I'd believe crime is down. I'd also believe news coverage of crime has risen dramatically both in how many times a story airs a day, and in the 'catchment zones' if you will, for coverage having grown to any global story, rather than local ones.
That's why people believe crime is on the rise.
Any time some nut in lower rat's *** tennessee decides to kill 4 people, it's beamed live around the world on 37 different networks, and we all obsess about it.
There's something to be said for the newspaper cycle, where the hysteria has a chance to die down before everyone rants.
Look at the Casey Anthony (or whatever her name is) thing; there have been women killing their kids for centuries, but this one became a world wide celebrity due to the need for something to feed tv coverage.