Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fox: 'Crime could easily rebound'

The FBI recently released its preliminary tabulations of crime statistics for 2011, and the short-term trend seems rather encouraging. However, Professor James Alan Fox of Northeastern University wrote in the Boston Globe that the data are much more of a mixed bag in terms of what these trends really indicate.

It would appear from these estimates, from July through December 2011, that several crime categories showed an increase in the second half of the year, including a 1.9% uptick in murder.

The data shouldn't be used to overstate the significance of the trends for the second half of the year; they are volatile. The late-year increases may be more about low crime levels near the end of 2010 than anything about 2011. Further analysis and more complete data is needed.

Fox wrote, "Whatever the final data show, it would seem that the long-term downturn in crime has slowed, and may even have bottomed out. Crime can’t go down forever, of course. At this juncture, we need to focus on making sure that any increase that does occur is relatively modest."

Professor Fox appropriately points out that now is not the time to start cutting back on crime fighting resources. "With rates relatively low, this is not the time to diminish crime fighting efforts. If we naively presume that the crime problem has been solved (as opposed to just controlled for the time being), the crime rate could easily rebound. If we fail to invest sufficiently in crime prevention and crime control—both personnel and programs, we may someday look back at 2011 and consider them the 'good old days.'"

As state and local governments struggle with diminishing budgets and the resulting cuts to law enforcement, prisons, the courts and social services we may be on the cusp of a dramatic increase in crime, violence and victimization.

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