Reported Crime In The State Went Down In 2013. What Does That Mean?

Murder, rape, burglary, arson — for nearly every kind of serious crime in Tennessee, the number of reported incidents went down last year.

A newly released report from the state’s Bureau of Investigation shows that weapon law violations were the only Group A offense to increase significantly.

But Lois Presser, a criminology associate professor at UT Knoxville, warns against reading too much into this report alone.

“People, citizens, hang onto that — ‘Oh, crime is down,’ which is one of the messages of this report,” she says. “I wouldn’t write a scholarly article about a year-to-year change. That’s not solid ground.”

Presser says a number of factors can affect the stats from year to year. For example, if more police are hired, that might push the amount of reported crime up, even if actual crime stays the same or decreases. A few years ago, the FBI expanded the definition of “rape” and started the new count in 2013, so the agency expects to see a jump in the number.

Still, over time, these reports become useful. We can see that serious crime in Tennessee has decreased consistently since 2007, and Presser says this fits in with the rest of the country: Overall, crime has been decreasing since the 1990s.

Here’s a graph of the results:

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