Scholars, pundits, and activists have been more and more frequently mentioning the decreasing homicide rate in our society while the media paints a very different picture. We are at the low point of a near twenty-year decline in violent crime in America. Despite this quantifiable decrease, American perception stubbornly holds on to the idea that America has become a more violent and dangerous place. While in some major cities we can see evidence that trend is potentially reversing, the bottom line is America in much safer then it was twenty years ago.
Much of that perception is based on the frequency of reporting of violent crime by our media. The statistics are well documented and present a grossly inflated view of crime as a percentage of other events. As we look at media over time, we can see a steadily increasing diet of violence, crime and social unrest fed to the American public via movies, TV shows, gaming and the news. Unfortunately, the reporting percentages have no correlation with the incident rates and are purely providing programming based on what American viewers choose to watch.
The American Psychological Association has published study after study finding that violence viewed on TV and in person, is associated with increased aggressive behavior. The classic example of these types of experiments is the Bobo doll experiments conducted by Albert Bandura in the early sixty’s. In two subsequent experimental iterations, Bandura deliberately exposed children, ranging from two and a half to six years old, to adult acts of aggression directed against a Bobo doll. The first exposure was in person and the second iteration was exposure on television, but the results were the same. Exposure to violence results in increased violent actions.
From the results of these studies and many more like it, many Americans make the claim that we are raising an ever more violent generation of young American. This reasoning fits with our predisposed notion that society is becoming more violent despite evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately, our perception often has little to do with reality. The average age of violent offenders has actually increased, and not decreased over the past thirty years. Sixteen to twenty-four year-olds have always accounted for the lion’s share of violent crime. As the boomer generation ages, we are at the end of a historically rare reduction in the youth bulge in America. Despite that fact, the demographic shift alone is insufficient to account
for the decrease in the violent crime rate.
Two factors are easy to quantify and simple to explain. First is the massive expansion of our judicial system. We have increased spending by nearly 171% over the past 30 years. That spending has increased the number of police on the streets, the number of judges and the number of jails. As a proportion of GDP, which has remained pretty flat over same period, we have massively increased the percentage of resources dedicated to security services. Continue Reading…
Author : Patrick Henry