NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dampening Jubilation On Crime Stats

December 6, 1999

The National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence has issued a study with a sobering reminder: violent crime in major cities reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation has risen 40 percent since 1969. One author of the report described it as an attempt to "gain perspective" amid all the rosy reports in recent years documenting the decline in violent crime rates.

The study, conducted by the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation, was an update after 30 years of the original report issued in 1969.

  • Total violent crimes in 1969 were 439.4 per 100,000 people -- which rose to 1,015.9 in the early 1990s, then declined to 738.2 in 1998.
  • From 8.5 per 100,000 in 1969, murders peaked early this decade at 12.7 and then dropped to 7.8 in 1998.
  • Robberies increased from 219.2 per 100,000 in 1969 to 403.1, then declined to 242.8 in 1998.
  • When survey participants were asked in 1967 if there was any area within a mile in which they would be afraid to walk alone at night, 31 percent answered "yes" -- a proportion which grew to 41 percent when the question was posed in 1998.

Like the original report, the new study strongly attempts to link crime to socioeconomic factors. That theory has been equally strongly challenged by data which demonstrates that "get tough" judicial and political polices -- including longer prison sentences for criminals -- are the root causes for crime's dramatic decline in the 1990s.

Source: David A. Vise and Lorraine Adams, "Despite Rhetoric, Violent Crime Climbs," Washington Post, December 5, 1999.


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