Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can Crime Rates Continue to Decline?

Over the last couple of days, this blog has explored the recent FBI report indicating a steep decline in violent crime and property crimes. The decline continues a trend that has brought crime rates to some of the lowest points in nearly half a century.

The decline in crime has continued in spite of a sputtering economy and reductions in law enforcement spending. However, there is some concern that prolonged reductions in law enforcement resources will inevitably have an impact on crime rates.

Northeastern University professor James Alan Fox recently sounded the alarm in the Boston Globe:

Despite the minimal direct link between economic conditions and street crime levels, an indirect and lagged effect is cause for concern. When the economy is tight, state and local governments cut budgets for crime prevention and crime control initiatives. Of particular concern are the diminished levels of police protection, particularly in high crime areas. From 2000 to 2009, the number of police officers per 1,000 residents in cities with populations of 250,000 and over has declined by 11% overall. As a result, many police departments have been forced to scale down certain special programs. Back to basics for men and women in blue has meant a reduction or elimination of anti-gang units and community policing efforts.

It has been in some of the poorest and most crime-infested neighborhoods where the negative effects of police budget cuts have hit the hardest. Over the past decade, city police departments have been asked to do more, but with less. The emphasis on homeland security and the attempt to protect potential targets of terrorism have left many hometowns unsecured against ordinary street violence.

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