According to official statistics, the crime rate has been declining for more than two decades now. As a result, the public narrative about crime has gone from the overheated rhetoric about the emergence of super-predators and rampant crime in the early 1990s to an overall more reasoned, but still contentious, discourse about crime and violence today.
Nevertheless, the cause or causes for the steady decrease in crime are not clear. Some data suggests longer prison terms are the cause, while other information seems to dispute that assertion. Other pundits point to less obvious, but highly controversial connections, such as the legalization of abortion as the primary reason for the downward crime trend. Others dispute that assertion as well.
These and other explanations rely largely on the premise that one primary factor, typically the criminal justice system’s ability to punish, is responsible for the downward trend in crime, which may not be an accurate conclusion at all.
It may be the case that small-scale intervention efforts are having a cumulative crime-reducing effect.
For example, several recent articles have reported on the possibility that reductions in crime are the result of smaller efforts that combine to have a large downward effect on crime rates. For example, the use of business improvement districts and cognitive behavioral therapies may each contribute to crime reduction in their own ways. Even zoning laws have been shown to have a crime-reducing effect.
Society has long been in search of a comprehensive solution to crime and violence, but that solution has often simply involved passing new laws or otherwise getting “tough on crime.” Is it possible now, though, that we’ve inadvertently stumbled into a combination of approaches that together can reduce criminal offending?
Might it be the case that crime reduction is not solely a criminal justice system endeavor after all, but a multi-faceted activity that emerges from the very fabric of society?