My Tuesday post about the long-term crime data in Lincoln seems to have surprised some people, despite the fact that I have posted similar data on several past occasions. This trend is not unique to Lincoln. Here's what violent crime rates per 100,000 population in the United States look like since 1993:
The FBI's Uniform Crime Report website provides a nice downloadable table of the national crime rates from 1994 through 2013. There is no strong consensus on the cause of this unprecedented drop, but theories abound. I've reviewed some of these before. I continue to be intrigued (though not convinced) by the unleaded gasoline theory.
It's hard to overestimate how these decreases in crime have changed urban living for the better. Regardless of what you may think, you haven't been safer in the U.S. since the 1960s. Why the perception hasn't caught up to the reality is also an interesting question, with most observers citing the same factors I have described previously, towards the bottom of this post.
It is worth repeating, perhaps, a fact that I have often mentioned here on my blog in connection with crime statistics: crime is only part of what the police do. In fact, it's a rather small part. Those FBI Part 1 crimes upon which virtually all comparative stats are comprised amounted to only 10,003 of nearly 119,000 police dispatch records last year. It's the same in almost all cities.
Traffic control, public intoxication, illegal panhandling, crash investigation, crowd management, dispute resolution, mental health investigations, special events, loud motorcycling, inappropriate leaf blowing, mean people on Facebook, poorly-placed upholstered furniture, temperamental seven year-olds, foreign doggie poo, and other low-level public order incidents and non-criminal services are all components of the police workload.