Violent crimes in the US on the rise again

Casselberry Police investigate a shooting at the Las Dominicanas M & M Salon in Casselberry, Florida October 18, 2012. A gunman opened fire at a central Florida beauty salon on Thursday, killing three women and wounding another before fleeing and committing suicide at a nearby residence, the Orlando Sentinel reported. (Reuters/David Manning)
For the first time since 1993, violent crimes in America are on the rise.

Statistics released this week by the US Department of Justice reveal that for the first time in nearly two decades, violent crimes across the country have surged following almost 20 years of data showing a drop in reported cases. In 2011, the total number of assaults and other violent crimes shot up 18 percent when compared to the year prior.

The Justice Department released figures this week after analyzing all types of crimes considered violent by the DoJ, including rape, sexual assault, robbery and crimes that include weapons or end with injury.

Most violent assaults, according to the annual National Crime Victimization Survey, actually remained unchanged across 2011. Simple assaults and aggravated attacks, however, surged by 22 percent, with around 5 million instances of those crimes being logged by police during the last calendar year. Those simple assaults, which clocked in at 3.9 million for last year, are defined as attacks where injuries are minor or nonexistent. More serious crimes, such as rape and robbery, totaled to 1.8 million in 2008.

Despite an evident increase in these serious crimes, the news comes after years of more positive numbers coming from across the country.

“2011 may be worse than 2010, but it was also the second-best in recent history,” Northeastern University criminology professor James Alan Fox tells the Associated Press. “These simple assaults are so low-level in severity that they are not even included in the FBI counts of serious crime,” Fox adds. The AP acknowledges that the Federal Bureau of Investigation only considers aggravated assaults in their personal statistics.

“Twenty years ago we knew what it was like to live through periods of high crime, and it was terrible. If we get another bad crime wave, my fear is we’ll react in a more punitive way and miss the opportunity to learn what is effective when the public is ready to try different things,” Harold Pollack, co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, tells the Christian Science Monitor.

“A 17 percent increase is a pretty small rate relatively to where we were 20 years ago. That’s important to remember,” William Pridemore, a criminal justice professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, adds to their report.

The FBI is expected to release the results from their annual Uniform Crime Report last this month, to which experts suggest to CNN that an overall decline in crime is expected across the board, given that early research revealed a 4 percent drop for the first few months of 2011.