Crime in America.Net
British Crime Survey: The figures were backed by the British Crime Survey, made up with tens of thousands of interviews. The survey found the risk of becoming a victim of crime remains at a historic 30-year low.
(American) National Crime Survey: Violent and property crime rates in 2008 remain at the lowest levels recorded since 1973, the first year that such data were collected.
When crime is up, we within the criminal justice system get media questions that sometime sound like accusations; “why is crime up—what are you doing wrong?”
When crime is down, we tell the public that whatever we are doing; it’s working.
The question becomes this—are the American or British or Australian (they also show long-range reductions) criminal justice systems truly responsible for crime increases or decreases or are there other forces at work?
Second question–is it possible for crime to go up and down internationally in the same way the economy improves or declines internationally?
We know that economic forces are multi-national and tightly interwoven; if Australia is suffering, the United States is suffering. We may have different degrees of distress and government interventions play a large part in the strength or speed of the recovery, but it’s interesting never-the-less that that western industrialized nations seem to experience similarities as to economic conditions
The same principal applies to crime. There are going to be differences in rates and impact but generally speaking, western industrialized countries seem to experience the same crime problems at the same time.
Heaven yes, crime rates are vastly different in the US as compared to Ireland, but generally speaking, over the course of several years, if crime goes up in France, crime goes up in America.
If one looks at crime rates among individual US states, the same thing happens. The United States is huge and diverse, yet crime increases and decreases at roughly the same pace whether you live in Delaware or San Francisco. The trend lines are similar.
So what does this all mean?
Well, it doesn’t mean that there is little to nothing the justice system can do to have an impact on crime. If you doubt that, remove police officers from your city for 24 hours and see what happens.
But what it means is that crime is societal in nature. Western industrialized nations seem to have the same influences and anti-crime strategies. There is a point after years of rising crime that US states and countries get weary and start defining illegal actions as morally repugnant. Individual citizens start becoming intolerant of troublesome behavior.
In the mid 1960’s (when crime skyrocketed) drug use was a right of passage throughout the world. Today it’s seen in a much less favorable light.
The United States invested in building prisons as did other countries (again, to much different degrees) and crime went down.
The United States and other countries made efforts to be more inclusive societies and crime went down.
Thus the lesson “may” be that rising and falling crime has more to do with how multiple societies define the actions of its citizens. Rising and falling crime “may” have more to do with how millions of individual citizens define behavior:
- Hitting your spouse or child is either a cultural issue or something a jerk does.
- Drugs are OK or drugs are death.
- Child neglect is either unfortunate but unavoidable or something to be deeply ashamed of.
- Violence is either embraced or condemned.
- Music or media is either edgy or self-destructive.
Those of us who have spent decades in the justice system can be proud of what we do or what we’ve tried to do. But we’ve always said that crime is society’s decision. What we do is nibble around the edges.
British Crime Survey: See http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5itUiLKwCYXUCF-Qhm_BVlgJ5Rj3g
(American) National Crime Survey and FBI data: See http://crimeinamerica.net/crime-rates-united-states/