Thursday, April 24, 2008

Decreasing crime: The US model

(click on image for larger version)
I have heard people in the UK and elsewhere say "crime is getting worse, and there's nothing we can do" . Well that's bollocks - The USA is now much safer than either the UK or Australia, as the above graph shows. Many learned articles have analyzed the reasons , and they are due to a combination of factors.

Components of the US solution :

1. Gun ownership and the right to use it in self-defence, for home invasion, serious assault, car robbery etc
2. longer sentences for crimes
3. Death sentences for murderers in some states (avoids repeat murders - not uncommon in Australia)
4 . ability to elect some judges and police chiefs
5. "3 strikes and you're out" (for 20 years) to deal with people for whom prison is a temporary holiday between offences - in some states.
6. A More effective Police force: apprehension rates of 300 per 1000 crimes commited, compared to 30 per 1000 in Australia.

This article is quite revealing:

A British man I met in Colorado recently told me he used to live in Kent but he moved to the American state of New Jersey and will not go home because it is, as he put it, "a gentler environment for bringing the kids up."
Wait till you get to London Texas, or Glasgow Montana, or Oxford Mississippi or Virgin Utah, for that matter, where every household is required by local ordinance to possess a gun.
Folks will have guns in all of these places and if you break into their homes they will probably kill you.
They will occasionally kill each other in anger or by mistake, but you never feel as unsafe as you can feel in south London.
It is a paradox. Along with the guns there is a tranquillity and civility about American life of which most British people can only dream.

What surprises the British tourists is that, in areas of the US that look and feel like suburban Britain, there is simply less crime and much less violent crime.
Doors are left unlocked, public telephones unbroken.
One reason - perhaps the overriding reason - is that there is no public drunkenness in polite America, simply none.
I have never seen a group of drunk young people in the entire six years I have lived here. I travel a lot and not always to the better parts of town.
It is an odd fact that a nation we associate - quite properly - with violence is also so serene, so unscarred by petty crime, so innocent of brawling.
Virginia Tech had the headlines in the last few days and reminded us of the violence for which the US is well known.
But most American lives were as peaceful on this anniversary as they are every day.

see also:
detailed analysis of the US's lower crime rates:

I've always thought of gun ownership and the legal right to use them against assault or home invasion as like a Nuclear deterrent - the mere fact you can use them makes violence much less common. This is partly born out by robbery statistics in the USA - less than half of those in Australia and the UK.
Tougher sentences and 10 times higher apprehension rates (of criminals) also play a part.
Mark Steyn remarks how residents of New Hampshire leave their home doors unlocked, as well as their cars, a fact he believes is as result of gun ownership in that State.

interesting article on Brits visiting the US and being surprised by the peacefulness and lack of threat there - it's more family-friendly than either the UK or Australia... The lack of serious consequences for vicious or death-causing assaults , or home invasions in both countries is quite frightening and contributes to the creation of brash criminal class who know they can get away with anything...:
The US is the only western country to have had crime decrease in the last 10 years..
New York is a case study that could be replicated in NZ or western Sydney: in 10 years assault decreased by 70 %, homicide by 60%
John Hawkins: I'm hearing all sorts of horror stories about law enforcement in Britain. People are being locked up for defending their homes, the police are no longer even investigating burglaries that aren't easy to solve, & the crime rate is exploding. What is causing British law enforcement to fall apart like this?

Mark Steyn: Crime in Britain is terrible, and the worse it gets the more adamant the police are that you should be able to do nothing about it yourself. The British are different from the French and the Russians and almost every other European power in that their revolution - the British Revolution - took place overseas, in the American colonies. The British subjects who were interested in liberty won the day in the American colonies. At home, the view that "public order" should take precedence prevails to this day. When I bought my home in New Hampshire, I asked the local police chief (it's a one-man department) about what I should do in the event of an attempted break-in. He said, "Well, you could call me at home. But it'd be better if you dealt with it. You're there and I'm not." The British police would rather die than admit that. So, instead of prosecuting the burglar, they prosecute the homeowner for "disproportionate response". You're supposed to wait until the burglar has revealed his weapon before picking yours. "Ah, forgive me, old boy, for reaching for the kitchen knife. I see you've brought not a machete but a blunt instrument. Be a good sport and allow me a moment to retrieve my cricket bat from under the bed, there's a good egg." This is insane, but, despite the visible deterioration of civic life in even the leafiest suburbs and villages, the British show no sign of rousing themselves to do anything about it.

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