Is Crime Really Increasing?
WHAT do you think? Is crime decreasing, as some have claimed? Then what about this recent statement by Los Angeles, California, Police Chief E. M. Davis:
“Ten years ago, the criminals were locked up behind bars and the people were pursuing happiness on the streets.
“Today, the people are locked up in their homes and offices, and the criminals are pursuing happiness on the streets.”
That seems to conflict with the view that crime is decreasing, does it not? So, which is it—Is crime increasing or decreasing? Consider:
It is true that in a particular country, for occasional short periods of time, crime may not rise as much as it did in a similar short period. However, that does not mean that it is decreasing in the overall picture. R. Egan comments in the National Observer: “One radio announcer on a Washington, D.C., station announced with what seemed like awe that ‘crime in 1971 rose only 7 per cent.’ Only. . . . The point to remember is that the crime rate is still climbing.”
In 1971 there were nearly six million major crimes reported throughout the United States; there were less than two million in 1960. In the decade of the sixties the population rose 13 percent, while murder increased 70 percent, rape 113 percent and robbery 212 percent. Juvenile delinquency rose 148 percent in the same period. But those figures tell only part of the story!
Most crimes are never solved. The odds against catching the average burglar “are no better than 50 to 1,” according to a Harvard law professor. R. M. Cipes raises a pertinent question in His book The Crime War:
“If many criminals are not caught, why assume that these we do catch are the most dangerous? In one sense the probability goes the other way: the most intelligent and devious offenders may be the ones most likely to avoid detection.”
Further, many crimes are never reported. Back in 1967 the U.S. President’s Crime Commission reported that three to ten times as much crime occurs as is actually reported to the police. But what is the crime picture in the rest of the world?
Crime’s International Rise
✔ “Brazil . . . ,” we read, “seemed engulfed in a wave of violence and crime.”
✔ West Germany reports: Crimes involving narcotics increased between 1969 and 1970 by no less than 238 percent.
✔ Denmark’s crime increased by 99 percent in the decade of the sixties.
✔Western Australia’s Sunday Times reported, in August 1972: “The incidence of violent crime in Western Australia has almost doubled in the past 12 months. And there is no apparent ready-made reason for the ‘incredible’ increase.” And from the other side of that continent, the Melbourne Herald observes: “Crimes of violence [since 1960] by Victorians under 21 rose . . . 187.9 percent. The number of Victorians under 21 increased . . . in the same period . . . 29.6 percent.”
✔ “In Africa and Latin America,” says the U.N. report Crime Prevention and Control, “the same kind of picture can be drawn . . . During the 1960s, crime [in one African country] has more than doubled, some types of serious crime have apparently trebled, and, as stated in its Development Plan, ‘this problem is far more likely to grow than diminish.’”
✔ Japan’s crime rate seems small compared to Western nations. But, in referring to recent crimes, Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri said: “They are appalling and yet they are indicative of the serious disruptions that have occurred in relationships within Japanese society.”
✔ Israel, the New York Times reports, has had a 35-percent overall increase in crime in the last five years; burglaries are up 200 percent.
✔ In Communist China’s Kwangtung Province discontent among the young has reportedly led to “an upsurge of crime in Canton,” including gang fights.
It is not surprising that after analyzing the international crime picture U.N. Secretary-General K. Waldheim concluded:
“Despite material progress, human life has never had a greater sense of insecurity than it is experiencing today. . . . Thus, there is widespread and mounting evidence of a crime crisis of considerable proportions.”
Yes, these reports show crime is increasing.
Greater Fear of Crime
But crime increase can be detected from more than statistics. As Secretary-General Waldheim also observes: “Like poverty, ignorance and malnutrition, [crime] is more felt than registered.”
In other words, people are afraid. “Fear, which America’s ghettos and even some middle-class neighborhoods have known for years, is now jangling nerves on . . . the ‘good’ blocks of the Upper West Side” of New York city, says the National Observer.
The current fear of crime is understandable, for not only is it increasing, but it is also intensifying, hardening. “The big change over ten years ago,” says San Francisco Police Lieutenant W. Koenig, “continues to be in viciousness.” Concurs British Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home: “This senseless violence against innocent people is a terrible feature of the times in which we live.”
Fear is not just for lives but also for property. Crime victims know that all too often unnecessary destruction accompanies robberies. Official theft-loss figures often do not include the cost of damage to the victim’s property. Needless destruction of files and records has put companies out of business. Criminals sometimes wantonly burn homes or businesses after burglarizing them.
Much crime is centered in large cities. In Washington, D.C., congressmen, Pentagon officials, even President Nixon’s own press and personal secretaries have been robbed. With humor betraying some truth, a Washington-based writer says: “There is reason to believe the U.S. Government would like to fold up the Capitol, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial and move to Easton,” Pennsylvania, in the suburbs.
Crime Grows in Suburbia
Yes, a move to the suburbs for safety has become popular. It may provide some temporary relief from certain crimes. But is that the real way to avoid the effects of the crime increase? A U.S. News & World Report article observes:
“In once-tranquil neighborhoods of suburbia, serious crimes are increasing rapidly in number, year by year. Rural areas, too, are being hit hard.”
Unquestionably, figures show that crime is increasing world wide. However, suppose momentarily we put aside the foregoing reports that clearly show crime’s increase. Even then you can see evidence of crime’s increase. Where?
Business Seeks Protection
When you go into a local store, have you noticed more ‘security devices’ and guards protecting merchants against shoplifting? Maybe you have seen mirrors, television cameras or ‘shoplifter beware’ signs.
A chain of thirteen department stores in an American city says it spends about one million dollars a year on security, up over 50 percent since 1969. Macy’s in New York city recently redesigned seven floors of their main building to thwart shoplifters and installed $300,000 worth of electronic equipment. In major American cities some stores use a special price tag. Unless it is removed by the check-counter clerk, it sets off an automatic alarm as the shoplifter leaves the store.
Even in the suburbs shop owners admit they devote 30 or 40 percent of their time to “being a policeman rather than a merchant.” To provide nighttime protection for their premises, some stores employ light beams, pressure-sensitive carpets and even invisible sound-wave devices.
Meanwhile, bus drivers in some areas no longer carry money; passengers must have exact change for rides. Taxicabs have bulletproof partitions separating the driver from passengers; fare money is kept in tamper-proof cash boxes.
Some banks, to cut down on the current rash of robberies, now use “television tellers.” The teller’s picture appears on a television screen, but business is transacted with the public by means of a pneumatic tube. To protect themselves from bad checks, merchants take pictures of persons cashing checks and even fingerprint them.
Frankly, do not the defensive measures businessmen are taking, only a few of which we have mentioned, reveal to you that crime is indeed increasing? But what is being done to homes is no less convincing.
Home Security Intensifies
Home security in America is now a $75-million-a-year industry. Guard dogs and home burglar-alarms enjoy record sales. Burglary insurance, when available, is extremely high in cost. “Insurance companies,” says the Springfield (Massachusetts) Daily News, “feel they cannot absorb the losses that have soared with the advent of drug abuse.”
Local citizens are voluntarily paying large sums for intense street lighting. ‘Block associations’ and even vigilante groups are forming for community protection from burglars and rapists. Automobiles are supplied with steering-wheel locks in an attempt to reduce auto thefts. Regardless of statistics—do not these precautions indicate to you that crime is increasing?
The police are using more sophisticated equipment and methods to fight crime. Computers tie in large police networks. Scores of special devices have been invented to handle mobs. Sensitive chemical analysis equipment can detect one teaspoon of LSD in 132 million gallons of water. Some wiretapping is now legal in the U.S. In major cities helicopters are used by officers to spot criminals.
You, too, have no doubt observed changes in police techniques to aid them in their crime fighting. Yet EVEN WITH better trained and more heavily armed policemen, special defensive precautions by businessmen and citizens, CRIME CONTINUES TO RISE!
An editorial in The Wall Street Journal summarizes:
“For perhaps the first time in memory, almost no responsible person any longer insists that the growing crime rate is a statistical illusion . . . And the very first step toward solving any deep-rooted social problem is agreeing that a problem truly exists.
However, solving the crime problem also requires knowing why the problem exists. Why is crime increasing so rapidly?
[Graph on page 5]
in the United States 1960-1970
[Picture on page 7]
Businesses install improved security methods; still CRIME CONTINUES TO RISE!
[Picture on page 8]
Guard dogs are in demand to fight home burglary