Don’t Fear the City: Urban America’s Crime Drops to Lowest in 40 Years

…and yet, incarceration continues to grow……

A new FBI report reveals that big cities are the safest they’ve been in decades

Florida_Crime_5-24_banner.jpgReuters/Richard Carson

The long-held image of violent, crime-filled cities permeates popular culture. Thanks to TV shows, rap music, and a deep-seated antipathy to cities that has been apparent in some political and cultural quarters since at least the nineteenth century, countless Americans continue to perceive big cities through the lens of 40-year-old movies like Taxi Driver and The Out of Towners— as cauldrons of crime, filth, and corruption (and magnets for immigrants, gays, Jews, intellectuals, and other “disreputable” minorities).

Violent crimes, which include murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, fell 5.1 percent in cities with more than 1 million people.

The past couple of decades have seen a powerful back-to-the-city movement that has transformed many once-notorious districts into residential quarters and high-end shopping districts. Times Square, a byword for crime and urban decay, has become a Disney-like tourist magnet, and parts of Herald Square, the heart of NYC’s feared Tenderloin district a century ago, have been closed to traffic and filled with tables and chairs. Clearly something must be happening with urban crime.

Crime — both property crime and violent crime — is down to its lowest level in 40 years, especially in America’s biggest cities, according to newly released data from the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report. The data was collected from January through December 2010 and breaks out metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas as well as cities of various sizes. For the fourth year in a row, there has been yet another substantial decline in crime: 5.5 percent fewer murders, forcible rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults were reported in 2010 than in 2009; property crimes fell by 2.8 percent over the same period and reported arsons dropped by 8.3 percent. “In all regions, the country appears to be safer,” reports the New York Times. “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.”

The drop was seen as particularly striking, confounding criminologists, whose studies find that crime rates typically rise alongside rising unemployment and worsening economic conditions. My former Carnegie Mellon University colleague, Alfred Blumstein, the world’s leading demographer of crime told the Times the trend was “striking” because “it came at a time when everyone anticipated it could be going up because of the recession.”

But the biggest and most surprising drop came in the nation’s biggest cities, especially those with more than 1 million people.

Continue Reading @ The Atlantic


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