NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Concentrate On 5 Percent Of Criminals

June 22, 2000

While there have been dramatic decreases in most violent crimes over the past seven years, statistics show that the murder rate has stopped declining or is even increasing in many cities.

  • Murders in New York City, for example, are up almost 15 percent in 1999 and 2000 -- from the 1998 low of 633.
  • By comparison, there were 390 murders in New York City in 1960 -- and 2,245 in 1990.

Given the latest upward trend, some criminologists are advising the law enforcement community to concentrate on the few who do the most mayhem. They point out that just 5 percent of the criminal population commit 50 percent of all serious crimes. To achieve another dramatic reduction in crime rates, they say, target that 5 percent.

  • Boston, Minneapolis, Indianapolis and a few other locales have adopted this promising tactic.
  • The law enforcement community already knows who the 5 percent are -- those who are out on bail, those with warrants out for their arrest, those who are facing multiple charges, are on probation or parole, or are under investigation for even more crimes.
  • The key is for local, state and federal police, prosecutors, probation and parole officers and other government agencies to collaborate on an ongoing basis.
  • After those most at risk of violence are identified, either as perpetrators or victims -- often one and the same -- they must be called in and given a talking-to by authorities, who must set clear limits.

Those with a criminal background caught with a weapon should be prosecuted by federal authorities. But help must be offered to those willing to back down.

Source: George L. Kelling (Rutgers University and Manhattan Institute), "The 5% Solution to Crime," Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2000.


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