Meridian PD ride

Officer Chris LaFave, with the Meridian Police Department, radios in as he initiates a traffic stop on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.

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Idaho’s crime rate fell from 2019 to 2020, continuing a four-year trend. The annual “Crime in Idaho” report, published last week by the Idaho State Police, shows that the state’s crime rate continues to decline, as do total crimes in both Ada and Canyon counties. Ada County saw a 4.5% drop in total offenses from 2019 to 2020; Canyon saw a 1.33% decline.

Yet, national conversations have focused on crime as a rising problem. Idaho Sen. Jim Risch last week tweeted, “Violent crime is on the rise & it’s more important than ever we support our law enforcement officers who are working to keep our communities safe.” The senator linked to a Fox News report about shootings over the Fourth of July holiday in Chicago and New York.

A Pew Research Center report published in 2020 found, “Americans tend to believe crime is up, even when the data shows it is down.”

“We are experiencing historically low crime rates both in Idaho and everywhere else,” said Cody Jorgensen, a Boise State University professor of criminal justice. “Crime hasn’t been this low since the 1960s.”

According to the main federal agencies that track crime, crime in the United States has plunged since the 1990s, Pew reported. FBI data showed the violent crime rate fell 49% from 1993 to 2019, while the property crime rate fell 55%.

However, Jorgensen said national figures appear to show a spike in crime in some areas of the country in 2020-21. The FBI won’t publish its national report for 2020 until the fall.

Marty Cozza, press secretary for Risch, said his tweet was referring to the Fourth of July holiday in 2021.

“Crime is rising in cities that have sincerely considered slashing police department funding, or actually defunded police departments,” she wrote in an email. “Idahoans on the other hand overwhelmingly support our law enforcement officers. The 2020 statewide crime data bears out the impact of that support, and it will be telling to see if and how those trends continue for 2021.”

Idaho’s latest report shows mostly positive news. Assaults on law enforcement officers declined, as did drug offenses, which were down 8.18%; property crimes, down 1.5%; and crimes against persons, which dropped 0.61% from 2019.

You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up today's Idaho Press; it's on the front page.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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