Inflection Point: Crime Rates Stay Low

This report from NYU’s Brennan Center is focused on whether crime rates have spiked up recently, perhaps due to the evolution of police/community dispute issues.   The data suggest, not so much.

But, apart from that question, the longer term trend of downward crime rates (charts below from Kevin Drum’s blog) remains fascinating to me.  We have terrific criminal justice experts on the SPA faculty, and I don’t want to range too much into their domain of expertise, but this just seems like a widely under appreciated policy success.

I remember living in NYC in the early 1990s, and enduring relatively high crime rates, as well as widespread predictions that it would get even worse, with some warnings of growing numbers of “super predators” likely to be roaming the streets.  Not only did that not happen, but crime rates went way down, in NYC, where Mayor Guiliani and his police force got lots of credit, but also around the country.

I know the causal factors are complicated, and probably interactive, including better policing, less crack and drug crimes, gentrifying cities, and other explanations (I am partial to the reduction of lead in paint and gasoline, as a long term explanation).  Whatever worked, it is a good thing, and we should do more of it.



Categories: Commentary

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