Thursday, April 08, 2004

Bronx cheer

This New York Times article reports that last week in the Bronx there were no incidents of gunfire reported to the police. This highly unusual event for the Bronx reflects the significant decrease in crime that has occurred nationwide in the USA over the last few years. Property crime rates have steadily declined since the mid-1970s, and violent crime rates have declined by about half since the urban crack wars in the early 1990s. Check out some of these graphs from the Bureau of Justice Statistics website.

A less-noticed trend is the sharp rise in the number of people behind bars in the USA, now over 2 million (!!!!). Perhaps this was necessary to bring about the decline in crime discussed above, but I still feel somehow we should be more cognizant of the human cost of locking all those people up. (By the way, drug offenders make up a significant portion of this increase, but not the majority of it.) Many of these prisoners become victims of violence by other prisoners, including rape, a problem that is usually the subject of jokes rather than the serious attention it deserves.

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