Tuesday, July 7, 2015

America is not in the throes of a nationwide crime wave

Radley Balko of the Washington Post wrote: Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute wrote that we are in the throes of a “new nationwide crime wave.”

But over at the NY Daily News, Franklin Zimring explains why Mac Donald’s central premise — that we’re on the brink of a new crime wave — is way off base.
Mac Donald’s recital of frightening statistics plays special attention to the problems in New York City and Los Angeles, America’s two largest cities and most prominent urban success stories in crime reduction in the past two decades. Bill Bratton, now in his second stint in New York, has served as commissioner of both departments.
We are told shootings are up in both Los Angeles and New York, and that “the most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months.”
Is there a nationwide crime wave? On current evidence, probably not, and a careful analysis of official statistics in New York and Los Angeles provides reason for reassurance rather than alarm.
Zimring starts with New York.
Let’s start with the uptick in violence in New York City. The most recent official crime statistics indicate that so far in 2015, the city has experienced significant declines from 2014’s ultra-low levels in burglary, robbery and larceny. At the same time, total homicides for the first five months of the year at 135 are higher than in 2014 — but quite close to the pace of 2013 and around 30% lower than in 2010.
At their current rate, killings in New York City would end 2015 as either the third or fourth lowest year in the city’s modern history.
Balko ties it all together writing,  "Fear of crime is a powerful political motivator. This makes it all the more important to point out when pundits attempt to influence a political debate by using specious data to exploit that fear. There’s some data suggesting that the 20-year decline in violent crime may have hit bottom. In a country of 380 million people, you aren’t going to reduce crime to zero. In some cities, there have been some recent increases in some crimes, just as there were all throughout the crime drop. But the evidence that we’re on the brink of some national crime wave is about as convincing as the evidence 20 years ago that juvenile super predators were about to terrorize American cities."
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