Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported a decrease of 5.5 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention for 2009 when compared with figures reported for 2008. The violent crime category includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The number of property crimes in the United States in 2009 decreased 4.9 percent when compared with data from 2008.This reflects a longer-term trend:
source: NOfP chart via FBI data
I've previously mocked "Fox Butterfield liberalism" -- which both views "a falling crime rate but a rising prison population" as a "paradox" and insists that poverty causes crime. The truth is nearly the opposite: that incarcerating criminals reduces crimes (which the New York Times still disputes) and crime causes poverty, not the reverse, even in a bad economy (despite the New York Times' "despite"). All while gun sales rose.
Even lefty WaPo columnist Richard Cohen is starting to understand:
Surprisingly, this has happened in the teeth of the Great Recession, meaning that those disposed to attribute criminality to poverty -- my view at one time -- have some strenuous rethinking to do. It could be, as conservatives have insisted all along, that crime is committed by criminals. For liberals, this is bad news indeed. . .While Attorney General Holder sometimes promises to stay "tough on crime," his heart's clearly not in it--just last month, Holder said:
[I]t now seems fairly clear that something akin to culture and not economics is the root cause of crime. By and large everyday people do not go into a life of crime because they have been laid off or their home is worth less than their mortgage. They do something else, but whatever it is, it does not generally entail packing heat. Once this becomes an accepted truth, criminals will lose what status they still retain as victims. . .
A good deal of social policy was predicated on such an outlook. It made victims of criminals and criminals of victims (all wealth comes from theft, etc.) -- and in so doing, insulted the law-abiding poor who somehow lacked the wit to appreciate their historic plight. . .
Common sense tells you that the environment has to play a role and the truly desperate will sometimes break the law -- like Victor Hugo's impoverished Jean Valjean, who stole bread for his sister's children. But the latest crime statistics strongly suggest that bad times do not necessarily make bad people. Bad character does.
We don't want to get tough on crime. We want to get smart on crime.This is a false dichotomy. Steady or increased law enforcement funding of good policing that locks up criminals is both smart and tough.