I was looking at local crime statistics over the weekend and was surprised to see that D.C. is experiencing a 16 percent year-to-date decline in aggregate murders despite a rapidly rising population. Rick Nevin has looked at similar numbers from other large American cities that have reported statistics, and it turns out that D.C. is typical. It’s not completely clear that you should extrapolate too much from the data that’s already in, but according to Nevin if you do extrapolate you get the result that 2013 will have the lowest murder rate in a century (PDF). In other words, we’ll not only have reversed the great crime surge of the 1960s and ‘70s but actually exceeded the postwar peace and basically gotten back down to the murder rate of a largely pre-urbanized United States.
Kevin Drum of course wants to talk about lead, and certainly everyone should remind everyone they know that additional lead abatement is possible and highly cost-effective.
But more broadly, the good news about crime levels needs to inform more of our public policy debates ranging from gun regulation to drug prohibition to just general talk of declining living standards. Personal safety is hard to purchase on the open market, but it’s extremely valuable and we appear to be doing a much better job of delivering it than we did 40 years ago.