Friday, September 23, 2011

Crime's Down, But Who Knows Why?

The FBI released the complete 2010 Uniform Crime Reports data this week. The results aren't anything that we haven't already heard from the preliminary report or the results of the National Crime Victim's Survey, that is, crime in the U.S. is down. There were a couple of news stories from earlier this week that have some things I think are worth commenting on. The first one from the Houston Chronicle has this bit:

"We don't have a good answer for why this is so, but we've had a lot of people who wanted to take credit in a number of ways and none of those have had much evidence behind them and ignore the long-term downturn,'' said professor Frank Williams, a criminologist at the University of Houston-Downtown. "The issue is really complex. There would be so many variables and factors involved that it really is hard to distinguish one from another."

There is also a similar bit in this story from The Christian Science Monitor.

In this light, the continued decline in violent crime is forcing some criminologists to reexamine the what might be the causes of crime. “It will be years before we get the answer, if we do, to what’s going on right now,” says William Pridemore, a criminal justice professor at Indiana University in Bloomington. “Criminologists have been pretty stumped.”

We don't really know why crime is down. In spite of this fact, we have to keep doing the things that make us more effective in our mission to suppress crime and make our communities safer. We have to let the data drive our policing efforts and use our limited resources where they will be the most effective.

I don't ever think we'll get to the point that we will work ourselves out of a job in law enforcement. Even though crime is down, we have to continue our efforts to improve our craft. We cannot break faith with the communities who depend on us to protect and serve them. Because if we are not careful, we can lose our grasp and see crime rates rise back to those of the bad old days.

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