Virtually crime free


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    The crime rate is falling because:
    1. Obama’s economic policies have proven successful and unemployment has fallen to Bush levels?
    2. More and more people who work for a living, feed, house, clothe, and educate their families, and don’t suck off the welfare teat, are obtaining ‘carry concealed’ licenses?Report

  2. Avatar Koz says:

    There may be no one comprehensive explanation for the fall of the rate of crime in America, but the strongest reason is the fact that for 25 years or so we have essentially incarcerated the criminal class. At least, whenever I’ve seen this up for the debate the people who claim that always get the best of the argument.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      What Koz said. Or, at least, that it’s something that we should seriously, seriously think about before we start talking about how the incarceration bump has been some sort of failure or that it’s not working. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but maybe it’s not. I was thinking about this when I read Mark Thompson’s comments about how it’s something we should be ashamed of. Honestly, it’s something I’m deeply uncomfortable with on a moral level, but on a practical level I think that it’s something that those of us outside of prison may be benefiting from.

      The Freakonomics argument was intriguing when I first heard it, but when some skeptical eyes looked it over they put some serious dents in the theory (to say the least).

      Regarding video games, I think that there could be something to that. I’m really attracted to Jones’s theories (the man is a great comic book writer), but if not that then it does what “midnight basketball courts” were supposed to.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


        There have been times when we had similarly low crime levels without mass imprisonment. The 1950s, for example. I’m not at all prepared to say it’s a necessity.

        Moreover, the substantial rise in the crime rate during the late 1980s and early 1990s did not coincide with a fall in incarcerations. On the contrary, incarcerations were rising at that time.

        One factor not mentioned yet but that probably deserves to be is the removal of lead as a gasoline additive. Another is the increased availability of (ahem) adult content on the Internet.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill says:

          @Jason Kuznicki, I’m not prepared to say it’s a necessity, either, and I’d really like is to find a better way. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been beneficial for those outside of prison.

          Out of curiosity, do you have a link to any good data on incarceration rates in the US over time?Report

  3. Avatar kd says:

    Are we only looking at the decrease in crime since 1990? That was the end of what some call the Crack Age, which correlated to a huge rise in crime. Maybe “returning to pre-crack” levels would be a more accurate way to describe it.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      Some interesting data I’ve run across and put through a spreadsheet.

      The violent crime rate indeed hit its apex in the early nineties, but it was actually a continuating of a trend that started in the late 60’s. The murder rate, meanwhile, was not particularly high in 1990. Or rather, it is about the same (per-capita) as it was in the mid-70’s and around 1980 or so. Assault and rape seem (rather than murder) seem to be the big things contributing to the overall increase in violent crime. The rape statistics may be skewed by the fact that rape used to be more under-reported, so it could be like murder or could be like assault as the numbers more directly suggest.

      On the nonviolent side, burglary hit its peak around 1980 and never got that high again. Larceny-Theft in 1990 was similar to the 1980 crimewave (a little bit higher). Vehicular theft hit its peak circa 1990 after a gradual climb. The overall property crime rate actually hit its peak circa 1980 but nearly matched it in 1990.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      @kd, this was not a response to you in particular. For some reason, TLOOG is putting my comments in places other than where I intend them to be. I must be doing something wrong.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I’m just waiting for the falling crime rate to lead to a falling policing rate.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      @Rufus F., I think before that happens it needs to be demonstrated that a reduction in policing and/or incarceration won’t bring the crime rate right back up. Maybe Jason is right and there is no relationship, but that’s not an easy argument to make when tough-on-crime folks said getting tough on crime will reduce crime and the civil liberty folks said it wouldn’t and then (even if by complete coincidence) crime went down.Report

  5. From Erik:

    “…we also see…lower rates of teen consumption of alcohol and drugs…”

    According to NPR, drug use is ‘higher than it has been in decades’.

  6. Avatar CaptBackslap says:

    Removal of lead from gasoline is another possible contributor; a study about a decade ago (which I can’t find online) found that blood lead levels were the STRONGEST predictor of juvenile delinquency.

    This freakonomics entry has some interesting links on the topic:

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