There’s been a recent spike in violent crime in Texas cities, at the same time that U.S. cities are seeing a surge in homicide rates. Just last month, Dallas reported 21 murders, almost 70 sexual assaults and nearly 400 robberies — a 10 percent increase from the previous year. Cities across Texas are reporting similar rises in crime, but Philip Levchak, assistant professor of criminology at Texas A&M University in San Antonio, says it’s no cause for alert.
“We do see an increase in certain types of crimes… although I do think it’s a little difficult to say there’s an across-the-board increase in violent crime around the country,” he says. “Many of the causes are going to be somewhat unique to the location of the city. In terms of what may be going on in Texas, it’s certainly possible that there could be some changes in drug use, which is oftentimes associated with violent crime.”
Texas has seen some increases in illicit drug use over the past few years — most of which has been attributed to marijuana, although heroin and methamphetamine usage are also associated with violent crime. In some cities and states, poor economic conditions are a major factor, but Levchak says that’s not the case in Texas.
“I think the majority of the blame would be on gangs and the drug usage that often comes along with that,” Levchak says.
People who have been following crime trends have gotten used to two decades of decreased crime rate in major cities. In the 1980s, crime seemed so out of control that many residents of large cities ignored the incredibly high levels. It’s possible that as some people see the headlines, there’s a growing sense that perhaps the trend is now reversing.
“Any time we do see a little bit of a spike, that causes people to be concerned about it,” Levchak says. “However, it’s very difficult to talk about whether the trend is actually reversing. That’s something that would take several years.”
Looking at how crime fluctuates from one year to the next gives people very little evidence of whether or not crime is going up or down. Only a sustained trend that lasts several years would give researchers an accurate indication. Levchak says although Dallas does have a higher crime rate than last year, it’s still an incredibly low rate over all.
“Even if we are seeing these fluctuations, and it’s going up a little bit, it’s really nowhere near the 1980s and 1990s levels,” Levchak says.