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FBI data does not support Polis’ claim that Colorado is in ‘middle of the pack’ on crime

News Agencies



Jan. 22—In his State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis claimed that Colorado falls in “the middle of the pack on crime rates.”

“Every person deserves a safe home and a safe community, and in three years I want Colorado to be closing in on our goal of becoming one of the top ten safest states,” he said. “Right now, Colorado falls in the middle of the pack on crime rates, but that’s not good enough.”

“We can and we must do better,” he added.

That declaration — that Colorado’s crime rate is somewhere in the middle — counters the narrative about crime, notably car theft, in the state.


So, is Colorado in the “middle of the pack” when it comes to crime?

Crime data from the FBI shows Colorado’s crime numbers are substantially higher than the national rate. The FBI’s database, however, does not include all law enforcement jurisdictions, potentially skewing the state’s rankings.

The FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) estimates the total violent crime rate for Colorado at 481 per 100,000 residents in 2021.


In contrast, NIBRS estimated the violent crime rate for the U.S. at 395.7 per 100,000 people in the same year, which means, using this database alone, Colorado’s crime rate is higher than the national average.

The FBI classifies homicide, aggravated assault, robbery and rape as violent crimes. NIBRS estimates total violent crime decreased by 1.7% from 2020 to 2021, mainly driven by an estimated drop in robberies.

Arkansas and Washington, D.C. had the highest estimated violent crime rates in 2021 — at 708.5 and 968.6, respectively — out of states included in the FBI’s estimates.


For property crime rate, NIBRS put Colorado’s number at 3,135.4 in the same year.

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The country’s property crime rate, on the other hand, stood at 1,933.4, according to NIBRS estimates.


Property crime includes burglary, larceny and theft and motor vehicle theft. The national estimated rate of motor vehicle thefts, a major concern for many, was 268.1.

In fact, only Washington D.C.’s property crime estimate — at 4,109.4 — was higher than Colorado’s out of states included in the database.

Although the FBI’s estimates show a decrease in property crime nationally from 2020 to to 2021, the estimated motor vehicle theft rate increased by 11.5%.


It’s difficult to draw definitive conclusions about where Colorado’s crime rates stand compared with other states because not all jurisdictions report their crime numbers to the FBI’s database.

In 2021, the most recent year for which annual crime statistics are available from the FBI, about 37% of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. did not report any data to the FBI’s NIBRS, which was also recently revised.

The agencies that did not report included New York City and Los Angeles, the biggest cities in the U.S. by population.


Law enforcement agencies’ participation in reporting statistics to the FBI is voluntary.

As of April 2022, only 19 states had fully transitioned to using NIBRS.

For data reported to the FBI covering January to September 2022 — the most recent report available for last year — the FBI declined to make estimates about regional or population-based trends in crime statistics because the agency did not receive data from about 36% of the country’s 18,964 law enforcement agencies.


“When a substantial amount of data is missing — like large volumes of crime data from the nation’s most heavily populated cities — there is a general concern that the data received may not represent what would be experienced if all data were received,” the FBI said on its website. “National crime trends are especially affected by agencies covering populations of 1,000,000 or more inhabitants.”

Polis’ office did not reply to a request for comment, or verification of the sources Polis used to make that estimate.

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