Violent Crime Down in Most Big Cities

Despite an economic recession and the summer months, violent crime rates are down in most metropolitan areas, reports The Washington Post front page today.

The unexpected good news defies the conventional wisdom that economic downturns usually result in escalating violent crime, an assumption that criminologists say is false anyhow. Other crimes, such as property crime and bank robberies, are also down this year as opposed to last year, according to the Post.

Nevertheless, the recent trend does defy another statistical correlation: As the temperature rises, so does the level of violent crime.

"This does come at an important time," executive director of the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum, told the Post. "We're midway through summer, and summer is when you see the most significant increase in street violence."

So what accounts for this unforeseen dip in violent crime?

Technology, says D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.

She said police are able to target specific locations or types of crime and policing is so high-tech that investigators are analyzing crime minute-by-minute and have greater ability to attack crime before it happens.

In Prince George's, for example, the department's top commanders get mobile phone updates on crimes and 911 calls every 15 minutes.

In New York, when someone is killed, police send a mobile data center to a neighborhood, allowing police on the scene to listen to 911 calls and immediately search databases that list the names of everyone in a certain building who is on parole.

In the District, the department creates a weekly "Go-Go report," which details where and when home-grown bands are playing, because go-go concerts often bring together rival gangs, causing violence, Lanier said. There is also a weekly gang report that tells officers which gangs or crews are feuding that week.

Armed with that information, police can better predict where crimes might happen and take measures to prevent them.

The Post, however, is clear to report that this decrease isn't indicative of every city. Both Baltimore and Dallas have experienced more murders than they did at this time last year.

But for Lanier, the stats are good news for the District's police department, which is often held responsible for not doing enough to stem violence on the nation's capital's streets.

"Everybody wants to beat us up when it goes up, so we'll take credit for it when it goes down," she told the Post.

♦ Photo by AtavicArt/Flickr


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