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The shift in crime – The New York Times


In the last two years, homicides and shootings have increased in the United States, while many other types of crime have remained unchanged or decreased. So far in 2022, the trends have reversed.

It’s a confusing combination. The worst forms of crime have been and are moving in a different direction from other forms of crime. Both developments have major implications for everyday life: The drop in homicide numbers is saving lives, but the rise in street crime has created widespread anxiety and problems. in many regions of the United States

On the New York City subway, the transit agency announced this week that install two security cameras on each car to reassure passengers who have avoided trains because of rising crime rates. “You think Big Brother is watching you on the subway?” Governor Kathy Hochul said Tuesday. “You’re absolutely right. That was our intention.”

What explains the trend of crime dueling? Today’s newsletter tries to provide some answers.

First, the good news: Mass murders in big cities dropped 4 percent so far it is 2022, compared to the same period in 2021. Shooting points nationwide 2 percent off. The reduction is not enough to eliminate the large increase in 2020 and 2021; the homicide rate is still 30% above 2019 levels, but the spike appears to have peaked last year.

That’s not entirely surprising. Some of the forces that seem to have pushed the killings and shootings up are now easing (as I explained in a news last month).

Covid has disrupted services that help keep people safe, such as therapy and addiction programs. The pandemic also closed schools, leaving teenagers idle and stressed. This year, however, the impact of the virus on the daily rhythms has eased; The slow return to normal may have helped reduce violent crime.

Another factor is the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. The horror of his murder has damaged the relationship between the police and the community and made many people skeptical of legality. cooperate with law enforcement. Floyd’s murder may also contribute to what scholars call “legal skepticism”: When people lose faith in law enforcement, they are more likely to resolve conflicts through communication. through its own means, including violence, rather than the criminal justice system. With the longer time since Floyd’s death, those impacts are also diminishing.

In that sense, the 2020-21 homicide spike looks like an earlier jump in homicides in 2015 and 2016. That increase also follows protests against the violence of the country. police, including the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Freddie Gray in Baltimore. And the trend started to reverse within three years.

But there’s also bad news in the recent trend: Many other types of crime, especially property crimes, are on the rise. Theft and robbery in major cities increased by about 20% in the first half of 2022, after decreasing or staying the same in the previous two years, establishment of the Criminal Justice Council.

Several factors explain the increase, experts said. One of the big problems is inflation.

America’s last major crime wave, from the 1960s to the early ’90s, was accompanied by an increase in inflation most of the time. Richard Rosenfeld, who has researched the link between crime and inflation, said it may not be a coincidence.

How can inflation lead to more crime? For one, there is a direct link: People can try to get higher prices by stealing. But a larger dynamic is also at play, Rosenfeld said: Higher prices can spur people to seek out cheaper – and potentially stolen – goods at gray markets, such as pawn shops. . These purchases effectively boost the demand for stolen goods, enticing more thieves and robbers.

Another potential link between crime and inflation is that rising prices can cause wider social discord and suffering. When people feel they can no longer afford what they used to, they can lose confidence in institutions, especially government, and in the direction of their lives. Those people can then lash out, sometimes through crime. (That dynamic helped explain the rise in crime that began in the 1960s, some experts believe.)

All of these can eventually lead to more serious crimes. Robberies sometimes escalate into murders. Disputes at markets over stolen goods can turn violent. Social discord may have fueled a spike in recent shootings (like My colleague David Leonhardt explained).

In 2022, inflation is unlikely to lead to more shootings and murders – a sign that other forces, like the Covid retracement, may be even stronger.

Inflation is clearly not the only cause of an increase in property crime. According to Anna Harvey, a public safety researcher at New York University, as Covid has reduced stress, people are spending more time outside of their homes and in many situations are subject to theft or robbery. than. And in response to the rise in homicides and shootings, police may have diverted resources away from nonviolent crimes, allowing many of those crimes to go unchecked.

Crime is complex and multifaceted. A lot of the public discussion and reporting around crime focuses on what the police and the criminal justice system can do. But in law enforcement can play an important role in reducing crimeThere are also often deeper issues that the police can’t deal with – like Covid, social discord and inflation.

Related: The House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to fund local police departments. Votes divide moderate and progressive Democrats.

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