Is Virginia’s Violent Crime Rate Down or Not?

Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

The murder rate is down across the country, and Americans can be forgiven for relishing this rare bit of good news amid the dirges for layoffs, deficits and fiscal cliffs. Now the Wall Street Journal has gone and spoiled it all for us. While the number of murders has declined the past decade, it’s not because Americans have become any less violent. It’s because hospitals are getting better at treating stabbing and gunshot victims. Emergency room survival rates are higher. Contrary to prevailing opinion, the number of serious injuries from assaults with deadly weapons is rising.

So, the American population is depraved as ever. Does that conclusion apply to Virginia as well? I checked the numbers, and the answer is not clear. The trends reported by the WSJ are not evident from data contained in “Crime in Virginia,” the almanac of Virginia crime statistics. But the WSJ drew upon other data sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program, so I may be comparing apples and oranges.

Here is the data for murders and aggravated assaults from the 2011 “Crime in Virginia” report (click table for more legible image):

Virginia State Police data confirms the conventional wisdom: The murder rate per 100,000 people is down by 39% since 2005, while the rate of aggravated assault is down by 29%. Insofar as the murder rate has declined more rapidly than the assault rate, it’s possible that better trauma care for stabbing and gunshot victims is responsible.

However, the marked decline in the rate of aggravated assault in Virginia (as opposed to simple assault, which has show virtually no decline at all) stands in bold contrast to the WSJ’s figures, which states that the number of people wounded seriously enough to require a hospital stay rose by 47% between 2001 and 2011.

Aggravated assaults reported by police is not the same thing as wound victims reported by hospitals. According to the state police, only 69% of aggravated assault victims had “some type of injury.” But could the numbers really be that far apart? I don’t know. The issue warrants a closer look by someone who is more attuned to uses and abuses of crime and hospitalization data than I am.


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3 responses to “Is Virginia’s Violent Crime Rate Down or Not?”

  1. Unfortunately for me, the WSJ has lost credibility since it was bought by the same folks who own FOX.

    Some of their articles are still solid but others are clearly written with an agenda and deceptively so.

    So I’m basically suspicious of a lot of what they write these days and like Jim here… (he must have similar concerns), get a supporting source before taking it as fact.

    In general, the way things work now days – the media is filled with propaganda and worse..just plain rank wrong stuff – cleverly written to be “plausible” and targeted to people who are seeking to confirm their own biases.

    it’s a sad state of affairs since real journalism has been so seriously damaged by the internet and the vacuum is being filled by too many who are using it to deceive and mislead people.

    DJ blames the traditional media like WAPO but be aware that the Examiner and WSJ as well as Heritage, CATO and dozens of other players are in full flower with their “we report, you decide” scams.

    So my view is – if something is a bit questionable and seems to go against conventional wisdom and the source of it has been guilty of coloring the news (and that includes WAPO/NYT and others…)
    double check it.

    Jim himself got bit recently by the UVA email kerfuffle.

    what the propaganda folks have discovered is that people are lazy and will believe something if it sounds plausible and is supported by seemingly “authentic” data but always, always check the referenced sources – these days as many of the propaganda mills are ‘synthesizing” data. They’ll reference a source like CBO but not use a page number that shows the actual data – as the data they are using has been “tweaked” to suit their agenda.

    they do this commonly now days with “entitlements” and the social security trust fund – both of which most people do not fully understand and the propaganda folks take full advantage of.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I was fascinated when I saw the WSJ piece and equally fascinated that the Richmond Times Dispatch didn’t mention any of this. The TD basically talked to a VCU professor newly arrived from Florida who tried to make the case that Virginia’s orgy of gun purchasing had a direct connect to the dropping murder rate.

    As I have pointed out, the murder rate started dropped long before Virginians went on their buying binge.

    What Jim dug up does some to trail with general murder rate trends which have shown a steady downward trend for a couple of decades ago.

    As for EM teams doing a better job, I can believe that as well. Just a few decades ago, there really wasn’t any medical specialty for trauma or emergency room medical care. All you seemed to be was board certified in something like family practice or surgery.
    Back in the 1970s when my Dad, a surgeon and urologist, was on the staff of a small hospital inNorth Carolina, its 20 or so doctors used to share ER duties by being on call. For Dad, treating gunshots was no big deal since he had a lot of combat experience, but now only board-certified ER docs can do it.

  3. We’ve gotten ourselves into an environment where no sooner do events happen or new reports or statistics get released that both sides try to spin it to serve some partisan political, ideological purpose.

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