Here is an unexpected bit of good news: Crime continues to drop around the country. Though many criminal justice experts had expected crime to rise during a deep and wrenching recession, the opposite has happened, according to The Wall Street Journal:
Violent crime fell significantly last year in cities across the U.S., according to preliminary federal statistics, challenging the widely held belief that recessions drive up crime rates.
The incidence of violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault was down 5.5% from 2008, and 6.9% in big cities. It fell 2.4% in long-troubled Detroit and plunged 16.6% in Phoenix, despite a perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash.
The early figures, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, indicate a third straight year of decreases, along with a sharply accelerating rate of decline.
“It represents a break in the pattern of the relationship between crime increases and economic downturns,” said Richard Rosenfeld, criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Violent crime rose nearly 5% in 1991, the FBI said.
The FBI said property crime fell 4.9% last year, according to the early data, from more than 13,000 police departments.
As the story notes, the drop includes Arizona:
In Phoenix, police spokesman Trent Crump said, “Despite all the hype, in every single reportable crime category, we’re significantly down.” Mr. Crump said Phoenix’s most recent data for 2010 indicated still lower crime. For the first quarter of 2010, violent crime was down 17% overall in the city, while homicides were down 38% and robberies 27%, compared with the same period in 2009.
Arizona’s major cities all registered declines. A perceived rise in crime is one reason often cited by proponents of a new law intended to crack down on illegal immigration. The number of kidnappings reported in Phoenix, which hit 368 in 2008, was also down, though police officials didn’t have exact figures.
Over at the libertarian Cato Institute, writer Griswold reminds readers that he’s been saying that all along.
Meanwhile, though, a group of police officials from around the country is worried about the plans some states have to emulate Arizona’s unjust — and perhaps unconstitutional — law. They say that brutal intimidation of immigrants will cause crime to rise. From the WaPo:
Arizona’s new crackdown on illegal immigration will increase crime in U.S. cities, not reduce it, by driving a wedge between police and immigrant communities, police chiefs from several of the state’s and the nation’s largest cities said Tuesday.
The new Arizona law will intimidate crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and divert police from investigating more serious crimes, chiefs from Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia said. They will join their counterparts from Montgomery County and a half-dozen other U.S. cities in meeting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday morning to discuss the measure.
“This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state.”
The delegation was organized by the Police Executive Research Forum, a membership organization of police chiefs that functions as an independent think tankin Washington. The group’s meeting with Holder comes as 15 states are considering their own versions of the Arizona law, which defines illegal immigration as criminal trespassing and requires police to request documents of anyone they stop and have a “reasonable suspicion” is in the country illegally.
I don’t expect any of these well-reasoned, rational arguments to stop the immigrant-bashing. The country is in the grips of an irrational nativism, made worse by the recession. The hysteria over illegal immigration will continue unabated, in Arizona and elsewhere.