NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Survey Links Crime Drop To Crack Decline

December 28, 1998

The latest National Crime Victimization Survey shows a sharp drop in homicides and robberies, the two crimes most associated with crack cocaine -- the market for which has declined during the 1990s. In fact, the level of both violent and property crimes has fallen to its lowest mark since 1973. Robberies alone fell a stunning 17 percent in 1997.

The victimization survey, based on interviews of 80,000 people, is conducted by the Census Bureau for the U.S. Justice Department and is considered the most accurate measure of total crime because it includes crimes never reported to police. Among the findings:

  • Since 1991, homicides have dropped 31 percent.
  • Robberies have fallen 32 percent since then.
  • Since 1973, the rate of property crimes -- which includes burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft -- has declined by more than half.
  • Property crime, unlike violent crime, has been falling steadily since 1975.

Crack arrived in New York City in 1985, criminologists report, and a new market was born -- with hundreds of thousands of unskilled and unemployed young men jumping into it.

The sharp drop in violent crime starting in 1991 can be attributed to a reversal of that scenario. Youths who came of age in the 1990s turned against smoking or selling crack, experts say, because they rejected the negative role models of crack- using friends, neighbors and relatives.

Crack reportedly produced devastation in their lives, and they now shun or deride anyone who smokes it.

Source: Fox Butterfield, "Decline of Violent Crimes Is Linked to Crack Market," New York Times, December 28, 1998.


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