California’s violent crime rate is diverging from the national average, with a 31% higher rate in 2022, according to recent FBI data.
This divergence is largely due to a rise in aggravated assaults in the state, while the national rate for such crimes is decreasing.
The FBI introduced a new crime reporting system in 2021, which may affect the accuracy of these statistics. Only 49% of California’s law enforcement agencies reported crime numbers for 2022, and the percentages in many other populous states were significantly lower.
Gap Widens During the Pandemic
Before the pandemic, California’s violent crime rate was similar to the national trend. However, the gap between the state and national rates has widened significantly during the pandemic, from 15% in 2019 to 31% in 2022.
Aggravated assaults are the primary driver of this divergence. In 2022, California’s aggravated assault rate was 25% higher than in 2019, while the national rate declined.
Other violent crime categories, such as robbery, homicide, and rape, have not diverged as significantly.
County-level data from the California Department of Justice shows that the increase in aggravated assaults is widespread across both urban and rural counties.
Reasons for More Aggravated Assaults
While California’s violent crime rate increase is notable, eight other states also saw double-digit increases. The recent changes in the FBI’s crime reporting systems and incomplete law enforcement agency participation may make comparisons across states less reliable.
The reasons for the increase in aggravated assaults are unclear, but potential contributing factors include decreases in police staffing, a decline in jail and prison populations, increased behavioral health challenges, and rising social and economic challenges, such as an increase in homelessness.
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