Thursday, December 30, 2010

Murder Down In Largest Cities

The USA Today recently wrote about the dramatic decline in murder in America's three largest cities. The numbers are incredible when it comes to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Homicides in New York have dropped 79% during the past two decades — from 2,245 in 1990 to 471 in 2009, the last full year measured. Chicago is down 46% during that period, from 850 to 458. Los Angeles is down 68%, from 983 to 312.

In 2009, New York had its fewest killings since it began using its current tracking system in 1963. Yet city crime reports through November indicate that homicides have jumped 14.4% and rape is up 15.6% this year, compared with the same period last year. The numbers don't approach those recorded during the 1990s, but are notable in a city that has been a model for reducing crime.

In Los Angeles, authorities have tamped down persistent gang violence. Violent crime was down 11% through November compared with the same period in 2009. But police officials acknowledge that the successes are fragile in a never-ending effort to maintain local public safety even as gang membership has risen slightly, from 43,000 in 2008 to 45,000 this year.

In Chicago, Police Superintendent Jody Weis says the city has struggled to break an unusual cycle of slayings involving child victims. Although the number of homicides has been cut nearly in half since 1990, Weis says the nature of the killings has undermined a public perception of safety citywide.

The USA Today demonstrates that the past is nothing short of spectacular; but, what will the future hold. There is no question that a sagging economy has not pushed economically disenfranchised people to turn to crime as some commentators suggested it would. However, tightening local and state government budgets will reduce police forces, open prison gates and eliminate rehabilitative programming-and will inevitably usher in a new era of rising violence. New York's shrinking police force and it increasing homicide rate may be a harbinger of things to come.

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