a nearly 10 percent drop in homicides and declines in other offenses such as gun assaults (-5.6%), robberies (-3.6%), nonresidential burglaries (-5%), larcenies (-4.1%), residential burglaries (-3.8%), and aggravated assaults (-2.5%).

But Rosenfeld was hardly jubilant in giving his assessment of the most recent in a series of reports he’s produced with UMSL doctoral candidates Ernesto Lopez and Bobby Boxerman over the past three years.

“Not a cause for celebration,” Rosenfeld told The New York Times. “Most cities have not returned to the homicide levels that were prevailing just prior to the height of the pandemic. So we have a ways to go.”

Earlier reports produced by the three UMSL researchers all attracted significant media attention, and the new one was no exception.

NBC News also spoke to Rosenfeld about the research results and noted that homicides “remain 24 percent higher than in the first half of 2019 and 15% higher than in 2014, the lowest period recorded since World War II. Gun assaults, aggravated assaults and robberies also remained higher in the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2019, with gun assaults up 39%, aggravated assaults up 8% and robberies up 2%.”

“The downward trends in violent crime we’re seeing as the pandemic recedes should not dim the intensity of our commitment to reduce violence across the country,” said Lopez, who has been working as a research specialist for the Council on Criminal Justice while pursuing his PhD. “Although the levels of homicide and other violent crime are well below historical peaks, they remain intolerably high, especially in poorer communities of color.”

The headline on USA Today’s story about the findings noted the surge in car thefts seen in 2023.

“Motor vehicle thefts began to rise at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and have continued to increase,” reporter Grace Hauck wrote. “In the first half of the year, motor vehicle theft rose by about 34% compared to the same period in 2022, based on information from 32 cities, the report found. That amounts to nearly 24,000 more stolen vehicles.”

Seven of those cities experienced increases of more than 100%. Car thefts in Rochester, New York, increased by 355% while Cincinnati saw an increase of 162%. The authors noted that it’s likely that much of the increase is the result of thefts of Kia and Hyundai models, but rates were rising even before Kia and Hyundai cars became popular targets. Overall, the number of vehicle thefts from January to June 2023 was 104.3% higher than during the same period in 2019.

One reason that the Council on Criminal Justice reports continue to generate so much media attention when they’re released every six months is that the United States doesn’t have reliable federal data on crime that can be accessed in a timely fashion, even at a time when public safety is top-of-mind for many people across the country.

Media Coverage
The New York Times
NBC News
USA Today
The Associated Press

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik