Harrisburg, PA – The rate of crime in Pennsylvania across most major categories – including violent crime - declined last year, at the same time that other states reported overall increases in their violent crime rates, according to FBI statistics released Monday.
The U.S. Department of Justice 2016 Crime in the United States, a compilation of crime statistics from local and state law enforcement agencies released Monday by the FBI, found a nationwide increase in violent crime (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault), while property crimes declined overall.
Across the nation, the estimated number of violent crimes increased for the second straight year, rising 4.1 percent in 2016 when compared with 2015 data. By contrast, the number of violent crimes in Pennsylvania remained essentially flat in 2016.
Murder, the most reliably counted crime, increased by 8.6 percent nationwide, but declined by 0.6 percent in Pennsylvania. Rapes initially appeared to rise in Pennsylvania during 2016, but an anomaly in the reporting revealed that rapes actually declined in 2016, dropping by nearly 1 percent. Total violent crimes appear to have dropped by the same percentage. The only violent crime category that went up in Pennsylvania was aggravated assault, which increased by 2.7 percent, compared with a 5.1 percent increase nationally.
Pennsylvania also recorded double the rate of overall property crime reductions compared with other states, dropping 3.9 percent compared with 1.3 percent nationally.
“This is significant news for Pennsylvania,” said Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel. “Adding to this positive crime data report is that it comes as the state prison population has shrunk at a record rate two years after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down dozens of mandatory minimum sentences - evidence that the absence of mandatory minimums does not lead to increased crime.”
Bret Bucklen, director of planning, research, and statistics for the Department of Corrections, said the crime statistics show no correlation between higher crime rates and areas where more state inmates are being released.
“The largest number of prison releases have gone to counties where crime went down,” said Bucklen. “Among the 10 counties that saw the largest increase in parole releases to their communities during 2016, the serious crime rate went down 16 percent. While among the 10 counties that saw the largest drop in parole releases to their communities during 2016, the serious crime rate went up 1 percent. Police arrests of state parolees for violent crimes also went down during 2016.”
Wetzel attributed the crime rate decline in part to the success of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), which aims to reduce the inmate population, while redirecting resources to crime prevention programs. Prior to JRI, the inmate population projection for June 2017 was 56,440 inmates. The state’s prison population today is 48,097 – or more than 8,000 inmates fewer than projected.
Wetzel said the 2016 Crime in the United States data supports the state’s effort to launch a new Justice Reinvestment Initiative – JRI 2 - which will continue to provide more dollars to counties to combat the opioid epidemic, reduce crime, and improve public safety.
MEDIA CONTACT: Amy Worden, 717-728-4026
# # #