Tuesday, September 25, 2007

There is no excuse for rising crime rates

From The Washington Post:

Violent crime in the United States rose more than previously believed in 2006, continuing the most significant increase in more than a decade, according to an FBI report released yesterday.

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program found that robberies surged by 7.2 percent and homicides rose 1.8 percent from 2005 to 2006. Violent crime overall rose 1.9 percent, substantially more than an increase of 1.3 percent estimated in a preliminary FBI report in June.

The jump was the second in two years, following a 2.3 percent rise in 2005. Taken together, the two years represent the first steady increase in violent crime since 1993, FBI records show.

The uptick presents a significant political challenge for the Bush administration, which has faced growing criticism from congressional Democrats, big-city mayors and police chiefs for presiding over cuts in federal assistance to local law enforcement agencies over the past six years.

[. . .]

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, which studies crime trends, said the FBI report shows "a significant departure from the previous 10 years of fairly flat or declining crime numbers."

"What it underscores is what a number of communities have been seeing firsthand, and that is a spike in street-level violent crime," Wexler said. "For some cities, crime is back as a significant issue."

In addition to the overall number of violent-crime reports, the violent crime rate rose by about 1 percent, the FBI said. The rate measures the number of reported crimes based on population.

The causes of rising and falling crime rates are not mysterious. We have enough data about both to know what to do to keep crime to a minimum.

Crime rises first because there are people who regard crime as an acceptable way of life. The number one generator of such people are single mothers. Second crime rises because criminals use a cost/benefit analysis where the chance of getting caught by the police or shot by a victim is weighed against the chance of success.

The way to bring down crime is to first change our social spending priorities to discourage rather than encourage unwed motherhood. Our welfare money should go to what used to be called the deserving poor, that is intact families whose adult members are behaving responsibly by staying off drugs and alcohol, working or seriously looking for work and keeping their children in school and under control.

Next people should be not only allowed, but encouraged to arm themselves to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors from criminals. Police departments should provide basic safety and gun handling instruction at no cost to members of the community who have clean criminal histories.

Finally police need to be turned lose to enforce the law. This is the secret of how mayor Giuliani brought down crime in New York City. He instructed and allowed the police to go out on the street and aggressively seek out and arrest criminals.

Once caught criminals need to be jailed for periods long enough to provide a meaningful deterrent. Since the amount of money that a criminal out on the street committing crimes costs society is far greater than the cost of keeping that criminal locked up in jail the up-front cost of building more prisons will be more than recovered over time.