Did you know that according to official FBI and U.S. Department of Justice reports, the rates of violent crime in the U.S. are now at their lowest level in 40 years? Did you know that violent crime rates of 2010 were 1/3 the rates of 1994? Other countries are experiencing a similar decline. And deaths of law enforcement officers are at their lowest in 50 years according to this Boston Globe article. What inspiring news!!! Yet I'm amazed at how little media attention this is drawing.
About three years ago, I came across a major media article stating violent crime rates were on the decline. Given all of the violence reported in the news every day, I was amazed and somewhat skeptical about this. To verify the claim, I searched for and found the FBI's webpage listing cumulative crime statistics. I was most surprised to find that not only were violent crime rates steadily declining over the last 17 years, the cumulative decline was huge! What great news!!! Yet I was also fascinated that the article I read didn't mention the inspiring extent of this decline.
So for the last few years, I've been following this topic with great interest. And the rates have continued to decline in most impressive ways. Yet as I search the news, though every year I find a few major media articles which state that crime has decreased for the year or for the last few years, I've only found one major media article which talked about violent crime being at the lowest rate in 40 years, and even that article failed to mention that the overall violent crime rate has dropped to 1/3 of what it was 17 years ago.
That one article was from the New York Times on May 23, 2011. Yet this article, too, seemed to downplay the great news with a title that was far from inspiring, "Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts." But at least this one report laid out some of the astounding statistics:
"The number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly last year, to what appeared to be the lowest rate in nearly 40 years. In all regions, the country appears to be safer. The odds of being murdered or robbed are now less than half of what they were in the early 1990s, when violent crime peaked in the United States. Small towns, especially, are seeing far fewer murders: In cities with populations under 10,000, the number plunged by more than 25 percent last year."
The author of this article used the words "appeared to be the lowest rate," and "the country appears to be safer." When this information is based on FBI statistics, why does he water down this most inspiring news by using the word "appear"? And the FBI statistics actually show that the odds of being murdered or robbed are not just "less than half," but actually one-third of what they were in the early 1990s. And according to the FBI chart, rape rates have dropped to one-sixth of what they were 20 years ago! How awesome is that!!!
To see the charts of each type of crime, both violent and non-violent, on U.S. Department of Justice websites showing almost all categories at historic lows, click here and here. If you explore these webpages, you will see that it is not just violent crime; almost all types of crime have declined more than half over the past 20 years. Note that on the webpage at the first link, charts are given for 19 categories. All but four of those 19 show dramatic declines over the last 15 to 20 years. Yet how strange that those are the first four charts listed on the page. Hmmmmm.
For statistics going back farther, two charts based on FBI data from 1960 to 2009 are available here. The first chart lists numbers of crimes, while the second gives the rates per 100,000 population. It is possible that some of the FBI statistics provided at all of these links are mistaken. But if anything, we would expect to FBI to inflate the rates in order to justify Congress giving them a bigger budget. It is not likely that they would skew the rates downward.
Here are a few articles I've collected which show the lack of reporting of this most inspiring news:
June 11, 2008: U.S. News and World Report - Crime Rates Shown to Be Falling
June 1, 2009: USA Today - FBI: U.S. crime falls, but small town violence up
May 25, 2010: San Francisco Chronicle - 2009 crime rates drop, defying recession trend
September 14, 2010: Boston Globe - Crime rate decline puzzles theorists
May 24, 2011: CBS News - FBI: Violent crime fell 5.5 percent in 2010
Notice that the USA Today headline even waters down the inspiring news by focusing on where violence is up. And the title of a New York Times article from the year 2000 is further evidence of a negative bias: "Crime Rates Fall Again, but Decline May Slow." Why aren't the media reporting this amazing reduction in crime in top headlines to inspire people?
No one seems to know why crime has been declining so steadily. One reason may be that as the baby boomers are aging, the percentage of young adults has declined. Another is that due to tougher sentencing laws, prison numbers are way up. Nearly 2.3 million Americans are now behind bars. That's about one percent of the adult population and more than any other nation, including China. And it's possible that email and the Internet are helping people to feel more connected and less likely to want to harm others. All of these factors and more may play a role in the decline.
No matter what the reason, let's celebrate this great news! At least in this one very significant way, our world is a safer place to live. Yea!!! Now please help to spread this inspiring news far and wide.