rate at lowest point in decades. Why America is safer now.
B. Wood, Staff writer
January 10, 2012
rate for serious crimes, including murder, rape, and assault, has
significantly since the early 1990s in part because of changes in
and policing, experts say.
time the crime rate for serious crime – murder, rape, robbery, assault
to these levels, gasoline cost 29 cents a gallon and the average income
working American was $5,807.
In the past
20 years, for instance, the murder rate in the United States has
almost half, from 9.8 per 100,000 people in 1991 to 5.0 in 2009.
robberies were down 10 percent in 2010 from the year before and 8
declines are not just a blip, say criminologists. Rather, they are the
of a host of changes that have fundamentally reversed the high-crime
the 1980s. And these changes have taken hold to such a degree that the
crime continued despite the recent recession.
pattern “transcends cities and US regions, we can safely say crime is
says James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in
are indeed a safer nation than 20 years ago.”
others give four main reasons for the decline:
incarceration, including longer sentences, that keeps more criminals
law enforcement strategies, including advances in computer analysis and
of the crack cocaine epidemic that soared from 1984 to 1990, which made
cheaply available in cities across the US.
of America characterized by the fastest-growing segment of the US
baby boomers – passing the age of 50.
point to a persistent perception gap among Americans. Despite strong
of crime dropping over recent decades, the public sees the reverse.
Gallup polls have found that citizens overwhelmingly feel crime is
even though it is not,” says Professor Fox. “This is because of the
crime shows and the way that TV spotlights the emotional. One case of a
horrific shooting shown repeatedly on TV has more visceral effect than
statistics printed in a newspaper.”
police departments across the US, changes during the past decade or
hard to overstate, say many law enforcement experts.
has given detectives powerful new tools with which to analyze blood and
samples or other forensic evidence, for instance.
“hot spot” crime mapping has also helped police connect dots in ways
more difficult before.
pushpins to databases
“We used to
put pins on a map to figure out what the patterns were and where to
our limited resources,” says Tod Burke, a former police officer in
now teaches criminal justice at Radford University in Virginia. “Now we
databases and computers. It’s really gotten a lot more sophisticated.”
technology, law enforcement personnel are much better educated and
today than ever before, adds John Paitakes, professor of criminal
Seton Hall University in New Jersey. They’ve also benefited from
William Bratton, who recast policing in Boston, New York City, and Los
by applying the “broken window” theory posited by social scientist
Wilson in 1982. The theory held that run-down and vandalized areas were
prone to serious crime than were areas kept in better order.
rest of the article at the Christian Science Monitor