Overall Crime Rate Lowest in 30 Years

You will read headlines today blaring "Violent Crime is On the Rise." Read the small print.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.... said the overall crime rate -- combining violent and property crimes -- "was the lowest crime rate measured by the UCR in more than 30 years."

Checking the report's table here, there were a total of 11.5 million violent and property crimes in 2005 and 11.4 million in 2006.

Politicians are going to spin this into a need for new crime bills with tougher punishment. Dems will criticize Republicans for cutting law enforcment funds and Republicans will respond pushing the Bush Adminisration's plan for mandatory minumum sentences for all federal crimes.

We already have severe punishments for violent crime, particularly murder and rape in this country. If property crime is decreasing, there's no need to change the law. Don't get fooled. Here's the report.

Update on Giuliani below:

Update: Here's Rudy, promising the NRA no plea bargains for violent offenders. As Big Tent writes me in an e-mail,

Isn't it impossible to run the Justice Dep't without plea bargains? Didn't Rudy do plea bargains when he was US Attorney? Is he saying Reagan and Bush were soft on crime by allowing plea bargains?
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    As I asked in e-mail (none / 0) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 01:38:49 PM EST
    From my sheer ignorance, isn't it impossible to process all the person charged in a speedy fashion and would not the speedy trial requirement cause a major headache?

    What would the federal courts look like? We already have the problems all the drug laws cause. Would this not make it immeasurably worse?

    The problem we face... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 01:49:30 PM EST
    ...is the argument can easily be made to the ignorant and intellectually lacking that, well, it's BECAUSE of these tough laws that crime is down, and that more of them will bring it down further.

    I don't agree with this rationale, but it is obviously the selling point for those who pitch it.  And it is very hard to convince people otherwise.

    Evidently it takes a genius to ask... (none / 0) (#9)
    by 1980Ford on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:34:49 PM EST
    Two of what plus two of what?

    Google it. Tough on crime laws are not definitive. For example, the crime rate in many states fell without 3 strikes laws, even in states with more "liberal" policies. New York is but one example.


    Of course crime is down..... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 01:55:26 PM EST
    the prison population is higher than ever.

    Does the end justify the means? Thats the question...I say no.

    And with all the games the feds play with the numbers...is crime really really down, or just categorized in fancy deceptive ways?

    Freedom, Liberty, Justice..... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:00:48 PM EST
    these are my main goals.  Not keeping the crime rate down.  

    My utopia would probably have a high crime rate, but we'd be as free as a mofo:)


    Isn't part of Justice (none / 0) (#8)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:07:16 PM EST
    having criminals brought to Justice?

    Absolutely.... (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:43:47 PM EST
    unfortunately, that is not all our criminal justice system does, our system goes above and beyond that purpose, and not in a good way...in this knucklehead's opinion.  

    I'm not so extreme.... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 05:02:53 PM EST
    to where I think murderers shouldn't be locked up...of course they should be.  For how long should be based on the facts and circumstances of the case.  Not all violent felons should rot.  A serial killer?...Sure.  A violent crime of passion where the offender isn't likely to re-offend?...I'd say no.

    Remember who you're talking to narius...I am not a law abiding citizen.  The laws, as written, make me a criminal.  I didn't draw the lines but I know what side I'm on bro.  


    No worries..... (none / 0) (#22)
    by kdog on Tue Sep 25, 2007 at 08:58:21 AM EST
    The only violence I have ever committed was in self-defense.

    The victimless crimes I have committed?....Damn, so many I've lost track:)

    But it is these victimless so-called crimes that leave me no choice but to fear the law more than any criminal.


    narius (none / 0) (#10)
    by syinco on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:37:10 PM EST
    It is not a given that increased incarceration (in terms of sentence lengths or persons imprisoned) always leads to decreased crime; it's not hard to conceive of plausible counterexamples.

    But let's take for granted that it is generally the case.  And let's assume that our criminal justice system is perfect at convicting only those who are guilty.  

    Do you consider any resulting decrease in crime sufficient to justify any increase in incarceration, no matter how small the decrease and how great the increase?  


    Well, (none / 0) (#17)
    by syinco on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 05:53:01 PM EST
    you are consistent in your view, I give you that.

    But it seems to me that the only way you can hold your view is to have zero regard for anyone who has committed a violent crime, regardless of circumstance, and the same holds for the families and loved ones of those imprisoned.  And I'm not comparing concern for offenders vs their victims; such concern need not be mutually exclusive.  

    I can't relate to having no concern for any such human being.  But I also haven't ever been severely victimized, nor has anyone I love.  I know I can't say for sure how I would react.  I know how I hope I would react.  

    But apart from that, I know that if someone dear to you made a mistake and were thus imprisoned, I would have concern for him or her.  In almost all cases, I would hope that he or she could again have the opportunity to live a free and meaningful (and hopefully crime-free) life.  Wouldn't you?  Wouldn't you hope that others would at least value him or her as a human being?

    I am a little more conflicted when it comes to repeat offenders.  But I can't just devalue them entirely and agree with your position - especially given that the punishment for three strikes laws and such often appears incredibly harsh with respect to the particular crimes and circumstances at hand.  


    I'd ... (none / 0) (#20)
    by syinco on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 08:21:12 PM EST
    It is quite clear to me that society do NOT need such people and it is better off for us that they are somewhere else.

    I'd be somewhat less resistant to extreme sentences for many repeat offenders if, for first-time offenders, the system were more broadly focused on rehabilitation (e.g. anger management and substance abuse programs) for those amenable to it than retribution and simply warehousing people, and if the system and society were more conducive for ex-offenders to successfully re-enter and remain in the community.

    But still, it really take someone with no regard for others to commit a violent crime.

    I think we would find some common ground if we acknowledged that there are often mitigating circumstances that result in someone who does have substantial regard for others having committed a violent crime.  Your exchange with kdog suggests one such example.  I still would not just throw in the towel on someone based on one act; prevention of future crime would still be the goal, but I'd want to see if there were means other than solely incarceration.  

    I realize that there is risk with that approach, and I personally accept that; clearly you and others do not.  I think it's helpful to have that tension between the two positions, provided we have rational debate; unfortunately I think media sensationalism and politics often get in the way.

    but that is a moot point since the possibility that it will happen is as close to zero as it can be.

    I hope you are right.  But in line with what I wrote above, even the most well-intentioned and generally non-violent people can make mistakes, sometimes ones that the law deems violent.  That's one (of several) reasons I'm generally opposed to blanket policies and statements mandating lengthy incarceration, especially when they encompass first-time offenders.


    Did you rob him to his face , or (none / 0) (#25)
    by dkmich on Tue Sep 25, 2007 at 03:57:38 PM EST
    did he get robbed from behind.  It matters to the count, you know. Prisons are so expensive.  Why anyone needs to lock up pot smokers and drug addicts, I'll never know.  

    Well, looking at the big picture, (none / 0) (#4)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 02:08:30 PM EST
    in the past 15 years all the crime rates in the report have dropped by about 30% or more.

    Sounds like something is being done right - unless the data is being "characterized" differently, as kdog wonders, above.

    Freakonomics (none / 0) (#12)
    by 1980Ford on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:44:43 PM EST
    Any excuse for more Jim Crow (none / 0) (#13)
    by aahpat on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 04:08:14 PM EST
    Anyone interested in the prison industrial complex and its empowerment of Jim Crow in America might like to visit my blog entry, "U.S. Congress Jim Crow Economics Hearing October 4, 2007" based on a story today in the Boston Globe titled "Life Sentence" enumerating the social inequities imposed by the prohibition economy and its Jim Crow prison industrial complex.

    "treatment" (none / 0) (#21)
    by diogenes on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 10:12:55 PM EST
    As a board-certified forensic psychiatrist I can reassure all of you that treatment helps some people but that psychological treatments for people with antisocial personality disorder merely makes them more efficient criminals by teaching them additional manipulative skills.
    Most people are most fearful of violent crime; if the total crime rate were up but violent crime down then I'm sure the criminal defense lawyers on this site would trumpet that as proof that "important" crime was down and thus that more strict sentencing is not needed.

    WOW (none / 0) (#26)
    by garyb50 on Tue Sep 25, 2007 at 06:12:16 PM EST
    According to Wikipedia, "In penitentiaries, the percentage (of prisoners with antisocial personality disorder) is estimated to be as high as 75%."

    The best place (1.00 / 0) (#27)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Sep 25, 2007 at 11:09:41 PM EST
    The slammer may be the best place for these rabid dogs.

    maybe not so far,but... (none / 0) (#28)
    by diogenes on Wed Sep 26, 2007 at 09:54:08 PM EST
    The length of and risk of arrest enter into calculations by antisocial persons who are only really controlled by external societal controls since they aren't controlled by such things as shame and guilt.  And their displays of anger are often tactical bullying/bluster although people talk of using anger management to help them control it.  If you can educate crooks away from their cognitive distortions ("I'll never get caught because I'm so smart, etc) then that would help, assuming that being arrested actually has a consequence.