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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

City crime drops to lowest rate in 40 years - partly because of revitalization?

Kaid Benfield

Posted May 26, 2011

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  Quincy Market, Boston (by: Giovanni Variottinelli, creative commons license)

Richard Florida writes in the The Atlantic that “crime -- both property crime and violent crime -- is down to its lowest level in 40 years, especially in America's biggest cities.”  Richard examined data from the latest annual Uniform Crime Report, published by the FBI.

"The odds of being murdered or robbed are now less than half of what they were in the early 1990s, when violent crime peaked in the United States," according to a story in The New York Times.

Check out this table (click for a larger version), which summarizes the data from calendar year 2010:

  % change in crime, 2010 (by: FBI, via Richard Florida, 

Florida discusses some likely reasons:

“One factor frequently cited by criminologists is demographics. Crimes are more likely to be committed by young people, so the crime rate drops when the cohort of young people shrinks, as it has in the past few years. Better policing surely helps too, as has urban revitalization, which is bringing relatively prosperous singles, couples, families, and empty nesters into neighborhoods that had been in decline in years past, improving neighborhood quality and safety. We'll be taking a closer look at the social, geographic, demographic, and economic factors associated with crime across America's cities in a future post.

“Thus far -- and despite alarmist predictions -- economic hard times do not appear to have led to an increase in either property crimes or violence. America and its biggest cities are becoming unquestionably safer, even in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. That's news we can all celebrate.”

Read Richard’s entire article here.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for his follow-up

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page

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Naomi FriedmanMay 26 2011 09:21 PM

Great news about the drop in crime! However, to contradict this -- I understand there is quite a bit of crime in the redeveloped Columbia Heights (DC) neighborhood -- as more wealth has come in. I am not sure how the before and after statistics compare -- as the area was pretty rough prior to the redevelopment. Perhaps the crime has shifted from person to person crime, to muggings and thefts. We are experiencing an extreme rash of bike thefts in our little piece of redeveloped Silver Spring. Have specific neighborhoods been studied?


Kaid @ NRDCMay 27 2011 07:03 AM

Naomi, I'm sure that neighborhood-level (or at least police precinct-level) statistics exist, but you would have to dig deeper into local data to find them.

Richard Florida tweeted yesterday that city crime had dropped 30%, suburban crime 7% (I believe over the last decade, not sure of the time period).

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