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Myth: Getting tough on crime reduces crime.

Fact: States with the toughest law enforcement have the most crime.



Summary

Hiring more police officers and throwing more people into prison does not reduce crime - in fact, those states which pursue this strategy tend to have the highest crime rates. And this is true internationally as well; the nations with the toughest approach to crime have the most of it. What are the real causes crime? Scholars lately have been drawn to two particular explanations: media violence and income inequality.



Argument

THE U.S. EVIDENCE

The statistics below show that spending more on police and prisons is correlated with a higher crime rate. Before examining these statistics, however, it is useful to keep a few points in mind. The first is that correlation is not causation -- just because a high crime rate accompanies a high police effort does not tell us which causes which. And, second, one may not cause the other at all. An example best illustrates this point: it could be said that the more birds fly south, the more trees change the color of their leaves. Although this is indeed a correlation, neither causes the other; the real cause is a third factor, the onset of autumn.

With these points in mind, let's review the possibilities:

1. A greater police effort creates more crime.

2. More crime calls for a greater police effort.

3. A third and unknown causal factor causes both to rise.

If the first scenario is true, then one could imagine a few possible explanations: police somehow antagonize the community, whether through police brutality or an "us vs. them" mentality; money is drained from needed social spending to fund the costs of a greater police presence; or higher levels of crime have always existed but it takes a greater police effort to expose it. The last point is quite doubtful, because almost all crime is reported by victims or witnesses, not discovered by police. These reports by citizens form our crime statistics. There is little reason to believe that people's decisions to report crime are based on the size of the police force.

If the second scenario is true, then one must ask why the greater police response isn't solving crime. For example, Florida's crime rate is three times higher than West Virginia's. It also spends three times more per capita trying to fight crime. Unfortunately, Florida's greater effort has been going on for decades, with no relative reduction in crime whatsoever. This would suggest that the effort is ineffective. Or if it is indeed effective (but is merely fighting a losing battle), then this takes us to the next point:

If the third scenario is true, then society's attention should not be focused on greater law enforcement, but on the identification of the social cause responsible for crime. If Florida reduced its police budget to West Virginia's level, crime could conceivably rise from three times worse to six times worse… which suggests that Florida's social problems must be even worse than current crime statistics would suggest.

What might these social causes be? Criminologists have put forward a variety of theories: drugs, poverty, America's greater access to guns, broken homes, lack of moral instruction, etc. The statistics do not show a strong correlation to any of these causes, however, and the ultimate cause of crime remains debatable. It may even be a combination of all of the above.

Be that as it may, two culprits have been receiving increasing attention by scholars lately. The first is media violence. Dr. Brandon Centerwall has produced one of the most famous studies, which found that the mere introduction of television into a region causes its crime rate to double as soon as the first television generation comes of age. (1) In a 22-year study of 800 children from grade 2 to early adulthood, Leonard Eron and Rowell Huesmann found that the best predictor of later aggression was a heavy childhood diet of TV violence -- more so than poverty, grades, a single parent in the home or exposure to real violence. (2)

The second is income inequality. Although absolute poverty levels do not correlate too significantly with the crime rate (see chart below), income inequality does, strangely enough. Two separate studies, one from Harvard, the other from Berkeley, compared state crime rates to their income inequality rates, and found that the states with the most inequality had the highest rates of homicide, violent crime and incarceration. The reason why is still being explored, but potential explanations include psychological reasons, and the fact that prices of needed goods and services are relative too, even in a rich country. (3)

Regardless of the cause, the following statistics show that getting tough on crime is not a successful policy. The charts below list each state in order of its crime rate and then lists its law-enforcement expenditures, prison population rate, poverty rate and high school dropout rate. The first chart gives the raw data. The second chart is the same as the first, except that it gives a state's ranking instead of the raw data. This is to help find the correlation between states. Further analysis of these charts follows below.

Column 1 - CRIME: Crime rate per 100,000 population. Includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft. (4)

Column 2 - POLICE: State and local police protection and correction-employment expenditures, in dollars per capita. (5)

Column 3 - PRISON: Number of Federal and State Prisoners per 100,000 of state population. (6)

Column 4 - POVERTY: State poverty rate. (7)

Column 5 - HS DROPOUTS: State high school dropout rate. Comprises percentage of current 16-19 year olds who are not in school and have not finished the 12th grade or received a general equivalency degree. (8)

CHART ONE



Crime-related statistics by state, raw data:



Crime   Police   Prison  Poverty  HS Dropout

Florida         8,358   $382     369     15.3%    14.3%

Texas           7,058    260     381     17.8     12.9

Arizona         7,029    366     415     15.1     14.4

California      6,679    454     355     15.8     14.2

Louisiana       6,546    256     505     24.2     12.5

New Mexico      6,434    293     205     21.0     11.7

Georgia         6,405    267     382     17.8     14.1

Maryland        6,225    348     385     11.6     10.9

Nevada          6,204    454     457     14.4     15.2

Washington      6,173    327     197     11.0     10.6

Hawaii          6,112    352     168     11.0      7.5

Colorado        5,959    303     258     10.6      9.8

South Carolina  5,893    241     489     18.9      7.7

New York        5,858    497     351     15.3      9.9

Oregon          5,821    286     172     11.3     11.8

North Carolina  5,802    235     295     15.7     12.5

Illinois        5,765    280     282     15.3     10.6

Utah            5,659    219     152      9.3      8.7

Michigan        5,611    316     420     13.5     10.0

Alaska          5,570    623     320     10.0     10.9

Oklahoma        5,432    194     483     18.4     10.4

Kansas          5,320    240     244     11.0      8.7

Alabama         5,268    199     426     17.1     12.6

Tennessee       5,136    226     247     17.0     13.4

Missouri        5,097    136     315     15.6     11.4

New Jersey      5,064    369     292     10.0      9.6

Connecticut     5,053    333     275      9.4      9.0

Massachusetts   5,003    297      16     10.0      8.5

Indiana         4,687    181     246     11.7     11.4

Ohio            4,666    262     359     12.4      8.9

Minnesota       4,591    241      90     12.8      6.4

Montana         4,596    210     175     13.7      8.1

Rhode Island    4,578    302     167     12.0     11.1

Delaware        4,848    375     392      7.6     10.4

Arkansas        4,762    153     344     17.4     11.4

Wyoming         4,575    319     223     10.3      6.9

Nebraska        4,324    194     153     10.3      7.0

Wisconsin       4,319    294     175     10.8      7.1

Virginia        4,299    266     335      9.4     10.0

Mississippi     4,282    136     356     24.5     11.8

Idaho           3,996    220     199     15.0     10.4

Iowa            3,957    161     166     11.3      6.6

Maine           3,524    201      11     13.4      8.3

Vermont         3,410    207     152     10.4      8.0

Pennsylvania    3,393    245     212     11.7      9.1

Kentucky        3,324    192     277     19.7     13.3

New Hampshire   3,081    241     158      8.6      9.4

South Dakota    2,999    170     214     14.8      7.7

North Dakota    2,903    155      69     11.9      4.6

West Virginia   2,610    117     102     22.3     10.9



CHART TWO



State rankings of crime-related statistics: (t = tie)





Crime  Police  Prison  Poverty  HS Dropout

Florida          1       5      12      16(t)     3 

Texas            2      25      11       8(t)     8

Arizona          3       8       7      19        2

California       4       4      15      13        4

Louisiana        5      26       1       2       10(t)

New Mexico       6      19      33       4       14

Georgia          7      22      10       8(t)     5

Maryland         8      10       9      32(t)    19(t)

Nevada           9       3       4      22        1

Washington      10      12      35      35(t)    22(t)

Hawaii          11       9      39      35(t)    44

Colorado        12      15      26      39       30

South Carolina  13      28(t)    2       6       42t

New York        14       2      16      16(t)    29

Oregon          15      20      38      33(t)    12(t)

North Carolina  16      32      21      14       10t

Illinois        17      21      23      16(t)    22(t)

Utah            18      35      44(t)   46       36(t)

Michigan        19      14       6      24       27(t)

Alaska          20       1      19      43(t)    19(t)

Oklahoma        21      40(t)    3       7       24(t)

Kansas          22      31      29      35(t)    36(t)

Alabama         23      39       5      11        9

Tennessee       24      33      27      12        6

Missouri        25      48      20      15       15(t)

New Jersey      26       6      22      43(t)    31

Connecticut     27      11      25      46(t)    34

Massachusetts   28      17      49      43(t)    38

Indiana         29      43      28      30(t)    15(t)

Ohio            30      24      13      27       35

Minnesota       31      28(t)   47      26       49

Montana         32      36      36(t)   23       40

Rhode Island    33      16      40      28       18

Delaware        34       6       8      50       24(t)

Arkansas        35      47      17      10       15(t)

Wyoming         36      13      30      41(t)    47

Nebraska        37      40(t)   43      41(t)    46

Wisconsin       38      18      36(t)   38       45

Virginia        39      23      18      46(t)    27(t)

Mississippi     40      49      14       1       12(t)

Idaho           41      34      34      20       24(t)

Iowa            42      45      41      33(t)    48

Maine           43      38      50      25       39

Vermont         44      37      44(t)   40       41

Pennsylvania    45      27      32      30(t)    33

Kentucky        46      42      24       5        7

New Hampshire   47      28(t)   42      49       32

South Dakota    48      44      31      21       42t

North Dakota    49      46      48      29       50

West Virginia   50      50      46       3       19(t)

------------------------------------------------------

Correlation            .59     .55     .25      .51

to crime (9)

So crime is significantly correlated to police and corrections spending, incarceration rates and high-school dropout rates. Surprisingly enough, the correlation between poverty and crime is not too significant. However, as mentioned above, Harvard and Berkeley have found that income inequality correlates much more strongly with crime than poverty. In fact, these studies find that income inequality correlates with most of the nation's social problems.

THE INTERNATIONAL EVIDENCE

The U.S. is the most violent society in the industrialized world, and probably the entire world as well. Although it doesn't have the most police per capita, the U.S. does have the toughest laws and punishments by far. The question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, is becoming much less relevant as time passes; the U.S. has been following this "get tough" approach for decades, with no significant reduction of its violent crime rate.

All the following statistics are for 1991, and come from the international encyclopedia Where We Stand. (10)

People per police officer



Italy           286

Greece          303

Sweden          328

Canada          358

United Kingdom  400

United States   459

Australia       462

Austria         466

Ireland         489

Netherlands     553

Japan           556

Belgium         586

Denmark         594

Portugal        624

France          632

Finland         643

Norway          661

Spain           862



Annual reports of police brutality (per 100,000 people)



United States    92.5

United Kingdom    6.0

France            0.7 



Prisoners (per 1,000 people)



United States   4.2

United Kingdom  1.0

Germany         0.8

France          0.8

Austria         0.8

Spain           0.8

Switzerland     0.7

Denmark         0.7

Belgium         0.7

Italy           0.6

Sweden          0.6

Japan           0.4

Netherlands     0.4



Death row inmates



United States  2,124

Japan             38

All others         0



Murder rate (per 100,000 people)



United States   8.40

Canada          5.45

Denmark         5.17

France          4.60

Portugal        4.50

Australia       4.48

Germany         4.20

Belgium         2.80

Spain           2.28

Switzerland     2.25

Italy           2.18

Norway          1.99

United Kingdom  1.97

Austria         1.80

Greece          1.76

Sweden          1.73

Japan           1.20

Ireland         0.96

Finland         0.70



Murder rate for males age 15-24 (per 100,000 people)



United States  24.4

Canada          2.6

Sweden          2.3

Norway          2.3

Finland         2.3

Denmark         2.2

United Kingdom  2.0

Netherlands     1.2

Germany         0.9

Japan           0.5



Rape (per 100,000 people)



United States  37.20

Sweden         15.70

Denmark        11.23

Germany         8.60

Norway          7.87

United Kingdom  7.26

Finland         7.20

France          6.77

Switzerland     6.15

Luxembourg      5.00

Spain           4.43

Austria         4.40

Belgium         4.00

Greece          2.40

Ireland         1.72

Japan           1.40

Portugal        1.20



Armed robbery (per 100,000 people)



Spain          265

United States  221

Canada          94

France          90

Belgium         66

United Kingdom  63

Italy           50

Sweden          49

Germany         47

Ireland         46

Denmark         44

Finland         38

Switzerland     23

Norway          22

Greece           7

Japan            1



Auto Theft (per 100,000 people)



Sweden          714

Denmark         700

Norway          665

United Kingdom  624



United States   583

France          420

Italy           364

Spain           356

Canada          344

Finland         247

Belgium         201

Germany         114

Greece           58

Ireland          30

Japan            28



Breaking and entering (per 100,000 people)



Denmark         2,412

Australia       1,962

Germany         1,918

United Kingdom  1,627

Sweden          1,555

Canada          1,386

United States   1,309

Spain           1,232

Finland         1,008

Luxembourg        984

Switzerland       976

Austria           910

Ireland           855

France            674

Belgium           623

Greece            257

Japan             211

Norway             93

Some may object that international comparisons are like apples and oranges. However, that objection misses the point: if the many social differences of these nations contribute to a lower crime rate, Americans should consider adopting these social policies for themselves. Almost universally, these other nations have abolished the death penalty, practice gun control, and feature less police brutality and more liberal courts. On a less crime-related basis, these other nations also have greater social benefits, less inequality of wealth, larger public sectors and more democratic participation.

Return to Overview

Endnotes:

1. Brandon S. Centerwall, "Exposure to Television as a Risk Factor for Violence", American Journal of Epidemiology, (Vol. 129, 1989), pp. 643-652.

2. Rowell Huesmann and Leonard Eron, eds., Television and the Aggressive Child: A Cross-National Comparison, (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1986).

3. Crime correlations with inequality found in George A. Kaplan and others, "Inequality in income and mortality in the United States: analysis of mortality and potential pathways," British Medical Journal, Vol. 312 (April 20, 1996), pgs. 999-1003. For a related study correlating inequality to mortality rates, see Bruce P. Kennedy and others, "Income distribution and mortality: cross sectional ecological study of the Robin Hood index in the United States," British Medical Journal, Vol. 312 (April 20, 1996), pgs. 1004-1007.

4. U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 1992.

5. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Government Finances, series GF, No. 5, 1992.

6. Bureau of Justice Statistics, mid-year, 1993.

7. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P60-188, 1992.

8. U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of Population, CPH-L-96.

9. Spearman correlation of ranks:

Crime/police:

p (chance that r=0 coincidentally) = 5.9865e-06
ts (t statistics) = 5.0872
df (degrees of freedom n-2) = 48
r (correlation) = 0.59186

Crime/prison:

p = 3.6456e-05
ts = 4.5513
df = 48
r = 0.54905

Crime/poverty:

p = 0.077641
ts = 1.8032
df = 48
r = 0.25187

Crime/HS dropout:

p = 0.00013006
ts = 4.1620
df = 48
r = 0.51496

10. Where We Stand, Michael Wolff, Peter Rutten & Albert F. Bayers III and the World Rank Research Team (New York: Bantam Books, 1992), pp. 289-297.

 

TRAITOR McCain

jewn McCain

ASSASSIN of JFK, Patton, many other Whites

killed 264 MILLION Christians in WWII

killed 64 million Christians in Russia

holocaust denier extraordinaire--denying the Armenian holocaust

millions dead in the Middle East

tens of millions of dead Christians

LOST $1.2 TRILLION in Pentagon
spearheaded torture & sodomy of all non-jews
millions dead in Iraq

42 dead, mass murderer Goldman LOVED by jews

serial killer of 13 Christians

the REAL terrorists--not a single one is an Arab

serial killers are all jews

framed Christians for anti-semitism, got caught
left 350 firemen behind to die in WTC

legally insane debarred lawyer CENSORED free speech

mother of all fnazis, certified mentally ill

10,000 Whites DEAD from one jew LIE

moser HATED by jews: he followed the law

f.ck Jesus--from a "news" person!!

1000 fold the child of perdition

 

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