Despite the “Chicken Little” rhetoric coming out of the Justice Department this past year and the concerned talk around dinner tables, America is not and has not been on the edge of a crime-wave abyss.

It’s true that the FBI crime report released early last week shows that, tragically, a few areas saw an uptick in some violent crime in 2017. For example, violent crime in the city of Baltimore rose roughly 13 percent from 2016. Yet the 2017 national violent crime rate decreased by .09 percent from 2016. And looking over the last two decades, the national violent crime rate in 2017 is still near an all-time low, ranking 17 out of 20. Indeed, the 2017 violent crime rate is more than 16 percent lower than in 2008 and 32 percent lower than in 1998. Meanwhile, property crimes (which make up the vast majority of overall crimes) dropped for the 15th year in a row.

These national statistics show overall crime is not on a treacherous rise.

Furthermore, recent analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts suggests that incarcerated individuals are returning to prison after their release at significantly lower rates than before. This suggests that our justice apparatus is becoming more effective at ensuring that individuals become productive citizens when they return home — and that they remain that way.

This is good news for our criminal justice system at large. With a few exceptions, American communities as a whole are becoming safer, and taxpayer dollars are being spent more efficiently. Moreover, with more public attention and resources dedicated to promoting equality, the parts of the system beleaguered by racial and gender disparities are being called on the carpet. Over the last two decades, racial disparities in imprisonment rates have significantly narrowed, indicating reform efforts might be starting to restore human dignity and equality to the justice system.

However, the need for criminal justice reform is far from over. FBI crime statistics remind us that a few cities are still struggling, and that this struggle is costing human life and property. While many areas are benefiting from a downward trend in overall crime, the crime rate is far from zero. Moreover, thousands throughout the nation still experience racial and gender disparities in both the forms and lengths of the punishments they receive.

In smaller, rural communities that have historically been hesitant to reform, more people are being incarcerated than years prior — regardless of the overall decrease in national crime. Indeed, analysis by The New York Times found that while prison admissions fell significantly between 2006 and 2013 in midsized and populous counties, it increased in counties with less than 100,000 residents. Individuals in these small counties are roughly 50 percent more likely to be imprisoned than residents living in populous areas (defined as more than 300,000 residents). These statistics point to a new disparity in justice between urban and rural residents — and a new impetus for continued reform.

It’s easy to distort the FBI’s numbers to work up a public frenzy, but the facts are consistent. The crime armageddon has not arrived; the mobs can hang up their pitchforks. By focusing our attention on fake boogeymen, we are turning our attention away from the real problems. We don’t need more fear-mongering or the “lock 'em up” policies of old; we need sound policy solutions for the few struggling cities and areas experiencing crime upticks.

Instead of arbitrarily blaming recent reforms for these issues, we must continue to fine-tune past reforms and disseminate positive changes to both urban and rural areas.

When it comes to reform, the best approach is to keep calm — and carry on.

Emily Mooney (@emilymmooney) is a policy associate on the R Street Institute’s criminal justice team. Arthur Rizer (@arthurrizer) is the director of criminal justice and civil liberties policy at the Institute.