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Does crime still pay?
October 25, 2011 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Why has crime in the US fallen, despite rising unemployment?

At the end of 2011, "nearly 12,000 police officers will have lost their jobs, and 30,000 positions in county and municipal departments will go unfilled, both direct consequences of a faltering economy that has forced deep cuts in local government budgets."

Crime is quickly becoming a political issue as the US approaches the 2012 national election. The potential impacts of underfunded municipal governments and police forces have been highlighted, controversially, by US Vice President Joe Biden, who argued that rapes and other violent crimes would increase if additional federal funds were not used to supplement local government funding.

Although the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" column criticized some of Biden's more outlandish claims, concerns about local law enforcement capacity - during a time of shrinking budgets - remain high.

But has a cultural shift occurred in the US, resulting in a decoupling of crime from economics? Scholar James Q. Wilson wonders why crime has declined despite increasing unemployment, and suggests that a mix of improved public policy and changing cultural norms have changed the equation.
posted by BobbyVan (74 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have to think that greater public tolerance for pot use and the introduction of ecstasy might have had something to do with it too. A lot more people getting high on softer drugs than crack and heroin. I think just legalizing those two flat out and cracking down on coke and heroin hard would probably fix a big chunk of the crime and drugs problem.
posted by empath at 7:17 AM on October 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


I actually think it's a reduction in the *reporting* of crimes - I get the feeling that people don't report things because they feel that the police won't do anything, or are more afraid of the police than the criminals.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:21 AM on October 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


Rise of the Volunteer Police Force:

On the volunteer front, 43 percent of respondents to the survey “reported that they increased the use of volunteers as a means to compensate for budget reductions.” From the report, issued by the COPS program Republicans in the House voted to eliminate:

Another fundamental alteration that has been seen in delivery of police services as a result of the changing economy is the increased application of non-sworn individuals — both as employees and as volunteers . More and more police agencies have begun to shift some of the responsibilities that have traditionally been performed by sworn staff to civilian personnel as a means to mitigate payroll costs and maintain staffing levels. Further, some agencies have even engaged citizen volunteers to help alleviate the strain on police work loads. Such approaches can provide sworn staff with more time to focus on pressing and time-sensitive issues that can only be successfully managed by a law enforcement officer.

posted by longdaysjourney at 7:22 AM on October 25, 2011


There should be a quotation mark before the start of that second paragraph and another at its closing.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:23 AM on October 25, 2011


I actually think it's a reduction in the *reporting* of crimes - I get the feeling that people don't report things because they feel that the police won't do anything, or are more afraid of the police than the criminals.

I think this happened in NYC - underreporting/misreporting by police officers to avoid getting a bad Compstat rating. The commissioner announced a study, but I don't know if the results are out yet.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:27 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]




Violent crime in NYC is going up.

Of course it's OWS's fault.
posted by empath at 7:30 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, according to this article in the NY Times, crime decreased across the United States, but rose in New York.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:31 AM on October 25, 2011


I've wondered if it isn't the rise of social media that is putting negative pressure on crime rates. If you know that anything you has a chance of ending up on YouTube, with you as the laughing stock of the world/internet meme/dumbass of the week, perhaps you're less likely to do it.
posted by nzero at 7:32 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


anything you do*
posted by nzero at 7:32 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


longdaysjourney, the latest episode of This American Life is about precisely that topic.
posted by mmmbacon at 7:33 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


We'll have to wait a few more years to see more of the trend, if there is a trend, and what that trend could possibly mean. Interesting, though.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:33 AM on October 25, 2011


I would also like to see how this trend stacks up against incarceration rates.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:34 AM on October 25, 2011


There is a pretty big cultural shift and many people might just be too young to notice it because they largely missed the shift.

When I was a teenager Smokey and the Bandit was a hit movie. It was a movie about a drunken idiot in a firebird speeding ahead of a speeding 18 wheeler being driven on little to no sleep. There was also cannonball run, a movie about a bunch of rich idiot speeders. It was also the norm to warn approaching drivers of a speed trap you had passed with a couple of flashes of your lights. Fighting was pretty common, everybody over the legal drinking age was pretty much willing to buy booze for kids, drinking and driving was something middle class parents did with their unbuckled in kids in the back seat.

There is pretty much no sense of ordinary people fighting the man these days. Mostly because it turns out the man was pretty spot on about the reasonableness of most laws and the rebels drunk drove without seatbelts and fired themselves through windshields. At worst people these days grumble about inconvenience less due to actual inconvenience and more due to the fact that people like to grumble.
posted by srboisvert at 7:35 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


the latest episode of This American Life is about precisely that topic.

Do you have a link, mmmbacon? If there was a follow-up to the original 2010 episode they ran with Adrian Schoolcraft, I'd love to hear it.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:37 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Honky, there's an argument that there is an element of rationality in the crime rate; property crimes might be falling because there's just less valuable shit to steal, as compared to thirty years ago.

Debit cards are less liquid than cash, so the incentive to mug people should drop as the ratio of cash to potential cash in the average wallet increases. Similarly, TVs, car stereos, etc. have become much cheaper in relative terms over the past few decades.

I can't remember if the author was just speculating or if there's been a lot of serious scholarship about this, but it's an interesting thought, at least.
posted by graphnerd at 7:38 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I was a teenager, the original The Fast & The Furious was a hit movie, just as, for teenager today, the other Fast & The Furious movies were huge hits. I assure you as well that older people bought us alcohol.

There are still oodles of movies and TV shows about how "the man" is the villain, i.e. The Bourne Identity. There are also pro-"the man" entertainments, like 24, but then again, in the 70s and 80s, you also had Dirty Harry (for whom "the man" wasn't "the man" enough) and, say, Red Dawn.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:39 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, there's the theory that crime rates stay down generally because of legalized abortion in the U.S.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:40 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've wondered if it isn't the rise of social media that is putting negative pressure on crime rates. If you know that anything you has a chance of ending up on YouTube, with you as the laughing stock of the world/internet meme/dumbass of the week, perhaps you're less likely to do it.

I doubt it - if you are determined, stupid or desperate enough to risk going to prison, you probly can handle being on youtube.
posted by Dr Dracator at 7:41 AM on October 25, 2011


When I was a teenager Smokey and the Bandit was a hit movie. It was a movie about a drunken idiot in a firebird speeding ahead of a speeding 18 wheeler being driven on little to no sleep.

THAT WAS A TRANS AM YOU GODDAMNED PHILISTINE.
posted by COBRA! at 7:44 AM on October 25, 2011 [41 favorites]


If there was a follow-up to the original 2010 episode they ran with Adrian Schoolcraft, I'd love to hear it

I'm pretty sure it was a rerun. According to Schoolcraft's website, the trial is still in discovery phase. Here's the original Village Voice story.
posted by rh at 7:44 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oakland hasn't seen our crime rate (violent or property) go down. Quite the opposite, in fact.
During a recent interview, O'Malley, who has worked in the District Attorney's Office for 26 years, said crime in Oakland has taken a dangerous shift.

"Right now we have a lot of really violent crime being committed in open broad daylight in busy neighborhoods and intersections where there are a lot of innocent people," O'Malley said.

Unlike the last serious crime spike in Oakland in the late '80s and early '90s that involved shootings and killings connected to narcotics, O'Malley said, "This is just, frankly, out of control and you can't always pinpoint, 'Oh they're fighting over this corner to sell drugs.'"

The robbery spike is also troubling for O'Malley.

"In my career, I've not seen the type of blatant robberies that we're seeing now with (people) running up and just ripping the gold chain off your neck or shooting someone for the gold chain."

Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick said she's seen Oakland crime change from as little as 10 years ago.

"What I'm seeing that's different from say a decade ago is the wanton use of guns to settle a score," Drenick said. "Whereas in the past, with young people especially, it may have ended with a fist fight. Now everybody seems quick to pull a gun and is in possession of a gun and that is a recipe for disaster."
The last paragraph made me think of Marc MacYoung's prediction that, with the econopocalypse, we'd see more "stress violence":
On the surface one would think: Economic hard times = more robberies and burglaries. Except that isn't the whole picture. In fact, that's just a small percentage of bad economy = more crimes. While 'For-Profit Crimes' (what we call criminal violence) do go up, what goes through the roof are behaviors -- that while illegal -- are not necessarily criminal in intent.

In these economic hard times, you're going to see a lot more of what we call 'stress violence.'

Violence become more common as people's stress level go up. Fights, homicides, rapes, drunk driving, road rage, assaults, domestic violence, ALL go up as people with poor coping skills come under more and more stress. And economic hard times are very stressful.
Sincerely glad to hear other people's 'hoods are seeing less crime. Over here on the Sunny Side of the Bay™, not so much.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:45 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's just gone white collar & legal. If you can afford the legislators.
posted by Eideteker at 7:48 AM on October 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Video games and TV. We all something better to do.
posted by yeolcoatl at 7:48 AM on October 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


property crimes might be falling because there's just less valuable shit to steal, as compared to thirty years ago.

Is this true? Sure, TVs are less expensive, and fewer people carry cash, but a lot of people also carry $200 pieces of electronics in their pockets, some people carry two or three. If I wanted to mug people, I'd be much happier to know that they guy I'm mugging has an iPhone than to take my chances that he's carrying a lot of cash.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:48 AM on October 25, 2011


Well, according to this article, it's well understood among American criminologists that, despite public perceptions, The Great Depression had relatively little crime. I figure it's because people at the grass roots become more socially dependent on each other, and that has a mitigating effect on certain kinds of crime.
Experts say there will always be some people who take to robbing liquor stores in tough times. But those people were already likely to rob stores even in good times, making it a statistical wash. And there's something else: When the economy goes bad, many people move in with parents or relatives, and they stay home more — both of which appear to have a calming effect, experts say

But Kennedy warns it's not all good news.

"Is somebody who's never pulled a strong-armed stickup in their life likely to go start doing that because they lost their job?" he says. "Not so much. Is a household that's already been troubled and has a history of domestic violence going to be even further strained, and is it likely to escalate? Much more likely."
posted by saulgoodman at 7:48 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Video games

This.
posted by jet_manifesto at 7:50 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the opiate of the masses turn out to be...computers. Marx didn't see that coming.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:54 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the main article in the FPP, James Q. Wilson writes on the Great Depression and the lack of an increase in crime.
Among the explanations offered for this puzzle is that unemployment and poverty were so common during the Great Depression that families became closer, devoted themselves to mutual support, and kept young people, who might be more inclined to criminal behavior, under constant adult supervision. These days, because many families are weaker and children are more independent, we would not see the same effect, so certain criminologists continue to suggest that a 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate should produce as much as a 2 percent increase in property-crime rates.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:54 AM on October 25, 2011


The idea that people are simply reporting less crime is absurd. Crimes like murder and car theft are always reported, and they've gone down since the 80s/90s like everything else. It's a major, long term cultural shift although no one really is able to explain it.
posted by The Lamplighter at 7:55 AM on October 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I would also like to see how this trend stacks up against incarceration rates.

Would it be surprising if incarceration increased as crime decreased?
posted by John Cohen at 7:56 AM on October 25, 2011


There is a pretty big cultural shift and many people might just be too young to notice it because they largely missed the shift.

Maybe it's just us old dudes waxing nostalgic, but the generation that came of age in the 1970s was badass. Someone posted something a few weeks ago about there being fistfights every day in public schools in the 1970s and indeed there were. I must have been in a fight every week from the 5th grade on and I thought this was normal. In school, before school, after school. That was normal. I got the bent nose and crooked knuckles and the pretty scars to prove it. The teachers never called the cops and you were rarely punished. They just broke up the fight and told everyone to go back to what they were doing.

I was astonished to be talking to an ex-girlfriend's brother who was about 20 years younger than me saying that he had NEVER been in a fist fight. I couldn't believe him, but then some teachers told me that yes fighting in schools today is unheard of. That's crazy.
posted by three blind mice at 7:57 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I couldn't believe him, but then some teachers told me that yes fighting in schools today is unheard of. That's crazy.

Not crazy, just a consequence of schools having zero tolerance for fighting. If you're going to get suspended/expelled for throwing a punch, you're less likely to do it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:58 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope this is true, though I wonder about reporting rates. There was a fascinating article on the Times this morning (I can't link it easily on my phone, sorry) about sexual violence in egalitarian Norway. There were two key quotes in it, one noting that women are FAR safer on the street than at home, because so few attacks are by strangers, and the other linking sexual violence in the home to a sense of emasculation. In an economy that is hurting men particularly badly, and in societies where so little domestic violence is ever reported (never mind prosecuted), I could imagine reported crimes dropping while real violence rises.
posted by Forktine at 8:00 AM on October 25, 2011


Suspended/expelled or incarcerated. All the public schools around here have dedicated police officers in them. A kid started a fist fight just a couple of weeks ago and went to court over it.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 8:01 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pirate bartender:
Regarding the last part of your post, there was an excellent bit on BBC news last week about the rise of child and infant death in the US, which they chalked up more to the return of soldiers from battle, but it made me think of what you're bringing up there. I only heard the report in passing, but they did seem to mention that the general stress level of many parents are going through the roof with the economic misery, and it's being taken out on the kids.
posted by el riesgo sempre vive at 8:06 AM on October 25, 2011


The co-occurrence of truely lower crime rates and unemployment are common to huge economic depressions and pre-revolutionary eras.
We almost had a revolution during the Great Depression. F.D.R. prevented a revolution by massive rearrangement of the economy.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:09 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


THAT WAS A TRANS AM YOU GODDAMNED PHILISTINE.

Actually, you're both right. It was a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Special Edition. The model is "Firebird" and "Trans Am" refers to the trim level.
posted by VTX at 8:11 AM on October 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


Would it be surprising if incarceration increased as crime decreased?

It wouldn't be surprising at all, assuming the time difference between the crimes being committed and the prisoners being incarcerated makes sense. If someone's awaiting trial or already in jail/prison, then they're usually not going to be on the street committing crimes. Increased rate of incarceration could also be correlated with other changes in the relevant landscape, such as an increased presence of police on the street, or more people going to prison on fewer charges than in the past, or more people who have peers in prison.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:14 AM on October 25, 2011


When I was a teenager, the original The Fast & The Furious was a hit movie, just as, for teenager today, the other Fast & The Furious movies were huge hits. I assure you as well that older people bought us alcohol.

I don't doubt that older people bought you alcohol but were they middle class family men? Seriously, I could ask anyone as a teenager and about 9 in 10 would buy you booze. Nowadays kids are selective about who they ask. I know because they don't ever ask me.

As for Fast & Furious movies you will notice that the driving fast is not portrayed as acceptable by the wider society. It is clearly criminal and only approved of by the street racer fraternity and the movies did generate considerable public concern and were really only popular with young people.

Smokey and the Bandit produced pretty much no concern, portrayed the activities as receiving broad public support, and were successful draws for all age groups.


There are still oodles of movies and TV shows about how "the man" is the villain, i.e. The Bourne Identity. There are also pro-"the man" entertainments, like 24, but then again, in the 70s and 80s, you also had Dirty Harry (for whom "the man" wasn't "the man" enough) and, say, Red Dawn.



The Bourne Identity is about the national security apparatus - an entirely different kind of man - very remote from the concerns of local people and criminal enforcement. I can't off hand think of a contemporary movie that occupies a similar sort of role as Smokey and the Bandit.

I can tell you are just not getting how much things have changed.

It used to be that we were all lawbreakers and even ordinary people had a small level of anti-police hostility and this was true even for the middle class. Cops were not seen as being on our side or enforcing laws that protected us. Even your parents thought speeding laws were a bit stupid and seatbelts were fascist. This wasn't libertarian denialism either where people try to rationalize being bad as a freedom or pretend that drunk driving doesn't impair them. It was more of an understanding that people were bad and wanted to be bad and that society had some space for that.

Someone posted something a few weeks ago about there being fistfights every day in public schools in the 1970s and indeed there were. I must have been in a fight every week from the 5th grade on and I thought this was normal. In school, before school, after school. That was normal. I got the bent nose and crooked knuckles and the pretty scars to prove it. The teachers never called the cops and you were rarely punished. They just broke up the fight and told everyone to go back to what they were doing.


And yes, in the 70s there was a fighting ladder at my school where kids challenged each other and met off school grounds to see who would win in a bare knuckle punchout. FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! Plus of course being Canadian, there were street hockey fights which don't really count because hockey is a seperate world entirely.

My friends and I used to cross the street when teenagers were walking the other way because if you didn't you absolutely would get bullied. I know what real wedgies are because I was a kid in the 70s. Not tame undewear yanking. I mean honest to god undewear elastic destroying hanging you in a tree wedgies.

I'm not waxing nostalgic. Those were not good times for anybody and life is infinitely better in almost every way now. However, I am still curious how exactly that weird admiration/cultural space for low level criminal resistance got completely snuffed out. For a long time I thought it was just me becoming 'the man' with middle age and it might be. I don't have kids and kids are kept out of sight so I have no real clue what their world is like. Has the space shifted to the internet? Maybe. There is certainly a low level criminal resistance on the net where 'the man' gets their music and media pirated by millions and kids hack around.
posted by srboisvert at 8:22 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


And yes, in the 70s there was a fighting ladder at my school where kids challenged each other and met off school grounds to see who would win in a bare knuckle punchout. FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! Plus of course being Canadian, there were street hockey fights which don't really count because hockey is a seperate world entirely.

This kind of thing was very common in the late 90s in the US, too, in my experience.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:29 AM on October 25, 2011


Except for the hockey part. Here it was all about football team and various other tribal allegiances.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:30 AM on October 25, 2011


I think there may be some restructuring going on. For example, in RI, I am hearing that organized crime is doing so poorly that they have had to begin laying off judges. After some outsourcing and realigning management priorities, I am sure that organized crime will be back in the game!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:44 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


This thread seems to be turning into stories of how in the 70's we all lived in Pottersville.

In an economy that is hurting men particularly badly

Citation? I don't have the article at hand but I've read it's been much worse on women (who, of course, already make less than men in the best of times).
posted by NorthernLite at 8:52 AM on October 25, 2011


Statistics on the impact of the recession on men vs. women are decidedly mixed. Men lost jobs much more dramatically than women at the beginning of the downturn, but also found jobs more quickly.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:04 AM on October 25, 2011


Lead abatement.
posted by notyou at 9:13 AM on October 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have a hard time believing there's been a reduction in the reporting of crime. Homicide rates have gone down, too. People simply don't ignore dead bodies.

Also, there's the theory that crime rates stay down generally because of legalized abortion in the U.S.

The City Journal article mentions this but immediately writes it off outright for reasons that they don't seem to apply to their other theories. I think it's mostly because City Journal's leaning shies away from culture issues that don't jibe with conservative ideology, particularly hot button issues like abortion. The article makes it sound like the abortion-crime link is mostly debunked, but this doesn't seem to be the case, at least not yet. Worse, the article seems to spin it as more of a racial issue than it was argued.

property crimes might be falling because there's just less valuable shit to steal, as compared to thirty years ago.

I've wondered about this. I think it's not so much that there's less valuable stuff to steal, but rather there's less relavtively valuable stuff to steal. We're living in an age when even the best consumer goods are cheap and common. Perhaps we're enjoying the surplus of prosperity, one aspect of which eases the lure to crime by disincentivizing theft. Stealing stuff becomes less attractive when that stuff can be found so cheaply brand new at Walmart and Costco.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:15 AM on October 25, 2011


Peer effects can have a degree of inertia:
The decision to commit crime (or not) is not merely one taken by a rational maximizing isolated individual. It has a social dimension. People are more likely to commit crime if others in their social networks do, and less likely to do so if their peers are law-abiding. If your friends are robbers, there’s a high chance you will be too.

These peer effects mean that trends in crime can feed on themselves. If crime falls for several years - as it did in the 90s and 00s - it might continue to do so, because there are fewer “bad apples” to influence others to commit crime.
Of course, inertia works both ways. If crime starts rising again, that rise could continue even if the economy starts to improve.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:16 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a given that domestic crime often goes unreported, for obvious and unfortunate reasons, but the idea that more domestic crime is unreported than in the past is speculative.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:17 AM on October 25, 2011


The Wire had a suggestion (from an interview with its creator on Bill Moyers Journal in 2009).

DAVID SIMON: Well, and facts-- one of the themes of THE WIRE really was that statistics will always lie. That I mean statistics can be made to say anything.

BILL MOYERS: Yes, one of my favorite scenes, in Season Four, we get to see the struggling public school system in Baltimore, through the eyes of a former cop who's become a schoolteacher. In this telling scene, he realizes that state testing in the schools is little more than a trick he learned on the police force. It's called "juking the stats." Take a look.

[...]

ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL: So for the time being, all teachers will devote class time to teaching language arts sample questions. Now if you turn to page eleven, please, I have some things I want to go over with you.

ROLAND "PREZ" PRYZBYLEWSKI: I don't get it, all this so we score higher on the state tests? If we're teaching the kids the test questions, what is it assessing in them?

TEACHER: Nothing, it assesses us. The test scores go up, they can say the schools are improving. The scores stay down, they can't.

PREZ: Juking the stats.

TEACHER: Excuse me?

PREZ: Making robberies into larcenies, making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and major become colonels. I've been here before.

TEACHER: Wherever you go, there you are.

[...]

DAVID SIMON: You show me anything that depicts institutional progress in America, school test scores, crime stats, arrest reports, arrest stats, anything that a politician can run on, anything that somebody can get a promotion on. And as soon as you invent that statistical category, 50 people in that institution will be at work trying to figure out a way to make it look as if progress is actually occurring when actually no progress is. And this comes down to Wall Street. I mean, our entire economic structure fell behind the idea that these mortgage-based securities were actually valuable. And they had absolutely no value. They were toxic. And yet, they were being traded and being hurled about, because somebody could make some short-term profit. In the same way that a police commissioner or a deputy commissioner can get promoted, and a major can become a colonel, and an assistant school superintendent can become a school superintendent, if they make it look like the kids are learning, and that they're solving crime. And that was a front row seat for me as a reporter. Getting to figure out how the crime stats actually didn't represent anything, once they got done with them.


Also on This American Life.

The Village Voice series on Adrian Schoolcraft.
posted by jhandey at 9:36 AM on October 25, 2011 [19 favorites]


The idea that people are simply reporting less crime is absurd.
It's not that the crimes aren't being reported, it's that law enforcement downgrades their status before commiting them to paper. For example, a sexual assault reported by a victim becomes "forcible touching", a misdemeanor, in the police report.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:52 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's because the baby boomers are getting too old to commit many violent crimes. The rate has been dropping for decades because that demographic bulge passed through the life stage where people were most likely to have trouble with the law.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:08 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unlike the 1930s most people today are middle class. Middle class crime is white collar crime. The evidence is here: Corporate fraud and Benford's Law.
posted by stbalbach at 10:16 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


white rhino
posted by mrgrimm at 10:18 AM on October 25, 2011


An about crime trends that ignores age distribution is probably worth ignoring.
posted by pjaust at 10:19 AM on October 25, 2011


and video games and porn, of course.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:20 AM on October 25, 2011


BobbyVan: "Yes, according to this article in the NY Times, crime decreased across the United States, but rose in New York."

Well duh - that is where Wall Street is. (not the OWS, but the banksters, I mean)
posted by symbioid at 10:48 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


WoW?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:04 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


> . I can't off hand think of a contemporary movie that occupies a similar sort of role as Smokey and the Bandit.

Now there's something to be thankful for.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Free Streaming Internet Porn is stealing the motivation of young males everywhere.
posted by blargerz at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't off hand think of a contemporary movie that occupies a similar sort of role as Smokey and the Bandit.

I can think of 2 from 2008 alone:

Pineapple Express

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
posted by mrgrimm at 12:23 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It used to be that we were all lawbreakers and even ordinary people had a small level of anti-police hostility and this was true even for the middle class. Cops were not seen as being on our side or enforcing laws that protected us. Even your parents thought speeding laws were a bit stupid and seatbelts were fascist . . . It was more of an understanding that people were bad and wanted to be bad and that society had some space for that.
So I was born during the Reagan administration and I have no idea what you're talking about, trying to claim this trait as distinct for baby boomers. People don't complain about speeding laws any more because the national speed limit isn't 55 mph.

People still do, however, hate cops. I mean, do you realize how many albums NWA sold to people in my generation?

I used to work as an EMT which you'd think would be a pretty pro-establishment work force; We wear uniforms, get sirens, work side by side with police, etc. But let me tell you, no matter who my partner was, whether it was a seasoned paramedic or a fresh EMT-B younger than me, or anything in between, whenever we left an accident scene where cops were we'd probably spend the time until the next run talking about what a douche that cop was.

Don't get me wrong, they are very courteous to ambulance crews, and both Police departments and EMS crews depend on mutual respect to work together in emergencies and every time I've had to interact with an officer they've been appropriate and respectful. But man, the second I got back in a rig and the door was closed there is nothing more satisfying making the "jack-off" hand gesture while making fun of a bloated self important police officer.
posted by midmarch snowman at 1:49 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I actually think it's a reduction in the *reporting* of crimes

The problem with this position is that there are good data from all over the world to show that public perception of national crime tracks neither reported crime nor crime data gathered through active surveys. Whatever method of monitoring you use indicates that crime is falling throughout the developed world, while fear of crime is on the increase. As far as I am aware, no-one is exactly sure why but, as a few people have indicated, an ageing population is almost certainly significant. The fact that the linked article doesn't discuss this is surprising, to put it very mildly.
posted by howfar at 2:10 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]




Speaking of crime stats, I just called my local station (which in and of itself took some internet sleuthing to get the number) to report an attempted break in at our apartment and was basically told I had nothing to report since I scared the dude off before he was totally through the window. He asked me why I was reporting this in the first place since "nothing happened" and I said it seemed like a statistic they would want to collect. So much for that idea.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:32 PM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Part of the reason why we would expect to see an increase in unemployment produce an increase in crime is old-fashioned class snobbery.

At the beginning of Victoria's reign key commentators like Edwin Chadwick tended to equate the criminal offender with individuals in the lower reaches of the working class...There were also concerns about 'the dangerous classes' who were thought to lurk in the slums waiting for the opportunity for disorder and plunder.

Crime skyrockets as unemployment pushes some people from beer street into gin alley. If the statistics do not bear out this presupposition, the statistics must be rigged.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:33 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nobody's mentioned video games as a factor?
In a seminal 2009 paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (ungated here), Gordon Dahl and Stefano Della Vigna describe a powerful and low-cost strategy for reducing crime: voluntary incapacitation of at-risk youth.

Voluntary incapacitation has a significant impact on violent crime: using US data, Dahl and Della Vigna estimate that even limited voluntary incapacitation can deter 175 assaults daily.

Best of all, voluntary incapacitation can be achieved without a costly expansion of our prisons or law enforcement agencies.

A blockbuster violent movie is enough to get youth off the street. Using nation-wide US figures, Dahl and Della Vigna find that "an increase of one million in the audience for violent movies reduces violent crime by 0.5 to 0.9 percent." (Part of this is due to the incapacitation effect, part is also due to decreased alcohol consumption).

Yet even a great movie will only lead to a few days of voluntary incapacitation. Is there a way of getting at-risk youth off the street for longer?

A study by Michael Ward published this month in Contemporary Economic Policy (earlier version ungated here) suggests that there is. He finds that an increase in video game availability, as measured by the number of video game stores, leads to a significant reduction in rates of robbery, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and mortality.
posted by russilwvong at 2:49 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nobody's mentioned video games as a factor?

Only 5 or 6 people in the thread.
posted by empath at 3:48 PM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not to be mean but... lower military entrance requirements?
posted by rosswald at 4:40 PM on October 25, 2011


howfar: "Looks like crime started falling pretty much when people stopped listening to James Q Wilson. QED."

So as I looked him up and saw a link to DiIulio who was Bush's faith based policy director. Then I saw a reference to Mayberry Machiavelli and man doesn't that just sound like the attitudes of cops?
posted by symbioid at 5:41 PM on October 25, 2011


A couple of people I've worked with have written about this. This article in particular may be of interest, because it highlights some of the methodological problems criminologists face when trying to determine causality.

Baltimore has problems with underreporting rape specifically.
posted by postel's law at 6:08 PM on October 25, 2011


funny how he only considers the crimes committed by the poor and totally ignores the massive amount of unprosecuted crimes committed by those wearing white collared shirts in the last decade. Before you go believing propaganda it would be wise to keep these three words in your back pocket for next time: Consider the Source. Reagan flacks are the scumbags who started the process of stripping regulations that allow for white collar financial rapes, robberies and thefts to go unreported.

"and as I've roamed and rambled,
I've seen a lot of funny men..
some will rob you with a six-gun,
some will rob you with a fountain pen."

-Woody Guthrie
posted by any major dude at 5:49 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Many people in economics are convinced that the government cooks the economic stats that they put out. I wouldn't be surprised if they do the same with crime stats.
posted by davismbagpiper at 11:43 AM on October 26, 2011


Many people in economics are convinced that the government cooks the economic stats that they put out. I wouldn't be surprised if they do the same with crime stats.

Even the site you link to (which is pretty far out of the mainstream) doesn't claim that the raw data are being cooked, rather that the means of calculating what they mean are deliberately misleading. What else could it be saying, unless its author claimed access to suppressed government data? Your suspicion, if true, would require a much broader conspiracy than anyone even on the very fringes of the mainstream imagines.
posted by howfar at 4:53 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


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