“A member of Congress gets gunned down in yet another mass shooting. You can’t turn on the news for five seconds without hearing of a child being abducted and mutilated, or a massive gang war along the Mexican border. Every city in America has one section that you wouldn’t dare drive through at night. Now compare that to the 1950s, when nobody even locked their doors at night. What changed?”
There absolutely was a huge crime wave in the 1980s, thanks to the crack epidemic (this graph shows the spike in murders in L.A., for instance). But the numbers do not lie: Crime, property crime, theft and burglary have actually been dropping since about 1993. Dropping and dropping, below even where we were before drug violence skewed the stats upward.
If you look at the homicide rate per 100,000 people, which is one of the only crime stats reliably tracked through the 1900s and into today, you can see that not only is it the lowest since the 1950s, but that it’s quite a lot lower than it was in the 1970s and even the 1930s. (And it’s a scaling formula, meaning it isn’t skewed by population.) Now why would the crime rate be so high in the 1930s?
Because Batman hadn’t been invented yet, obviously.
When the economy is bad, people get desperate, and desperate people will do whatever they can to survive, right? And here we sit, 80 years later, with the worst economy since the Great Depression. How’s the crime rate faring now? It’s lower than it was before the recession. A few days ago, the FBI published its statistics for the first half of 2010, which show that crime has dropped further still.
What has not dropped is the number of TV shows and news features about crime, and newspapers’ need to report on violence whenever it occurs. Therefore, the only thing about crime that seems to be going up is the perception of how bad it really is.
So, by the sheer numbers, you would be just as safe keeping your doors unlocked at night as your grandparents were back in “the good old days.”
In other words, it’s time to box up your mantraps.