Taking Credit for a Falling Crime Rate (6/4/97)

A few years back, I traveled with two close friends to see the Dallas Cowboys play the Arizona Cardinals at Texas Stadium. The year was 1994, and the Cowboys were at their peak. Realizing that all good things must come to an end, I made the comment, and my friends agreed, that we should enjoy the current success of the Cowboys. One day, I said, Aikman will get old, Emmitt's body will be broken down, and Irvin will retire. (I couldn't foresee the other Irvin problems). Needless to say, Dallas won the game.

But like the good old days of the Cowboys, these are the "salad days" from a crime fighting standpoint. The crime rate continues to drop, and the streets are becoming safer. We have a reason to sleep more peacefully at night.

But who should receive credit for this positive phenomenon? No one. If you hear any elected official make a claim that he has played a part in reducing crime in any community, make a note of it so that you can cast a vote against him in the next election. He either is kidding himself or not very smart. Either ground is a basis for him to seek a job in the private sector in order to obtain a taste of reality.

In my opinion, based upon no scientific study whatsoever, there are two critical factors which have attributed to the reduction in crime.

1. The Population Is Getting Older.

Teenagers and young adults commit the most crime. I don't know why, but the folders in my filing cabinet tells me this is true. As we enter the turn of the century, however, the baby boom generation is in the latter half of their lives and, percentage wise, there are simply less young people in the United States than in past years. Less youth, for whatever reason, means less crime.

2. The Economy Is Good.

When I graduated from college in 1983, the job market was, in a word, tough. All the news commentators were lambasting Reaganomics and the "trickle down" theory. Interest rates were nearing 20%, and a gallon of gasoline cost more than it does today. Things were not good.

Fast forward to the present day. The unemployment rate is the lowest since the 1970s, and the stock market continues to journey upward at an incredible speed. Things are good.

A good economy means that people are making money. If people make money, they do not need to steal.

A job gives an individual a sense of self worth. Unemployment brings despair. If a person has a job and has a hope for the future, why would he want to jeopardize it by committing a crime? He doesn't.

Result: less crime.

I'm certainly no sociologist, but the reduction in the crime rate seems fairly simple as outlined above. I wouldn't have the nerve to try and tell the public I had any role in it whatsoever.

But, as I told my friends in 1994 on the way to Irving, let's enjoy it while we can.

Barry Green is the District Attorney for the 271st Judicial District.

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