Did liberals get it wrong on crime?
Crime is again down across the nation — in big cities, small cities, flourishing cities and cities that are not for the timid. Surprisingly, this has happened in the teeth of the Great Recession, meaning that those disposed to attribute criminality to poverty have some strenuous rethinking to do. It could be, as conservatives have insisted all along, that crime is committed by criminals. For liberals, this is bad news indeed.
The figures are rather startling. From 2008 to 2009, violent crime was down 5.5 percent overall and almost 7 percent in big cities. Some of those cities are as linked with crime as gin is with tonic or as John McCain is with political opportunism. In Detroit, for instance, with the auto industry shedding workers, violent crime was down 2.4 percent. In Washington, D.C., murder was down 23.1 percent, rape 19.4 percent and property crime 6 percent. Stats for political corruption are not available.
Whatever the reasons, it now seems fairly clear that something akin to culture and not economics is the root cause of crime. By and large everyday people do not go into a life of crime because they have been laid off or their home is worth less than their mortgage. They do something else, but whatever it is, it does not generally entail packing heat. Once this becomes an accepted truth, criminals will lose what status they still retain as victims.
The latest crime statistics strongly suggest that bad times do not necessarily make bad people. Bad character does.