Crime/Violence Down. Why?

Both the USA Today and the Colorado Springs Gazette reported Monday that the FBI has released the Uniform Crime Statistics for '98, and in the four categories of violent crimes (murder, aggravated assault, robbery and forcible rape) that they track:

Homicides: down 7%

Robberies (w/ guns): down 10%. The largest decrease of any one category.

Overall violent/property crime: down 6%

This is the seventh straight year of decline, and the single largest decline of the '90s.

The various articles cite several reasons; they may or may not be correct. The Gazette is a moderate to slightly conservative paper, yet they cited a slightly liberal article by Sherida Warner of The New York Times; the USA Today, which I feel is moderate to slightly liberal, used their own article co-written by Gary Fields and Kevin Johnson, that I feel was more moderate in tone.

I am not trying to use the lables “liberal” or “conservative” derisively; merely as an indication of the relative “slant” of the articles.

Neither article was strongly pro- or anti-gun (for those of you who know me ;)), so please don’t think I’m trolling!

My question to you all is this:

“To what do you attribute the decline in violence?”

“To what do you attribute the overall decline in crime?”


Old age. Most of the kids who have survived firefights, themselves, a few years ago have now gotten old enough to realize that they are not going to live forever and they are looking for calmer ways to earn a living. (Those “calmer” ways may involve grifts and grafts, but the perps are moving away from direct, “armed” conflicts.)

(The corollary to this, of course, is that the hordes of people we locked up for drug busts are ageing, too, and would not be committing any more crimes than those we have not apprehended–so why do we keep taxing ourselves to spend money to lock up drug users?)


There could be lots of reasons. The economy is roaring, and unemployment is down. That should translate into less crime. The majority of violent crimes are committed by young people, and that demographic group is shrinking rapidly as the population ages.

I think you’d need a pretty comprehensive sociological study to figure this out. Also, I’d want to know if it’s mainly gang violence that has decreased, or whatever.

People are learning to love one another.

:::::: sighs, hugging self ::::::::::

That which a man had rather were true he more readily believes.

The methods for counting crimes have had an impact on the reported crime rates. Sometimes these impacts are innocent, sometimes malicious. Larger municipalities, especially, have taken to “creative counting” when reporting stats to the FBI. The city of Atlanta crime stats were investigated by the FBI and found to be sorely lacking. Robberies reported which likely would not be solved (a no witness, random mugging, for instance) were marked as “false alarms” and not counted in the stats, or incidents downgraded (mugging at knifepoint counted as property crime). The FBI concluded that it was administrative error and not malicious under-reporting, but many doubts remain. Police administrators are under tremendous political pressure to get the crime rates down. To have these same administrators be in charge of reporting crime figures is an obvious conflict of interest and can sometimes be an irresistible temptation.

There is no way I believe that tinkering accounts for all of the decrease, I think tom raises some good points, but the numbers are only as truthful as those who compile them.

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

Perhaps the “blue collar” criminals are graduating to “white collar” crimes.

Please feel free to use the above information the next time that a fundie or politician claims that since we stopped teaching the Bible and strayed away from God, crime has done nothing but rise.

Yer pal,

I want to chime in and echo (mixed metaphor alert!) what Dr. J has presented.

The Phila. Inquirer had a big front page piece last weekend on how up to 30% of reported rapes in the city had been reclassified as “Investigation of Person” (not a criminal category) so that the city’s rape stats wouldn’t look so bad. They started using this IoP category a couple years ago when the FBI (compilers of the national stats) got on their case about rejecting too many of the reported rapes as “unfounded” (an earlier “keep the numbers down” ploy). Well, gee, that’s one way to fix the problem.

This seems to be a common thing in Phila. and other metro police forces. Wonder if that’s what’s causing the “decline” – people have figured out how to “work” the numbers.

(Not to slag the cops. It just emphasizes some things I was taught in business school: 1) Be very careful when choosing your metrics, because that’s what people will manage to. 2) Remember the law of unintended consequences.)

ExTank wrote:

Random fluctuations from year to year.

The largest segment of the population (baby boomers) getting older in conjunction with the booming prison population.

Are these crazy stats?

1 in 150 Americans is in prison.

I saw it on a show and I can hardly believe it. Supposedly, only Russia exceeds this proportion with 1 out of every 100. Eh? How can they afford so many prisons?

Only humans commit inhuman acts.


regarding the title for this thread: Did you have to make it sound so accusing? I must have spent five minutes trying to come up with an excuse.

Not “here we go gathering nuts in May”; it should be “here we go gathering nuts during May.”
The Mother Goose Grammer Troll strikes again.

Anyone remember this thread: ?

Crime stats are always tricky. The numbers show fewer REPORTS of crimes; this doesn’t necessarily translate into fewer actual crimes (although it might).

Some of the lower crime figures might be due to mistrust of police in high-crime communities.

In many urban areas, anecdotal evidence suggests police brutality is, if anything, a growing problem. Remember the Louima case? Things like this are the result of get-tough laws and policies that, in effect, send the message to cops that they can get away with a little undue roughness. In this day and age, they often can.

The consequence is that in some communities, people mistrust the police more than ever. If people mistrust the police, they are less likely to report robberies, rapes, etc. If that happens, the rate of reported crime will decrease, making it appear that less crime is happening.

I suspect that crime is, in fact, decreasing in proportion to the relatively better economic situation. But I also suspect that in communities that have not benefited much from the robust economy, crime has remained about the same, with fewer people reporting crimes.

This is just a WAG, though, because I’m not aware of any way to measure the rate of unreported crime.

The FBI compiles these Uniform Crime Statistics from over 17,000 city, county and state law-enforcement agencies that cover 259,000,000 of the nation’s 273,000,000 residents. Information on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Statistics can be found here:

<ahref>Uniform Crime Reports-Crime in the United States-1998</a>

You may judge for yourselves the accuracy or honesty of the overall system.

Not to dispute the theory that agencies are getting creative in their reporting procedures, just to illustrate what kind of “baseline” that these statistics are coming from.

IMHO, it would take something on the scale of a grand conspiracy to juggle the numbers sufficiently to get the kind of numbers the FBI is reporting.

Seven straight years of decline is hardly what I would call a random fluctuation. I’m no statistician, but as my dear old Da is fond of saying: “You don’t need a weatherman to tell you it’s raining”.

A decent economy and an aging population, coupled with tougher enforcement and stiffer sentences might be working together to drive crime down, but lacking the in-depth sociological study that DHanson calls for, we’re just spit-ballin’.

But that is exactly what I wanted: SWAGs and gut-feelings. I already have a mountain of data and statistics, but I wanted to hear you people’s opinions, based upon where you live; what you’re seeing and hearing in your respective communities.

I have a friend in Atlanta who flat out refused to believe the stats; another in central-Texas who says “yeah, that seems about right”.

As for the Louimas, Kings,, I think these are the exception rather than the rule for police conduct.

Even if one case a year occurs, the media reports if ad infinitum, ad nauseum, until we’re desensitized to it to the point that when it happens again next year we simply groan and say “There they go again!”.

Oh, and I chose the title of the thread for (what I hoped was) maximum conciseness: a supposition and one of the more obvious questions that supposition begs.

<FONT COLOR=“BLUE”>“100 Monkeys…”</FONT>

Sorry the hyperlink thingy didn’t work.

Try this:

A confluence of a lot of factors.

Demographics: A hugely disproportionate amount of crimes are committed by young males. The percentage of young males in the overall population has declined.

Economics: The economy is generally good. This is probably due to the end of the cold war. So if you want a single person to thank for lowering America’s crime rate, you can pick Gorbachev.

Prison Expansion: The US continues to lock up the largest percentage of its population of any country in the world. You can certainly argue with the policy, but imprisoning criminals does have a clear effect on the crime rate.

Better Drugs: Illegal drug use is a major crime category, both for itself and its subsidiary crimes. Common street drugs are becoming increasingly lethal. Relatively innocuous drugs like marijuana gave way to heroin which gave way to crack. Higher mortality rates mean drug addicts have shorter criminal careers.

Police Efficiency: With a decreased crime rate, greater police resources can be applied to the remaining crimes, therefore producing a higher rate of successful investigations. This effect reinforces itself.

Well there are really two main reasons for the apparent decrease in crime.

  1. Street gangs are getting more sophisticated. With the introduction of light mortars and belt-fed machine guns into the average street gangs aresenal firefights become much less hectic and more strategy-oriented (thereby lowering the casualty count). When members of rivals gangs are putting heavy suppressive fire on each other they are less likely to engage in risky maneouvers and more likely to withdraw and wait for a more opportune moment rather than face a costly battle of attrition. The easy availability of shoulder mounted armour-piercing weaponry also had the effect of lowering the effectiveness of drive-by shootings. Armoured vehicles, which were already too costly for many gangs to afford, now are virtually useless and top gangs are instead spending this money on defensive fortifications, higher quality crack and stock market speculation. All these factors contribute to a lower incidence of firefights and less casualties per incident, which significantly affect crime statistics.

  2. The IJC (Internation Jewish Conspiracy) decided, once again, to lower the criminality rate. This is in no way a direct control of the crime rate but is comparable to the way the federal reserve affects the American economy by setting interest rates. The IJC’s motives in this move are somewhat unclear because increased security, due to the recent critical meetings about implenting their Y2K project, has resulted in the frequent changing of their secret handshake, thus excluding many of the usual insider’s sources.

Better Drugs: Illegal drug use is a major crime category, both for itself and its subsidiary crimes. Common street drugs are becoming increasingly lethal. Relatively innocuous drugs like marijuana gave way to heroin which gave way to crack. Higher mortality rates mean drug addicts have shorter criminal careers.
I think there is some truth to that but the real effect of drugs on crime goes pretty much unreported. Drug prohibition has been an enormous failure. Not only are all kinds of drugs freely available but the price has come down substantially. Crack and heroin are cheap and easy to obtain.

The vast majority of hard drug addicts support their habits by commiting crimes. If drugs are cheap and plentiful, addicts have to commit fewer robberys, burglaries, muggings etc. to feed their habits.

This is purely a guess on my part but I’d guess that half of those types of crimes are drug related. If the felony-a-day crowd can support themselves on 5 felonies a week you’ll see a substantial drop in the crime rate.

I would not hold my breath waiting for the government to accept this hypothesis though. :slight_smile:

Lex Non Favet Delictorum Votis

OK let’s see if I remember my math.

Let’s do a simple ratio:

There are 270,000,000 million people in the USA (latest census est)

To find out how many people in jail we compare

1 X
— = —
150 270,000,000

Then we divide. and get


Then we solve for X


X = --------------

or X = 1,800,000

Thus if 1 out of every 150 Americans are in jail we should have 1.8 million people in the USA behind bars.

Does this sound out of line? Not to me. ( or else I don’t recall my math right.)

Actually the BBS compressd the math so it looks weird. It still looks valid but it copressed it so the ratios looked weird.