January 9, 2012
"A steep drop in crime, but do you feel safer?"
The title of this post comes from the headline of this article run this past weekend in the Los Angeles Times, though the question might well be asked in just about every major city in the nation. Here is how the interesting piece gets started:
A newsroom has its own way of tracking a city's trend toward diminishing crime. Twenty years ago, a reporter tallying crime stats for our newspaper's weekly blotter might sift through dozens of killings on a single weekend. There were more than 1,000 homicides a year. Last year, there were fewer than 300 homicides — and many weekends with no killings.
Ten years ago, reporters working the streets kept mental lists of neighborhoods considered too dangerous to visit alone. Now, no neighborhood is off-limits. That sense of ambient criminal menace is gone.
Los Angeles —- like other big cities around the country — is in the midst of a crime drop so steep and profound, it has experts scratching their heads. Crime fell in 2011 for the ninth year in a row, to levels not seen in Los Angeles since half a century ago. The city had fewer crimes last year — and a million and a half more people — than it did when "Leave It To Beaver" made its debut in 1957.
The reasons are complicated and ripe for debate: better policing and more community involvement; fewer drugs and fuller prisons; an explosion in new technology; and the fading profile of violent gangs. The phenomenon ought to be scrutinized. We need to know what mix of forces has conspired to drive crime down, so we can — in an era of shrinking resources — plan and spend wisely to keep this going.
We also have to ask ourselves: What will this transformation mean? What will we do with all this safety in a city known not so long ago as the capital of drive-by shootings?
Some related posts on the great modern crime decline in California and nationally:
- Despite death penalty's practical demise and a prisoner release order, California crime hit record low in 2010
- Effective Washington Post commentary talks up great (and still puzzling) crime decline
- Amazingly great new FBI data: crime down yet again in start of 2011!
- Still more great news and data on the latest crime rates in the United States
- Remarkable drop in US violent crimes rates in 2010 according to latest BJS data
- Some speculations about the great crime decline in Florida
- "Falling Crime Rates Challenge Long-Held Beliefs"
- "Punishment Politics: Gubernatorial Rhetoric, Political Conflict, and the Instrumental Explanation of Mass Incarceration in the American States"
January 9, 2012 at 09:22 AM | Permalink
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Caveat: My knowledge of this area is very modest.
As it appears to me, comparing homicide rates "per 100,000 population" is useful but not the whole story.
The homicide rate was 4.8 per 100,000 in 1961, and again in 2010 (after reaching a high of 9.8 in '79, '81, & '91); nevertheless, this equates to 6,008 more persons murdered though the crime rate is the same! [[14,748 vs. 8,740]]
In 1961: 158 per 100,000 violent crimes or 289,390 within a population of 182,992,000;
in 2010: 404 per 100,000 violent crimes or 1,246,248 within a pop. of 308,745,538.
Greater than a 2.5x INcrease? So much for moral evolution.
For those of us born after the 50s—or 60s for small towners—we may not appreciate the security of being able to sleep without locking the doors or leaving the keys in the ignition. Our grandparents do.
Posted by: adamakis | Jan 12, 2012 10:33:05 AM