More good news on U.S. crime

Determined to locate something positive to say before the editorial close of 2009, this reporter did not have to poke around the 'net too long before finding news to be happy-new-yearish about: despite the bad economy and high unemployment, national crime stats continued to trend downward in 2009. According to the FBI, for the first half of 2009, U.S. law enforcement agencies reported a 4.4 percent decline in the number of violent crimes—murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault—and, perhaps more surprising in light of the 17 percent real unemployment rate, a bigger drop of 6.1 percent for property crimes like burglary and car theft. There's reason to believe that the nation's lower crime trend continued when the second half of the year's stats are compiled in a few months. One-time murder capital USA New York last year recorded the lowest number of homicides in its history (or at least since such record-keeping began in the 1960s): from a record 2,245 homicides in 1990 to 2009's all-time low of 461 homicides. Even Chicago, which has had a fairly rotten performance on homicide in recent years with per capita rates twice or more above New York's, suffered 11 percent fewer homicides in 2009 at 453. Let's hope the number doesn't budge over the last few days of the year.

2009 was also a good year for U.S. law enforcement with 124 fatalities, the fewest since 1959.

What gives? The editors of the Oregonian ponder the welcome crime trend, citing better policing, longer prison sentences for repeat offenders, maybe even the unhappy collateral effects of the increasing legion of stay-at-home jobless, keeping an eye on the street. Ultimately, however, they conclude: "None of these explanations is entirely satisfactory. All of them may hide a simpler, more important truth about the easy assumptions about unemployment and lawbreaking. The conventional wisdom may just be wrong: Good people who lose their jobs do not inevitably turn to crime."

We are a far cry from the era of the juvenile superpredator that was famously (mal)predicted in the early 1990s (apologies John D., though I know you are pleased as punch to be wrong on this one). Here's to more good news on diminishing crime in 2010. Have a Happy and safe New Year!

 

Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 4 months ago
I will be a lot more encouraged with comprehensive prison reform happens.
 
There are tens of thousands of non-violent prisoners spending their lives behind bars because of this "tough on crime" paranoia.
Mary Kennedy
7 years 3 months ago
You are so right, Beth.  Our national rate of incarceration is appalling, and results in a self-fulfilling prophecy with respect to the incarcerated and their propensity to re-offend.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Pope Francis listens to a question from Vera Shcherbakova of the Itar-Tass news agency while talking with journalists aboard his flight from Cairo to Rome April 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The situation in North Korea, he added, has been heated for a long time, "but now it seems it has heated up too much, no?"
Gerard O'ConnellApril 29, 2017
Pope Francis greets children dressed as pharaohs and in traditional dress as he arrives to celebrate Mass at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo April 29. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Francis took the risk, trusting in God. His decision transmitted a message of hope on the political front to all Egyptians, Christians and Muslims alike, who are well aware that their country is today a target for ISIS terrorists and is engaged in a battle against terrorism.
Gerard O'ConnellApril 29, 2017
Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo April 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The only kind of fanaticism that is acceptable to God is being fanatical about loving and helping others, Pope Francis said on his final day in Egypt.
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to journalists in the Oval Office at the White House on March 24 after the American Health Care Act was pulled before a vote. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)
Predictably Mr. Trump has also clashed with the Catholic Church and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on many of the policies he has promoted during his first 100 days.
Kevin ClarkeApril 28, 2017