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To Live and Not Die in L.A.

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Joel Rubin and Robert Faturechi report in the Los Angeles Times:

For the first time in more than four decades, Los Angeles is on track to end the year with fewer than 300 killings, a milestone in a steady decline of homicides that has changed the quality of life in many neighborhoods and defied predictions that a bad economy would inexorably lead to higher crime.

As of mid-afternoon on Sunday, the Los Angeles Police Department had tallied 291 homicides in 2010. The city is likely to record the fewest number of killings since 1967, when its population was almost 30% smaller.

Strikingly, homicides in the city have dropped by about one-third since 2007, the last full year before the economic downturn, according to a Times' analysis of coroner records. Throughout the rest of the county, which is patrolled by the L.A. County sheriff and individual cities' police departments, homicides during the same period tumbled by nearly 40%.

So, if economic ups and downs aren't the explanation, what is?

The change, experts say, is not easily explained and is probably the result of several factors working together, including effective crime-fighting strategies, strict sentencing laws that have greatly increased the number of people in prison, demographic shifts and sociological influences.
(Italics added.)  Yes, the elephant has been sighted, if mentioned only briefly and in passing.  And it's not that we have more people in prison, it's that we have a specific type of people in prison -- those who have committed serious crimes. 

Locking up the bad guys is, indeed, only one of multiple reasons for the decline in crime generally and murder specifically.  But it is a reason, and we must not abandon measures that have worked merely because "experts" tell us it would be "smart" to do so. 

People are walking around alive who would have been murdered but for our failed, ignorant, politicized "tough on crime" policies. The living people who would have been murdered will never know who they are.  They will never know that these "failed" policies saved their lives. But they were saved nonetheless.

4 Comments

Exactly. The problem has never been the number of people in prison; it's the number of people that are criminals.

According to Marc Mauer, who was one of the authors of a recent study released by the Sentencing Project, “It seems like the more we expand the prison system, the fewer benefits we get in terms of crime reduction.”

For more information, I recommend you visit abcnews.go.com for an article that explicitly disputes the theory that more prisons equals less crime. The article is dated September 28 and is entitled, “Incarceration Rate, Crime Drop Link Disputed”.

If Mr. Mauer is correct, then the prison industrial complex is not necessarily the elephant in the room. It is just a white elephant.

I am already well familiar with the literature in the area, thank you.

Even the intellectual leaders of the anti-punishment crowd, Blumstein et al., concede that tougher sentencing caused 1/4 of the crime drop in the 1990s. Accepting the other side's figure for the sake of argument, that is still a huge savings in victimization that didn't happen.

The Sentencing Project has no credibility.

"Accepting the other side's figure for the sake of argument..."

Are you saying that you disagree that there was only a 25% reduction in crime due to prisons back in the 1990s?

In other words, are you saying that the figure was higher than 25%?

If so, what percentage would you put on it?

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