Thursday, February 25, 2010

Something You Need To Be Aware Of When Ballard Touts Lower Crime Rate as Accomplishment

He mentioned it in his State of the City Address, and you all ready know that Mayor Greg Ballard is going to make the falling crime rate a big part of his re-election campaign (assuming he's running...he hasn't OFFICIALLY announced).

Yes, the crime rate is down in Indianapolis. Mayor Ballard and the folks at IMPD should be credited for this drop. However, Time Magazine published an article in its February 22 edition that kind of takes the luster off this from a campaign issue perspective.

In the article "What's Behind America's Falling Crime Rate," Time writer David Von Drehle says the causes of the precipitous drop that began in the early 1990's are hard to find. He writes,

"Health care, climate change, terrorism — is it even possible to solve big problems? The mood in Washington is not very hopeful these days. But take a look at what has happened to one of the biggest, toughest problems facing the country 20 years ago: violent crime. For years, Americans ranked crime at or near the top of their list of urgent issues. Every politician, from alderman to President, was expected to have a crime-fighting agenda, yet many experts despaired of solutions. By 1991, the murder rate in the U.S. reached a near record 9.8 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, criminologists began to theorize that a looming generation of so-called superpredators would soon make things even worse.

Then, a breakthrough. Crime rates started falling. Apart from a few bumps and plateaus, they continued to drop through boom times and recessions, through peace and war, under Democrats and Republicans. Last year's murder rate may be the lowest since the mid-1960s, according to preliminary statistics released by the Department of Justice. The human dimension of this turnaround is extraordinary: had the rate remained unchanged, an additional 170,000 Americans would have been murdered in the years since 1992. That's more U.S. lives than were lost in combat in World War I, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq — combined. In a single year, 2008, lower crime rates meant 40,000 fewer rapes, 380,000 fewer robberies, half a million fewer aggravated assaults and 1.6 million fewer burglaries than we would have seen if rates had remained at peak levels.

There's a catch, though. No one can convincingly explain exactly how the crime problem was solved. Police chiefs around the country credit improved police work. Demographers cite changing demographics of an aging population. Some theorists point to the evolution of the drug trade at both the wholesale and retail levels, while for veterans of the Clinton Administration, the preferred explanation is their initiative to hire more cops. Renegade economist Steven Levitt has speculated that legalized abortion caused the drop in crime. (Fewer unwanted babies in the 1970s and '80s grew up to be thugs in the 1990s and beyond.)

The truth probably lies in a mix of these factors, plus one more: the steep rise in the number of Americans in prison. As local, state and federal governments face an era of diminished resources, they will need a better understanding of how and why crime rates tumbled. A sour economy need not mean a return to lawless streets, but continued success in fighting crime will require more brains, especially in those neighborhoods where violence is still rampant and public safety is a tattered dream."

The article goes on to dive into several possible reasons crime is down.

So with crime rates falling in Indianapolis (though nearly nightly we are reminded that they aren't falling enough), can Ballard take credit for a phenomenon that looks to be something happening nationwide? Sure he can! However, it's up to you, the smart politico, to call him out and remind him that crime is down across the country. It doesn't seem to matter who's in power.

Make no mistake, crime is a problem in this city like any major city in the U.S. It's sprawled out on the front page of the Indianapolis Star most days and on the TV news at night. While the rate may be down here and nationwide, it still doesn't stop the criminals from being criminals. In essence, if bad people want do bad things to good people, it's going to happen. As Southwest District Resource Officer Sgt. Lori Demaree says whenever she speaks to a community group, "Turn on your porch lights and lock your doors; we don't live in Mayberry anymore."


Anonymous said...

Could it possibly be that Generation X and the Millenials have a smaller population demographic than the Boomers?

Marycatherine Barton said...

Police advisers have said that illuminating the outdoors of the house may help a burglar, However, lights are a kindness to late arrivals and passers-by.