… [E]xplanations for the nation’s plummeting homicide rate remain elusive, stymieing economists, criminologists, police, politicians and demographers. Have new police strategies made a difference, or have demographic shifts and population migrations steered the change? Could the reasons be as simple as putting more bad guys behind bars, or does credit go to changes made a generation ago, such as taking the lead out of gasoline or legalizing abortion?
Mass shootings such as last year’s searing incidents in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., have put gun and mental-health policies back atop the nation’s agenda. But the narrative of crime over the past two decades runs in a different direction. Law and order has largely vanished as a political issue — in 1994, more than half of Americans called crime the nation’s most important problem; by 2012, only 2 percent of those surveyed by Gallup said so.
The reduced violent crime was jaw-dropping over several decades.
The drop in deaths from firearms and in slayings overall — over the past two decades, homicide declined by 80 percent in the District and overall crime fell by 75 percent in New York City — has come even as the economy has tanked, the number of guns owned by Americans has soared and the number of young people in the prime crime demographic has peaked.
“There has been a real drop in crime, and anyone living in New York or Washington sees it,” said David Greenberg, a New York University sociologist who has tested theories for the decline. “In principle, we should be able to explain it, but it’s easier to determine what factors don’t contribute than it is to say what does.”
Today, there are many theories about why violent crime has reduced and quite a few people and organizations want to take credit for the change. It is easier, however, to look at what did NOT contribute to the reduction in violent crime. One street in Washington, D.C. was highlighted. A change in demographics seemed to be an indicator and so did home ownership. When people owned their homes, they took more interest in their communities and worked towards a common goal. Of course there are other factors that contribute to a safer environment.
Be sure to read this WaPo article: Gun deaths, violent crime overall are down in District and U.S., but reasons are elusive . The lead paint and the abortion theory are highly speculative but interesting. One of the theories in particular takes us back to another time.
Will we ever know definitively, why violent crime has reduced so significant? No, probably not. It probably is a perfect storm, and not contributed to any one or two reasons.