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June 5, 2007 6:41 AM   Subscribe

"The number of violent crimes in the United States rose for a second straight year in 2006, marking the first sustained increase in homicides, robberies and other serious offenses since the early 1990s..." While violent crimes did increase by 1.3 percent total in 2006 [with robbery making a shocking 11.6 percent rise in the West and murder rising by 2.5 percent in the Northeast], property crimes actually decreased by 2.9 percent overall. The reason for this apparently strange state of affairs? Short answer: nobody knows for sure.
posted by Avenger (70 comments total)

 
Second short answer: statistical jitter.

One year does not a trend make.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:42 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I blame Republicans.
posted by empath at 6:43 AM on June 5, 2007


What about two years, SCDB? Does that make a trend?

Or do we have to wait until next year?
posted by Avenger at 6:49 AM on June 5, 2007


I blame Steven C. Den Beste.
posted by chunking express at 6:50 AM on June 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I blame myself.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:54 AM on June 5, 2007


You know what I blame this on the downfall of? Society.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:59 AM on June 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Citing the dropping property crime rate, surely they'll say that crime went down during Bush's reign.
posted by redteam at 7:00 AM on June 5, 2007


I saw an article a few years ago that claimed the drop in the murder rate was really a reflection of dramatic improvements in the treatment of gun shot wounds in American hospitals. Just as many folks were trying to kill one another, just as many folks were getting shot, the doctors were just saving more potential murder victims. Does anyone know anything about this?
posted by LarryC at 7:03 AM on June 5, 2007


Only Sheriff John Bunnell can fix this.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:22 AM on June 5, 2007


Only Sheriff John Bunnell can fix this.

America's Wildest Social Problems Coupled With Government Incompetence, coming soon to FOX.
posted by Avenger at 7:26 AM on June 5, 2007


it's the economy, stupid
posted by Postroad at 7:29 AM on June 5, 2007


LarryC: The quiet success of the trauma care machine may be masking the true extent of gun violence in urban areas.
posted by cashman at 7:32 AM on June 5, 2007


it's the economy, stupid

See, here's what I can't figure out: despite my not-so-subtle hint in the title, what sort of economic (or social/political/whatever) environment causes violent crime to go up while property crimes decrease -- almost by the same margin, as a matter of fact.

Car thieves becoming hitmen en masse? Burglars switching over to armed robbery?

And why now? Why not 10 years ago?
posted by Avenger at 7:33 AM on June 5, 2007


Gun availability, stinky economy, and generational too, i think--now that the Britney Spears/baby Jessica generation is adults, they're in their prime crime years. We saw crime go up thru the Boomers' young adulthood, and then go down when the young adult population declined, and now it's up again.
posted by amberglow at 7:36 AM on June 5, 2007


More and angrier meth gangs in the country and heroin/crack gangs in the city: shooting each other more often, but not particularly attracted to break-ins or car-thefts.
posted by MattD at 7:38 AM on June 5, 2007


A nationwide measure of crime rates is almost certainly useless. You must at least break down the numbers by city, where it's likely that certain cities have lost ground, while others have implemented successful anti-crime measures. A big increase or drop in a city like LA or NY can skew averages for the whole country.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:39 AM on June 5, 2007


Economics:

  • Recession = less money = more property crime and lower alcohol consumption. Less booze = lower violent crime.

  • Boom = more money = less property crime and more alcohol consumption. More booze = higher violent crime.

  • That's my understanding of the traditional model, anyway. No idea how accurate it is.
    posted by alasdair at 7:40 AM on June 5, 2007


    Do these figures include the crimes perpetrated by those known collectively as "The Administration"? Do property crimes include the crime known loosely as "Haliburton", or collectively as "defense contracts"?
    posted by Goofyy at 7:41 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


    Oh, and BBC radio programme yesterday on crime statistics, still available through the site for listening (until 11 June 2007):
    More or Less - Calculating Crime and its Perception
    posted by alasdair at 7:43 AM on June 5, 2007


    Has Lou Dobbs blamed these stats on "America's Broken Borders" yet? Just wondering.
    posted by Thorzdad at 7:45 AM on June 5, 2007


    The quiet success of the trauma care machine may be masking the true extent of gun violence in urban areas.

    So just start counting total shots, not deaths.

    See, here's what I can't figure out: despite my not-so-subtle hint in the title, what sort of economic (or social/political/whatever) environment causes violent crime to go up while property crimes decrease -- almost by the same margin, as a matter of fact.

    I don't mean to get political, but since we're talking about socioeconomics I guess it's reasonable.

    But, I really think the war, and the rhetoric that surrounds it increases people's propensity towards violence. Especially due to the fact that the war is not seen by a lot of people as not being necessary.

    You have this nonchalance at the highest levels of government about taking human life for political expedience, rather then absolute necessity or any credible humanitarian reasons and people at home start to devalue human life as well.
    posted by delmoi at 7:45 AM on June 5, 2007


    Recession = less money = more property crime and lower alcohol consumption. Less booze = lower violent crime.

    I am curious about that, I always thought during a recession the "eat'em, drink'em and smoke'em" businesses did better
    posted by hexxed at 7:46 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


    LarryC, what you say indeed seems to be the case, although I'm not sure how it could be quantified. Often, trauma medicine is as much luck as anything. But, now the doctors get a little longer window for the luck to kick in.

    So while it seems logically true, and I think many doctors would back it as cognitively true, actually measuring the effect would be difficult, if not impossible.

    That's the scary part of medicine, seen from my non-doctor viewpoint: sometimes a person with zero chance pulls through, and someone undergoing a very routine procedure with almost no risk suddenly dies on the table.

    As to the crime rate... I think it might be interesting to see the breakdown between inner-city vs suburbs (which may be in there, I've not clicked all the links yet). I would bet that the well-funded suburbs have property crime well under control, while the poor inner-cities are still a killing field for urban youth.

    At some point, I don't know when or even how, the glamorization of the "thug life" and criminal activity being viewed as desirable or admirable, has got to stop.

    Add into this in some areas large groups of latino immigrants and their gang affiliations, and you have a real problem.

    It sounds like some sort of white man paranoia... "ooh all the blacks and mexicans are in gangs", but really, the people who should be afraid are... other blacks and mexicans. They generally are on the receiving end of this violence.

    You can deny on politically correct grounds that young blacks and young hispanics have a greater propensity to join gangs and participate in gang activity, and you can scream RACIST! at anyone who tries to point this out, but really all you're doing by deflecting attention to this phenomenon is insuring more of these black and hispanic youth are going to die in gang-related violence.

    Although I don't know how to solve it, I do know where to start. Addressing poverty and education would be a great beginning.

    But, that won't happen. People would much rather argue, as I'm sure they will in this thread, about how there's no such thing as culture, and how race has nothing to do with it, and how upper-class suburban white kids are just as likely to hold up liquor stores as inner-city black kids, etc etc etc.

    For once in America, I would like to see people quit arguing over what the problem actually is, and talk about what a true solution would be.
    posted by Ynoxas at 7:48 AM on June 5, 2007


    *points gun at thread, demands money*

    all right motherstickers, this is a fuckup!
    posted by jonmc at 7:50 AM on June 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


    We saw crime go up thru the Boomers' young adulthood, and then go down when the young adult population declined, and now it's up again.

    If I recall correctly, violent crime peaked in 1974, when most boomers would be pushing 30.
    posted by jonmc at 7:57 AM on June 5, 2007


    For once in America, I would like to see people quit arguing over what the problem actually is, and talk about what a true solution would be.

    Well, luckily for us, the FBI produces a helpful pamphlet for parents who are concerned that their child might be involved with a gang

    Here are some of the warning signs:

    -Breaking rules constantly
    -Staying out late without a reason
    -Displaying an unusual desire for secrecy
    -Speaking in gang-style slang
    -Has an unusual interest in gangster-influenced music, videos, movies or websites.

    Watch out, America!
    posted by Avenger at 8:01 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


    I blame web 2.0 and ajax. Oh, and flash video.
    posted by srboisvert at 8:06 AM on June 5, 2007


    Whether you like it or not, rap music makes you want to kill somebody.

    (copyright 2007 Autodidact)
    posted by autodidact at 8:07 AM on June 5, 2007


    I blame rap music.
    posted by LordSludge at 8:08 AM on June 5, 2007


    what sort of economic (or social/political/whatever) environment causes violent crime to go up while property crimes decrease

    I speculate that the property crimes are mostly people just trying to get cash for rent, food, or drugs. The violent crimes are the result of people growing up in a toxic type of environment. It's not like prison is much of a deterrent these days.
    posted by rolypolyman at 8:11 AM on June 5, 2007


    I think that property crimes are down because meth is a lot cheaper than crack.
    posted by ND¢ at 8:16 AM on June 5, 2007


    I blame statistics. Without them, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.
    posted by chillmost at 8:28 AM on June 5, 2007


    Property crimes are down because people aren't mad at buildings, people are mad at people. This most likely caused by the 2012 Olympic logo.
    posted by jefbla at 8:32 AM on June 5, 2007


    If I recall correctly, violent crime peaked in 1974, when most boomers would be pushing 30.

    The very oldest boomers were late-20s in 1974, and the vast bulk of boomers were in their teens and 20s then (those born all throughout the 50s).

    This new giant generation is now mostly in their teens and 20s now, no? If the theory is true, we'll see another peak in crime within the next 5-10 years-ish.
    posted by amberglow at 8:32 AM on June 5, 2007


    One year does not a trend make.

    Unless a there is Democrat in the White House. A weak kneed, soft on crime democrat. Riiiiight.

    My brother works for Florida State Correction training the states Parole Officers. Crime is up because of Demographics.

    All the people we locked up in the eighties and early nineties? You know "The War on Drugs" bad guys? The ones we thought we could forget about and let rot? Well all those mother fuckers are getting out. So the other side of the War is getting reinforcements. And they have nothing... so nothing to lose.

    They are the ones feeding the resurgence in gangs.

    Oh. That and meth. And heroin and cocaine are fairly cheap again.. at least the price cycles are swinging to much lower prices. Thanks to the war on terror draining law enforcement resources and the War in Iraq draining away personnel.

    So. Count on crime going up. And to continue to go up.
    posted by tkchrist at 8:32 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


    See, here's what I can't figure out: despite my not-so-subtle hint in the title,
    posted by Avenger at 9:33 AM on June 5


    Where did you get the idea that titles were an appropriate place for your insipid editorializing snark?

    As monju_bosatsu correctly noted, this discussion at the federal level is a waste of time. The issue is localized data and localized crime efforts. You do realize that the local cops are feds, right? But never mind, go on making whatever grand point you thought you would make with this thread. Surely you resolve the question of crime.
    posted by dios at 8:34 AM on June 5, 2007


    Must be the butlers. Greater wealth, more butlers. Butlers don't steal; they'll just knock you off.
    posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:40 AM on June 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


    I blame rap music.

    Guns don't kill people rappers do
    I seen it in a documentary on BBC2

    posted by patricio at 8:41 AM on June 5, 2007


    Quick, get me a time machine and an abortionist, STAT!
    posted by klangklangston at 8:45 AM on June 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


    n't

    That was supposed to go in my comment, but I'll leave you to guess where.
    posted by dios at 8:47 AM on June 5, 2007


    Suggestion: dart board and a hundred correlates.

    Have fun.
    posted by dreamsign at 8:52 AM on June 5, 2007


    Quick, get me a time machine and an abortionist, STAT!

    I blame Radio Disney, and Barney, and that rampant force of evil Elmo--it's their fault. ; >
    posted by amberglow at 8:57 AM on June 5, 2007


    *points gun at thread, demands money*

    all right motherstickers, this is a fuckup!


    I didn't know you worked for Visa.
    posted by Devils Rancher at 8:58 AM on June 5, 2007


    I blame the media. If not for them, I wouldn't have heard about this.
    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:02 AM on June 5, 2007


    All the people we locked up in the eighties and early nineties? You know "The War on Drugs" bad guys? The ones we thought we could forget about and let rot? Well all those mother fuckers are getting out. So the other side of the War is getting reinforcements. And they have nothing... so nothing to lose.

    How funny you should say that, tkchrist. I was just watching a rerun of Oz last night and Augustus said the exact same thing in one of his little act break interludes.
    posted by papakwanz at 9:08 AM on June 5, 2007


    Where did you get the idea that titles were an appropriate place for your insipid editorializing snark?

    Hold on to your seats everyone, our favorite forum celebrity is about to shit all over my very own thread!

    As monju_bosatsu correctly noted, this discussion at the federal level is a waste of time.

    The FBI appreciate your suggestion.

    The issue is localized data and localized crime efforts. You do realize that the local cops are feds, right?

    No I didn't realize that. Did you mean "aren't" feds? If thats the case, then no, despite your furious deadender-Republican desires to the contrary, the Feds (and Federal funding) are an important part of local law enforcement and said funding and resources really do impact our daily lives.

    But never mind, go on making whatever grand point you thought you would make with this thread. Surely you resolve the question of crime.

    Well, I don't anticipate solving "the question of crime". And personally dios, you can go fuck yourself for all the thread-shitting you do. I know that the opinion of some asshole on the internet named "Avenger" means nothing to you (as it shouldn't) but seriously, grow the fuck up. Please?
    posted by Avenger at 9:17 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


    What are you so upset about? You did try some crappy editorializing, and you got called on it.
    posted by klangklangston at 9:21 AM on June 5, 2007


    Ynoxas -

    The statistical reasoning behind the "decrease in murder rate is due to better emergency response" claim isn't laid out well in the article linked above, but it's pretty simple - cities that have recently seen large drops in the murder rate haven't seen a corresponding drop in the aggravated assault rate. Better medical response would be an obvious explanation of that phenomenon.

    The NYTimes listed this as one of their "big 25 ideas of the last year" in 2005, I think.
    posted by bonecrusher at 9:28 AM on June 5, 2007


    "If it makes you feel good, just do it." - D. Cheney
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:47 AM on June 5, 2007


    I'm going to go out on a limb and blame the RIAA for this.

    File sharing lawsuits going up, crime goes up. Napster (the real one) is brought down, crime goes up.

    It could also be because the number of pirates in the US has declined.

    I'm surprised that nobody is blaming the massive influx of illegal immigrants. Or Canada.
    posted by drstein at 9:57 AM on June 5, 2007


    Crime across the board is down double-digit percentages in my lil' previously very violent city, including murders AND assaults. The police here credit part of the drop in killings to be able to very quickly get suspects off of the streets (preventing revenge/retribution killings) and data-driven police work.
    posted by john m at 10:08 AM on June 5, 2007


    I view these trends as being heavily based on law enforcement budget cycles and demographic trends. More young people = more crime. Heavy investments in innovative law enforcement techniques (not necessarily just more boots on the stree) = less crime = public complacency and backlash against "oppression" and/or expenses = reduced police presence = more crime.
    posted by Midnight Creeper at 10:14 AM on June 5, 2007


    If those Freakonomics dudes were right, the reason is not enough abortions in the 1980s.
    posted by three blind mice at 10:26 AM on June 5, 2007


    My guess is that this is a reporting phenomenon.

    In New York, at least, it's quite hard to actually get the police to take reports of minor criminal incidents -- just try walking into a police station and telling them that someone punched you in the nose and/or stole your camera. (The reason is that cops get measured on how the crime stats fall, so it's against their interests to take a report. If you want someone to sit up and listen, and you know who did it, find a detective, as they get rewarded for each case that they solve.)

    I also think that today the deductable for theft insurance is always quite high so there's no incentive whatsoever to report minor theft or damage to the police -- whereas if someone breaks my nose and I end up in the hospital, the system still makes sure that a report is automatically filed.
    posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2007


    The rise of medical marijuana is surely a factor.
    posted by mrgrimm at 12:06 PM on June 5, 2007


    marking the first sustained increase in homicides, robberies and other serious offenses since the early 1990s...

    Yeah, I'm really sorry about that. It was a crazy weekend. Some of my buddies were back in town, I hadn't seen them in a while and we went a little crazy. Really, I apologize, it won't happen again.
    posted by quin at 12:10 PM on June 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


    Wow, dios usually keeps his cool a lot better than that. There must be something in that title that strikes deeply.
    posted by JHarris at 12:48 PM on June 5, 2007


    Without making a value judgment, I don't think it's possible to tell if "illegal immigration" had an influence on these numbers, considering that cops can't ask for immigrant status and Latinos (as the largest of this group) are grouped under "white" in federal crime statistics. How would you differentiate them?
    posted by erikharmon at 1:20 PM on June 5, 2007


    To sum up several things mentioned above, crime statistics and figuring out their causes is a notoriously slippery business. Yes, some police forces record any crime reported, some require an arm to be twisted for them to record a crime they know won't be leading to an arrest/trial. Violent and property crimes are committed chiefly by young men, so as the number of young men swells and ebbs, so does the crime rate. Murder is mostly the domain of a slightly older group of males, so that rate increases or decreases with their population. It was predicted several years ago that the aggressive prosecution and incarceration of young men in the name of teh "war on drugs" back in the 80's would lead to a crime spike when they started to be released en masse, and we may be seeing that now. The effect of gun availability, severity of gun control laws, sentence lengths and use of capital punishment is more or less nil unless you want to torture and cherry-pick statistics to support your case. Two of the biggest determinants of crime levels are arrest rates (arrests per crime reported) and conviction rates (convictions per crime reported) which are tied partly to resources available in individual jurisdictions. Not just budget allocations, but when crime goes up for whatever reason that means less resources that can be allocated per crime.

    Lastly, crime in the US has been falling for years. The homicide rate alone nearly dropped by half between a high point early in the first Clinton term and about 2 years ago. A two year increase may well be a trend instead of an aberration--a trend commonly referred to as "regression to the mean." A rise after the lowest levels in 40+years does not mean that something has gone wrong, merely that things are still going right but our little boost of good luck has run out.
    posted by Martin E. at 2:29 PM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


    bonecrusher: I agree. I do think it is the reason, I just think it would be difficult to prove imperically, that's all.
    posted by Ynoxas at 2:36 PM on June 5, 2007


    The reason for this apparently strange state of affairs? Short answer:

    an increase in fear, doubt, and depression.

    There's an unpopular government that may not have been honestly elected, with an upopular war that is interminable and hopeless, a debt load that is quite staggering, and complete uncertainty for the future of the country. People are stressed out, put out, bugged out.

    But, hey, I'll bet the weapons manufacturers, prison industries, and possibly police organizations aren't complaining too much!
    posted by five fresh fish at 4:15 PM on June 5, 2007


    an increase in fear, doubt, and depression.

    Bingo. It's hard to quantify this, but not that hard. Here's how you do it:
    Look around the grocery stores. See how poor the produce is, and how much you have to pay to buy it. Think about how much that is with regards to your pay. Now think about how much the produce has gone up in the last two to five years, and how much your pay has gone up in the same time. Now do the same for the gas prices. If your answer isn't "prices have doubled and my income has not", check your work.

    Get some of that gas, go to the main drag in town and drive around, counting the boarded-up and for-lease stores. Go to the worst part of town and count the non-boarded-up-or-for-lease stores. While you're at it, count all the potholes you drove over to get there. Also, count all the pawn shops, title-loan, and check-cashing/payday-loan places (I did this on one street in Albuquerque -- Menaul Blvd. has over 20 different check cashing stores. It's so bad that there are a few check cashing places next door to competing check cashing places.)

    I look around and realize that things have never been this shabby, not since I was old enough to notice. It's harder to afford good food, harder to afford rent or a mortgage, harder to pay for medical care, and harder to find work. When only the rich can afford a sense of security, it's no wonder that crime is going up!
    posted by vorfeed at 12:05 PM on June 6, 2007


    you're right about the shabby nowadays, but they were just as shabby, if not more so, back in the mid-70s (meat was extraordinarily expensive, and there was gas rationing, and a bad economy, and tons of inflation). Maybe that fits as well tho, since it was the mid-70s that the violent crime rate was way up too.

    I could see property crime and robbery going up because of shabby and a bad economy, but violent crime is different--it's totally a young man's game. People usually do age out of it at some point.
    posted by amberglow at 1:42 PM on June 6, 2007


    I look around and realize that things have never been this shabby, not since I was old enough to notice. It's harder to afford good food, harder to afford rent or a mortgage, harder to pay for medical care, and harder to find work. When only the rich can afford a sense of security, it's no wonder that crime is going up!
    I remember the mid-70s as being worse than this now, and i was just a kid in elementary school. That period also saw enormous cuts in social and public services and housing, high unemployment and rising prices, and even my city going bankrupt. It really was a very bad time for many.
    posted by amberglow at 1:46 PM on June 6, 2007


    I do think bad things aren't being reported as much--i had no clue this was such a large number of Americans: The 35 million under-nourished Americans cost the United States 90 billion dollars worth of lost annual economic output, according to a study. ...
    posted by amberglow at 1:47 PM on June 6, 2007


    Jesus, you have the equivalent of the population of Canada starving to death in your own country!

    The USA (and Canada, 'cause we seem to be forgetting it of late) need to start understanding that it's in the best interests of everyone if the poorest of us are provided at least the minimal needs: safety, shelter, food, and access to healthcare and education.
    posted by five fresh fish at 8:12 PM on June 6, 2007


    totally, fff. Polls show a majority of Americans do understand, but our politicians are funded by those would not allow it since it would trash their profits.
    posted by amberglow at 8:01 AM on June 7, 2007


    How does a country extricate itself from corporate governance, then? The USA is truly in a bad way if it can't fix its political system.
    posted by five fresh fish at 4:09 PM on June 7, 2007


    I'm guessing there will be a last straw, and it will get uglier from there.
    posted by oaf at 12:40 PM on June 13, 2007


    French Revolution style, y'mean?
    posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on June 13, 2007


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