A Holiday Gift–Crime is Down

Latest statistics show that crime is at one of the lowest levels in years.  Between 1991 and 2010, the homicide rate fell 51 percent.  With some luck, we may reach the lowest homicide rates since 1957.  Other crimes such as burglary, armed robbery, and especially auto theft are way down, too.   The big question all the experts are asking is:  Why?  Why is crime down?

After working over 30 years in the criminal justice system, I’ve got a few ideas of my own.  (Admittedly, not based on much scientific data.)

1.  Demographics.  During the late 80’s and early 90’s the courts were packed and crime was up.  Minneapolis was called “Murderapolis.”  Most crime is committed by younger people and continues up into their late twenties.  The young criminal population from the 80’s and 90’s simply aged out.  The generation that followed was smaller and thus, had fewer criminals.

2.  Prisons.  For those serious criminals who didn’t age out and continued to offend, prison incarceration took them out of circulation.  Statistics show that the  U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any other country in the world.  (Liptak, Adam, “1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars,” New York Times, 2/28/08)  I don’t think long incarceration does much to rehabilitate criminals, but it certainly gets them off the streets and may therefore, reduce crime levels.

3.  Better Law Enforcement.  Since the 80’s, a variety of new policing techniques have worked to reduce crime.  Some are technological (DNA testing to identify correct suspects) and others are sociological.  (Closer working relationships between police and the community.)

4.  Decriminalization.  Since the 80’s, several crimes have been either decriminalized (such as Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana) or have been significantly ignored in arrests and prosecution.  I remember int he 80’s representing dozens of female prostitutes who had been arrested and charged with Soliciting.  Today, only the most blatant prostitutes are arrested.  Instead, the johns are sometimes targeted for arrest.  All of this has the effect of reducing the number of crimes reported.

What do you think?  In your opinion, why is crime down?  Will the Holiday Gift last?

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About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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