Kaid Benfield Archive


“Mystifying” story in the Post about crime in cities

Kaid Benfield

Posted July 21, 2009 at 1:39PM

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Hey, Washington Post, it's good news and another sign that cities are back when crime rates drop.  As the news outlet of record for a major city and metropolitan area, you'd think they would get that.

But, instead of reporting that a drop in crime is something to celebrate, the newspaper seems to think it is something to question: "Major Cities' Plummeting Crime Rates Mystifying: Killings in the District, Pr. George's [County] Have Fallen," read the headline for a front-page story written by Allison Kleingraph showing declining rates of crime in TampaThe lead paragraph is about how this is "baffling" to criminologists, especially because it's also the case in LA, Minneapolis, New York, Boston, and San Francisco.

Well, the Post may not want to report a continuing decline in urban crime as good news, but I do and I will.  It's great for the environment when our cities are recovering and hospitable, because that will continue to attract more people to the urban core and reduce suburban sprawl with its much higher per-capita rates of environmental damage.  In DC and its inner-ring suburb Prince George's, Maryland, homicides are down 17 percent this year, and DC's rate is down over 80 percent from the peak experienced in 1991.  (That tidbit may be discerned from information buried in the 14th paragraph of the Post's story.)  Suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, is on track for its lowest rate since 1986.  Rates for other crimes are also down in the District and its suburbs.

Elsewhere, violent crime is down 20 percent in San Francisco, and so are property crimes.  Baltimore is experiencing a 20-year low in homicides, with overall crime down 9 percent.  Nationally, crime rates are down for all categories other than burglaries, although the drop nationally is more modest than that for big cities, and small towns have actually seen a recent increase in violent crime.