For a nation always at war, a surprise
FBI reports another drop in US crime
Criminals have got the experts confused. This 2011 article is from the AP, May 23.
by the Associated PressCrime levels fell across the board last year, extending a multi-year downward trend with a 5.5 percent drop in the number of violent crimes in 2010 and a 2.8 percent decline in the number of property crimes.
Year-to-year changes released Monday by the FBI in its preliminary figures on crimes reported to police in 2010 also showed declines in all four categories of violent crime in 2010. All categories for property crime went down as well.
"In a word, remarkable," said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University. In Fox's view, the declines signify success for aggressive law enforcement and corrections programs and comprehensive crime prevention efforts. He said the crime levels could easily rise if the current environment of state and local budget cutting extends to law enforcement measures that are working.
Some experts are puzzled.
Expectations that crime would rise in the economic recession have not materialized. The size of the most crime-prone population age groups, from late teens through mid-20s, has remained relatively flat in recent years.
"I have not heard of any good explanations for the good news we've been experiencing in 2009 and 2010," said professor Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz School of Public Policy. "I hope the trend continues and I'm going to keep searching for answers."
Violent crime last increased in 2005. Property crime last increased in 2002.
The FBI reported that violent crime fell in all four regions of the country last year -- 7.5 percent in the South, 5.9 in the Midwest, 5.8 percent in the West and 0.4 percent in the Northeast.
The bureau's preliminary statistics for 2010 are based on data from more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Nationally, murder and non-negligent manslaughter declined 4.4 percent, forcible rape decreased 4.2 percent, robbery declined 9.5 percent, and aggravated assault was down 3.6 percent.
The downward trend for murder and non-negligent manslaughter was especially pronounced in the nation's smallest cities, where it went down 25.2 percent for cities under 10,000 people. Murder actually rose 3 percent in cities with populations of 250,000 to half a million. In New York City, the number of murders and non-negligent manslaughter cases rose from 471 to 536, up 13.8 percent.
Among property crimes, motor vehicle theft showed the largest drop in 2010 -- 7.2 percent -- followed by larceny-theft, which was down 2.8 percent, and burglary, a decline of 1.1 percent.
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JJS: Hereís something for the experts to think about. One known antidote to crime is community. In neighborhoods where residents stay put for long terms, people get to know each other, talk to each other, spend more time outside in the yard, on the porch, taking a walk, so there are more eyes on the street, and as a rule criminals would rather not perform in front of witnesses.
Also, Iíd venture that people are less likely to turn to crime if they know the people theyíd have to rob or otherwise abuse. For a young guy considering a career in crime, itís just harder to look them in the eye when they know you and you know them.
One thing that undoes community is people moving around a lot, youths and households seeking better economic prospects elsewhere. However, during the recent -- or current -- recession (depending on how you define the downturn), the grass has not been greener on the other side, so families and young adults have been staying put. Many youths are staying in or returning to their parentsí homes.
The Census Bureau recorded the fewest moves ever in 2008. While the rate up-ticked in 2009, it stayed flat in 2010. So communities are remaining relatively intact. And the crime rate keeps falling.
Thus, to fight crime, and poverty, and spread prosperity, letís do whatever we can to recreate community. One thing we can do to affirm community is promote owner occupancy. One proven way to do that is to make housing affordable. Indeed, when Pittsburgh had the most affordable housing of any big US city (due in part to its higher tax rate on land), it also enjoyed by far the lowest crime rate of any big US city, more like the rate of a small town.
How can we bring the cost of housing within the reach of more people? We can remove from the cost of housing the cost for land. And how do we do that? We establish land taxes or land dues, so that residents pay for land to their local government, separately, from however much they pay an owner or seller for a house.
When sellers and owners donít get the payments for land, then they donít speculate and withhold prime land from use, meaning the supply of available land goes up. Nor would any speculator jump in, trying to grab land for future gain, so the demand for available land goes down. Supply up, demand down, then price drops, too.
On affordable land thereís plenty of affordable housing. So owner occupancy is high. So neighborhoods are tighter. Plus, with the extra construction comes extra jobs and with the efficient land use comes higher wages. In the resultant prosperity, thereís less crime.
So, while a falling crime rate is good news, for it to fall as low as it can go and stay down there, we need to implement geonomics ASAP and keep the revenue policy in place. It has worked wherever tried.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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