Don’t you know the crime rate’s going up up up up up?

The homicide rate seems set to dip below what it was in the most recent set of good old days when we didn’t need no welfare state, though it has a ways to go before it will match the previous set of good old days when everybody lived on farms.

least murder ever.png.CROP.rectangle3-large

Kevin Drum brings up his lead n’ homicide rate chart again:


I don’t know what caused the precipitous drop in murder rates but I’m struck by how unaware the public is of this phenomenon:


114 replies
  1. 1
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    That’s definitely an interesting correlation in the graph from Drum.

  2. 2
    Redshirt says:

    Peace doesn’t sell.

    Fear, on the other hand – never goes out of style.

  3. 3
    PeakVT says:

    but I’m struck by how unaware the public is of this phenomenon:

    Thank your local evening news for that.

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): It’s a wee bit more than a correlation.

  4. 4
    Violet says:

    The lead thing is crazy. Imagine what else is out there that we consider just a normal part of modern life that is affecting us in some yet unknown way.

  5. 5
    piratedan says:

    @PeakVT: what leads the local news everyday? Homicides and deaths by any other means…. and oh yes, the weather.

    It’s police blotter TV

  6. 6
    Violet says:

    @piratedan: If it bleeds it leads.

  7. 7
    rikyrah says:

    how can they justify the PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX without the fear of crime?

  8. 8
    eemom says:

    Don’t mind the maggots.

  9. 9
    Short Bus Bully says:

    What’s bringing crime down? MOAR GUNZZ!!

    No snark. All my redneck friends tell me this when I try and explain to them that since they are not in fact living in Somalia they don’t need things like open carry. MOAR GUNZ really is the answer to everything, all the time.

  10. 10
    dmsilev says:

    @Short Bus Bully: Actual headline I saw yesterday: “Florida Man Shoots Himself While Bowling”.

  11. 11
    Waingro says:

    Off-topic – I think Andrew Sullivan is seriously trying to a bait Doug with this stuff:

    Before he decided to commit war crimes, I knew Rummy as an acquaintance, stayed at his house in Taos, dined with him, and often argued with him. He’s fun to argue with, but when cornered, he simply shuts you down.

  12. 12
    StringOnAStick says:

    Fox News. Period. Well, that and the fact that the news media in general has a total fixation on ‘if it bleeds it leads’ because local crime stories are cheap and get a lot of eyeballs. But you can’t deny that Fox is all fear, all the time, with a nice pastiche of ragegasm.

    People think crime is higher because Fox trades in fear, and fear controls the results of elections.

  13. 13
    MattF says:

    Yes, but. I used to ride the NYC subways in the 1970’s, so I’ve got a pretty vivid image of the bad old days and the improvement in the current better days. That said, aggregate numbers don’t really reveal that much– small changes for the worse in dense but ‘safe’ neighborhoods are a lot more visible than big changes in currently depopulated ‘bad’ neighborhoods.

  14. 14


    It was the only way to pick up that 7-10 split.

  15. 15
    Violet says:

    @Waingro: Sounds like “Rummy” (barf) is standard grade wingnut with that behavior. Assuming “shuts you down” is the equivalent of sticking his fingers in his ears and saying “la la la la la. I can’t hear you.”

    Edit: I clicked through and it turns out Rumsfeld’s model of wingnuttery is to refuse to admit facts exist.

    remember asking him before the Iraq war why the US was firing Arab linguists just because they were gay. Didn’t we need every Arab linguist we could get? He point blank refused to admit it was happening at all. He openly asked how someone as allegedly smart as I was could be so misinformed. In front of others, he dressed me down for my ignorance. I did not give in, but I did make a mental note: this guy is dangerously out of touch with reality, even as he insists he alone grasps reality.

  16. 16
    MikeJ says:

    I wonder if we can see a difference in violence in the old ASARCO smelter plume.

  17. 17
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @StringOnAStick: It’s not just Fox, though. You are never going to see the headline “301,426,282 people were unaffected by crime today.”

  18. 18
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    I don’t know what caused the precipitous drop in murder rates…

    An article from earlier this year:

    It’s about NYC but could apply more broadly. In the piece, the drop is tied to any number of singular events:

    -The ebbing of the crack cocaine epedemic
    -The Freakonomics grifters say it’s drop stems from the increase in legal abortions
    -Cities managing law enforcement personnel better
    -Rigidly enforce misdemeanor crimes to change the culture
    -We’re becoming more civilized

  19. 19
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Short Bus Bully:

    If guns are the answer then it’s imperative that Obama proposes a program to provide low cost or no cost guns to the poor. Obviously, the crime rate would drop to zero and our economically disadvantaged citizens would be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

    Watching conservatives twist themselves into pretzels trying to explain why that would be a bad idea would make popcorn futures skyrocket.

  20. 20
    joel hanes says:


    Imagine what else is out there

    Someday we’ll see a similar chart for American obesity.

    I’m betting on PBA or some hormone disruptor to be the culprit.

  21. 21
    Shinobi says:

    Kevin Drum, please see Figure Six.

    The reason no one realizes homocide rates are down has to do with news coverage and the availability heuristic. The news covers scary sensationalized things when they happen. People remember them because they make an impact. And because humans are bad at statistics they assume because they can remember lots of homicides on the news, lots of them must happen.

  22. 22
    ET says:

    This is a bit of an issues for me locall. I live in DC on the Hill. To lisent to some you would think it was the crack ’80’s/’90’s. Of course most of these people who are yapping grew up in the burbs when that shot was going on. Elsewhere. Not to say there isn’t crime but rational fact-based people looking at stats wold be surprised. DC peaked in 1991 for murders with well over 400 and last yer I don’t think it even got to 150, most of which didn’t happen in their hood. No murders would be great but the last time that happend was before people had opposoble thumbs and walked upright. These are also people who don’t take any personal responsibilty for their own safety and at least did what they could to make it more difficult for those with ill intent. Like leaving off the ear buds so you can hear. Or not walking a dark street with more attention on the (expensive) Ipad than what/who is around you much less the curb you almost tripped over.

  23. 23
    Violet says:

    @joel hanes: Yeah, I agree we’ll see it with obesity. Seems to be some evidence it’s tied to a virus. Also, the modification of wheat and the inclusion of corn in everything has changed the way we eat and what we consider food. I’ve already seen similar charts beginning with when high fructose corn syrup became commonly used.

  24. 24

    As my lawyerin’ hero, Lionel Hutz, Esq. of the Simpsons noted when he was working as a real estate agent. The “truth” can be subjective. Narrative before facts!

  25. 25
    scav says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    -We’re becoming more civilized

    mmmm. how do add internet-based trolling onto this graph? rise in tea-bag-based elegance and graciousness in social and political dialog? “civilized” is such a broad term. Unfriending! at twenty paces is an acceptable substitution though.

  26. 26
    oldster says:

    Just dropping in to point out something obvious:

    DougJ, you are a frigging *genius* at coming up with exactly the right lyric for a post title.

    I am constantly in awe, and in giggles.

    If there were a blogging Olympics, this would be a category of its own, and you would get *all* the medals, every four years.

  27. 27

    People don’t know about it because:

    The news is only full of crime and violence.

    Senior police officials like to play up the problems that plague their cities as a request/justification for more money, more officers, more equipment.

    Politicians use fear of crime to play up their tough guy law enforcer credentials.

    Gun manufacturers and sellers enjoy stoking fear of violent mobs of thugs to convince you to spend money on their product.

  28. 28
    Xenos says:

    It appears that the effect of lead on aggression levels clears pretty quickly from the population while the effect of lead on stupidity levels just carries on and on.

  29. 29
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Crime vs. violent crime, Doug?

    In my town, the first is going up while the second is going down.

  30. 30
    dmsilev says:

    @zombie rotten mcdonald: A gun big enough to fire a bowling ball qualifies as a cannon. Now I’m envisioning something off HMS Victory being lugged onto a bowling alley, complete with team of Napoleonic-era sailors to man the thing.

  31. 31
    PeakVT says:

    @Shinobi: Um, no. Drum has written a series of blog posts and a big article in MJ explaining why research says the lead-homicide correlation is very, very likely a causation.

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    There is a theory that getting the lead out (of paint, of motor vehicle fuel, etc) has a lot to do with reducing crime.

    Of course, this doesn’t fit in with the news media narrative of “if it bleeds, it leads!” so we don’t hear about it on the teebee.

  33. 33
    Tonal (visible) Crow says:

    On lead and homicide, I suspect that Republicans secretly believe that pollution causes antisocial behavior, which partly explains why they oppose pollution regulation: more antisocial behavior means more demand for “tough on crime” policies (and prisons and guns), all of which Republicans are selling.

    Given today’s Republican party, I don’t think this argument is so much cynical as realistic.

  34. 34
    JoyfulA says:

    My husband and I both have genealogists in our families of origin, and we’re amazed at how violent things used to be, 100 or 150 years ago. For an example, a weekly newspaper from the 1880s in my old home town with an article about my ancestor, who was thought to have committed suicide but further investigation showed she was murdered, also had an article about a peddler who was found robbed and murdered in a barn. These days, that area has more people and a murder maybe every five years.

  35. 35
    the Conster says:


    Back pain may be the result of a bacterial infection, following the peptic ulcer path of treatment. Bacteria and hormone disruptors from our environment are the most likely illness/disease culprits, and hopefully it won’t be long until we look at the modern medicine treatment protocols like we look at blood-letting and leeches.

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:

    @joel hanes:

    I’m betting on PBA or some hormone disruptor to be the culprit.

    Eh, maybe, but I’m still convinced that the biggest factor is changes in lifestyle. And I don’t mean that in a pejorative “put down the chips and go to the gym, fatty” way. I mean that our cities and suburbs are, for the most part, laid out for the convenience of cars so people don’t walk or bike anymore.

    I had very paranoid, safety-conscious parents (for the 1970s-1980s, that is), and I was allowed to walk or bike just about anywhere my legs could take me. FFS, I was walking to school by myself as a first-grader. Nowadays, not driving your child to each place they want to go would be tantamount to child abuse in most middle-class and upper-middle-class circles.

    We have made daily activity into something that people have to consciously choose to do rather than having it be something that comes naturally as you walk to the store, bike to the library, etc.

  37. 37
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    I have long held that Rumsfailed needs to go the way of Keitel and Jodl.

  38. 38
    WereBear says:

    good old days when everybody lived on farms.

    Like Ed Gein.

  39. 39
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Shinobi: Sorry, but Figure 6 is stupid.

  40. 40
    pacem appellant says:

    Homicide isn’t the only crime that criminals can commit. For example, my house was burgled two months ago by a repeat juvenile offender. My local perception is that crime in general is going up, not necessarily violent crime, though.

  41. 41
    Xantar says:

    In all seriousness, I’m pretty sure you can find a good negative correlation between the size of the videogame industry and the crime rate.

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    @AA+ Bonds:

    I’m guessing that, like my small city, property crimes like theft are going up (or at least remaining steady) while violent crime is going down.

    It may just be me, but on the scale of crimes, I’d rather have my bicycle be stolen than get beaten up in a violent physical assault. YMMV.

  43. 43
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    We saw in the late 60’s what gun toting Black Panthers can do to inspire 2nd Amendment curtailment by guys like, of all people, the sainted Ronaldus Magnus.

  44. 44
    scav says:

    @JoyfulA: Parts of my families are still reeling from the illegimate babies I’ve run across. One memorable week I found two, close in (the one two nights ago is tangential at best).

  45. 45
    jonas says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: Actually, if Republicans could figure out a way to have the government pay 2x retail for said guns or something to help further line manufacturers’ pockets, they’d probably be all for it.

  46. 46
    pacem appellant says:

    @AA+ Bonds: Same here. We have fewer officers, a lax DA, and and our detective force was cut in half (from 4 to 2). Petty criminals took notice, and responded to market forces appropriately.

  47. 47
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @pacem appellant: Have there been more crimes in your town, or did your personal experience just go from 0 to 1, showing an infinite % increase in crime?

  48. 48
    Wendy says:

    I can see why crime rates spiked in the 80s (crack cocaine; my dad worked in customs in JFK and said that around 1990 or so, there was less cocaine coming in and more heroin, and he felt that heroin made people mellower and reduced crime–totally unscientific observation, of course). But why the spike in the late 70s? Any explanations?

    I also agree re DougJ’s (and mistermix’s) amazing lyrical knowledge.

  49. 49
    PeakVT says:

    @Tonal (visible) Crow: I disagree. I think conservatives would reject environmental influences because they believe in “personal responsibility.” Of course, that concept is basically a cover story for being greedy and wanting to keep taxes low. If they accept that the environment can cause crime rates to change, and that humans cause the environment to change, they are pretty much accepting that society can and should pay to fix the problem.

  50. 50
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    I have long held that Rumsfailed needs to go the way of Keitel and Jodl.

    Hell I’d settle for letting him go the way of Goering.

  51. 51
    catclub says:

    @scav: 1. The wild west was apparently not that bad a place.

    2. I think murder rates in the middle ages were far higher than now.

    It sure looks like civilization.

  52. 52
    scav says:

    @PeakVT: Careful. “Environmental” influences like “feminism” & “not vilifying ghays” are often held to account though. Even the Mighty Catholic Church blames the 60s sexual revolution for the transgressions of its priests (some dating to the 40s, but that’s higher math).

  53. 53
    the Conster says:


    The article Drum wrote for Mother Jones shows the correlation between crime and lead all over the world. Where lead has been removed from the environment, crime has fallen accordingly, and where there’s still lead in gas, it hasn’t. Lead is a neurotoxin that is known to create impulsive and aggressive behavior, and disrupts attention spans – perfect for turning poor kids into criminals. Maybe kids stay inside more too, but nothing correlates like lead has.

  54. 54
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    some dating to the 40s, but that’s higher math

    And even before that. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church imagines that we’re all stupid peasants working the land under the benevolent direction of our feudal lords and masters.

  55. 55
    scav says:

    @catclub: Was just saying that civilization covers a wide swath of behaviors, and we may have just moved standards around without necessarily getting a net gain in being better people. These are the current set of tradeoffs and patterns. Medieval people were slightly less likely to ship their people wholescale to the other side of the world for therapeutic violence, although they were developing the taste.

  56. 56
    PeakVT says:

    @scav: I used the phrase “environmental influences” with the more narrow definition of the physical environment (natural or man-made) in mind, which I think conservatives mostly reject as having much influence. But you are right that they are very concerned about certain aspects of the cultural environment.

  57. 57
    Marmot says:

    @Violet: I think the idiom they go by is actually “We don’t report on house that fail to burn.”

    Also, the lead-and-crime correlation is close enough and plausible enough to get serious treatment. But when it comes up in mainstream places — like this Forbes blog — a lot of people dismiss it it of hand as conspiracy theory. Why do y’all think that is?

  58. 58
    Trollhattan says:


    Sounds like a deleted Lebowski scene. “I don’t roll on [BAM!]”

    No Brunswicks were harmed in the making of this film.

  59. 59
    Marmot says:

    Dang! Can’t edit my last comment. I meant “houses that fail to burn.”

    And this Forbes blog post:

  60. 60
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    OT, but Atrios is right on target about the real story of the falsified email quotes. The reporters involved need to name names of the scum that perpetrated this fraud. I’ll bet more than a few of their sources work for criminal shitstain Issa.

  61. 61
    Trollhattan says:


    When a kid I waz the Tacoma Smelter’s initial answer to pesky pollution concerns was to make the stack higher, so the spew would be dispersed further. There was an old Seattle joke about a couple making out when the girl says, “Kiss me where it smells” so the guy starts the car and drives to Tacoma.

    Commencement Bay remains a big ol’ mess.

  62. 62
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    They dismiss global climate change as basically a conspiracy by communist academics to get grant money from hard working job creators.

  63. 63
    Scamp Dog says:

    @Marmot: because it leads to intolerable conclusions, like regulations against pollution, Big Government oppression in the form of lead cleanup efforts, etc.

  64. 64
    jibeaux says:

    I think one of the reasons property crime doesn’t go down is because, and you could probably make an argument that they shouldn’t, but the police really don’t give a damn. They take a report for insurance purposes and every once in a blue moon they’ll get lucky, as in catch someone while the damn alarm is going off, but that’s about it.

  65. 65
    MikeJ says:

    @Trollhattan: The smell was the least problematic thing coming out of that smokestack.

  66. 66
    scav says:

    @PeakVT: yes, but is does illustrate that their “personal responsibility” mantra is a canard, donned and doffed as immediately convenient. Pat Robertson even blames individual women for the sins of their individual husbands. (here)

    ETA and what is it English has against French ducks, let alone (new discovery) any link to an airplane with horizontal stabilizing and control surfaces in front of supporting surface

  67. 67
    👽 Martin says:

    It’s not about actual crime. Never been about actual crime. It’s about white people losing their dominance. Crime and fears of crime was always a proxy for that.

  68. 68
    Mnemosyne says:


    But why the spike in the late 70s? Any explanations?

    IIRC, that’s usually explained as the Baby Boomers coming into their prime crime-committing years in conjunction with serious economic upheaval. More people = numerically more crimes, even if the crime rate stays the same.

  69. 69
    Roger Moore says:

    @joel hanes:

    I’m betting on PBA or some hormone disruptor to be the culprit.

    I’m betting that you’ll see a very strong correlation between the decline in manufacturing and obesity. You don’t see a lot of obese people in physically demanding jobs.

  70. 70
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    “Personal responsibility” is for the little people, not for job creators and other masters of the universe.

    Especially not for vile sacks of cowardly shit like Pat Robertson.

  71. 71
    Jay S says:

    You’ve got a lot of apples to orange tree ring comparisons going on here. Two charts about homicide rates and one chart about a perception of more crime. The rate of one crime per capita is not directly comparable to the quantity of all crime per unit time.

    That said, I’m sure there is hard evidence that people’s perception of the risk of crime is mostly out of whack with reality. You are just using inappropriate data to demonstrate it.

  72. 72
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Black man’s in the White House. There’s a crime. Where’s your argument now, libtard?

  73. 73
    ericblair says:


    Also, the lead-and-crime correlation is close enough and plausible enough to get serious treatment. But when it comes up in mainstream places — like this Forbes blog — a lot of people dismiss it it of hand as conspiracy theory. Why do y’all think that is?

    To add to what Villago said, it’s hard to explain this away in the conservatard framework. The government forced businesses to stop polluting, and made the commie liberal hippies all happy, and now even unexpected good things are happening. The most charitable slant they give environmentalists is that we’re a bunch of well-meaning but deluded busybodies who don’t understand the future negative consequences of our actions, so having things turn out unexpectedly well is not part of the script.

  74. 74
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    we’re a bunch of well-meaning but deluded busybodies who don’t understand the future negative consequences of our actions

    More projection by assholes who can’t see beyond the end of the current fiscal quarter.

  75. 75
    scav says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: They outsourced it, much as they outsourced praying for their souls during the middle ages. Rack up the death-count, endow a few chantries.

    The things I’m learning about ducks. It’s looking like they haven’t a clue but are trying really hard to explain the constellation of meanings.

  76. 76
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    Note for those of you who are new here: this is snark. Poe’s law in action.

  77. 77
    MikeJ says:

    @scav: It’s not the english that have something against french ducks, the French came up with, “vendre des canards à moitié”.

  78. 78
    Marmot says:

    @Scamp Dog: I tend to agree, but there are well-accepted precedents, like asbestos and PCBs.

    Now that I’m thinking more, maybe it has to do with the assertion that environmental pollution led to mass behavioral change, rather than merely health effects.

  79. 79
    scav says:

    @MikeJ: That’s one I saw, but I’ve also seen it (the link ducks – duplicity) explained by ducks supposedly feigning a broken wing to draw predators away from the nest on one of the first page google responses.

    Eta. do like the duck derivatives though, and the half-sell instead of half-duck makes that origin a little clearer.

  80. 80
    Mnemosyne says:


    The most charitable slant they give environmentalists is that we’re a bunch of well-meaning but deluded busybodies who don’t understand the future negative consequences of our actions, so having things turn out unexpectedly well is not part of the script.

    The funniest part about that is that these are the same people who say that liberals aren’t allowed to point out that we were right about Iraq and conservatives were wrong because conservatives meant well when they invaded and it wasn’t their fault that they didn’t foresee the consequences of doing so.

  81. 81
    Trollhattan says:


    That plume was a heady blend of Free Market essence.

  82. 82
    Ridnik Chrome says:

    Speaking of crime and people’s boneheaded ideas about it, has anyone seen the trailer for that new movie “The Purge”? The basic idea is that in America circa 2022, for one 12-hour period once a year, all crime is legal. Rape, murder, robbery, arson, anything goes, one night a year. Sounds like some sort of futuristic dystopia where society has gone completely to hell, right? Wrong. In the America of the movie, crime is at an all-time low, because people “get it all out of their system” on that one night, and behave themselves for the rest of the year. Sweet Jesus, who but the most clueless and out-of-touch one-percenter would imagine that would be the result of such a policy? And of course, that’s exactly who the protagonists of the movie are, too — rich suburbanites in a big house with a state of the art security system. I swear, Hollywood is just as bad as the Village when it comes to knowing or caring how poor and working class people live their lives.

  83. 83
  84. 84
    Roger Moore says:

    @the Conster:

    Maybe kids stay inside more too, but nothing correlates like lead has.

    Of course, staying inside doesn’t help with lead exposure when you’re living in a dump with decaying lead paint. There is more than one route to lead exposure.

  85. 85
    DougJ says:



  86. 86
    Roger Moore says:


    But when it comes up in mainstream places — like this Forbes blog — a lot of people dismiss it it of hand as conspiracy theory. Why do y’all think that is?

    I think it’s for a several reasons. People prefer to think about personal responsibility rather than environment as a cause of crime. They don’t want to admit that we’ve been poisoning ourselves. They really, really don’t want to believe that they might have had their brains damaged by lead if they grew up during the time when exposure was worst.

  87. 87
    the Conster says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Agreed, but I think the point was that instead of out causing trouble, kids are attached to the console, presumably in a lead free space. I don’t think that explains the worldwide phenomenon however.

  88. 88
    pacem appellant says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Crime is up, according to Public Safety. I don’t have stats on violent crime.

  89. 89
    Yatsuno says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Needs moar typos for true wingnut effect. But a nice attempt nonetheless.

  90. 90
    Trollhattan says:

    @Ridnik Chrome:

    Pretty sure that was an episode plot of the Original Star Trek. Yup, this one:

  91. 91
    Seanly says:

    @Short Bus Bully:

    That was my SIL last week when we visited Nashville. She was packing 2 guns. Lots & lots of paranoia and misplaced fear.

  92. 92
    Seanly says:

    @Ridnik Chrome:

    This gets back to the previous post about fantasy novels – speculative fiction can allow one to examine aspects of society in a unique manner. In the case of the Purge, it is a world much like our own but safety & security are guaranteed except for one night. There are ways this could be handled with tack & grace and make the viewers examine their own preconceptions & prejudices about crime & personal safety. Or it could be a gory schlockfest with stupid plot-twists.

  93. 93
    MikeJ says:

    @Short Bus Bully:

    What’s bringing crime down? MOAR GUNZZ!!

    If insurance companies start suggesting that people carry, I might believe there is some sort of correlation. I’m not holding my breath.

  94. 94
    Pangloss says:

    EVERY type of crime is down. Here in Illinois, most types of crime are running about 60-120% lower than the Reagan years. In 2010 and 2011, murder was lower than at any time since 1965. Rape was at its lowest level since 1972. Robbery lower than any time since before 1960. Aggravated assault lower than at any time since 1972, and less than half what it was in 2001. Burglary lower than all but one year since 1966. Larceny lowest since 1969. Auto theft lower than every year but one (2009) since the 1950s….

  95. 95
    Ridnik Chrome says:

    @Seanly: Imagine taking the basic premise for “The Purge” and telling the story from the point of view of a poor family who are just trying to make it through that one night a year of total anarchy. Think of what somebody like the young John Carpenter could have done with that idea. Or maybe Spike Lee…

  96. 96
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    People are still trying to murderize the same or more, but technology has advanced to where we can save more of the murderees. Hence, the murder rate goes down.

  97. 97
    NorthLeft12 says:

    NEWSFLASH!! Most people don’t know shit about anything. Come on Doug, you really were not surprised by this were you?

    I have this same discussion with most of my relatives here in Canada too. Crime rates are dropping in spite of the “GANG WARS!!!!” TM occurring on a nightly basis on your local TV news. Nevermind that here in Canada they talk about the same violent incident for a week straight. Nobody seems to figure that out.

  98. 98
    Roger Moore says:

    That’s a great data source. Here in California, the burglary and larceny-theft rates are lower than they’ve been since 1960. My impression is that a huge part of that is that law enforcement has been very effective at cracking down on the use of pawn shops as fences, so theft simply doesn’t pay. Auto theft hasn’t dropped as much on a per capita basis, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s dropped as much or more per vehicle.

    The flip side is that you can see why people were so freaked out about crime back in the 60s and 70s. The violent crime rate here in California roughly doubled between 1960 and 1970, and nearly doubled again between 1970 and 1980. That’s a genuinely scary jump, and I can see why it was such a big deal.

  99. 99
    Trollhattan says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Buddy’s wife is convinced we’re headed to hell on a handcart because she volunteered in their kids’ grade school and “couldn’t believe how disrespectful the kids are.”

    So now they’re living in the hills (literally) amongst the roaming bears and mountain lions because of what’s going to happen “down there.” There, being where I live.

    Folks craft a narrative and expend just enough energy to flesh it out. Facts? Meh.

  100. 100
    eddie blake says:

    yeah, lead.

  101. 101
    Thlayli says:

    People dressed in plastic bags directing traffic.

    (Test post on the iPad version. V. nice)

  102. 102
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Trollhattan: Maybe she has a point. I had lunch with my kid at school today in the cafeteria and the language coming out of the mouths of seventh graders was shocking.

    I asked the school officials if it was okay to be vulgar and profane at lunch and they said, no, it was against the rules and could result in suspension but they didn’t do anything because there were too many kids and the kids didn’t curse around them. I told them I was sitting there for 15 minutes and saw five different kids using profanity. They said that’s because the kids didn’t look at me as an authority figure. I said, no, it’s because they don’t look at you people as authority figures that they figure they can curse in front of adults who are complete strangers.

    So my kid has to be subjected to the behavioral whims of poorly parented and ill-supervised children. Fucking white trash parents and lazy, ineffective bureaucrats will be the death of all of us.

  103. 103
    Ecks says:

    Late to the party, but the other reason you’d expect crime to be dropping is the aging population. It’s a well known pattern that as people age they become less prone to crime. Even former criminals tend to calm down, have kids, develop roots, etc.

    It’s part of the reason you don’t have to put people on jail forever most of the time.

  104. 104
    YoohooCthulhu says:

    I’m struck by how unaware the public is of this phenomenon:

    It actually looks like the answer to the question correlates best with economic performance. When the economy’s bad people just seem to think everything is terrible.

  105. 105
    Opie_jeanne says:

    @scav: parts of my husband’s family won’t speak to me because I found evidence of abandonment that they had wrapped in a romantic story of great great grandpa returning to the Old Sod, promising to send for the wife and kids, and then never heard from again. He took the youngest daughter with him, age 13.
    It was Divorce by abandonment, apparently agreed to by gr gr grandma who placed the two youngest in the orphanage and threw herself in the Harlem river. 1880. The older kids, 14 – 18, all had jobs. The two youngest rode the Orphan trains to Illinois where they were adopted.
    A lot of people prefer the bland fairy tale version.

  106. 106
    magurakurin says:

    @Ridnik Chrome:

    Sweet Jesus, who but the most clueless and out-of-touch one-percenter would imagine that would be the result of such a policy?

    Forget it Jake, it’s the will of Landru.

  107. 107
    Roger Moore says:

    Yeah, you have to be careful about all kinds of family histories. There are all kinds of ways that they get filled with wrong information. Stories get garbled with repeated telling, and uncomfortable details get left out. Some people just plain lie about their family history, either to claim better ancestors than they really had or to cover up the background of ones they’d rather not talk about. I’ve been told the latter is a common source of many claims of a “Cherokee Princess” ancestor; it was a way of hiding an African American in the family tree. And then there are more elaborate fabrications designed specifically to mislead people.

    I know of various versions of these things that have shown up in my family history. I’ve seen on family tree that backdates my parents’ wedding a few months to hide that my mother was pregnant when they were married. Supposedly my grandfather’s family drew up a whole fictitious family tree to prove to the Nazi authorities that they were Christian rather than Jewish. Neither one would fool anyone in my generation, but I can imagine that future generations who haven’t heard this stuff first hand might be fooled.

  108. 108
    Opie_jeanne says:

    @Roger Moore: one of my cousins had “proof” of his Cherokee ancestry because his great grandpa’s name was on a list of “escorts” on the Trail of Tears. That plus the word “captain” in front of his name made me sort of doubt his claim.

  109. 109
    Mnemosyne says:


    My paternal great-grandfather apparently tried that trick when he immigrated to the US, so my great-grandmother packed up the kids, took a boat from Italy to the US, and showed up on his doorstep.

  110. 110
    lol says:


    Would it kill people to actually read Drum’s piece on the Lead/Crime link before pooh-poohing it?

  111. 111
    Tyro says:

    @Ecks: that made sense when Baby boomers were aging out of the crime prone years and the much smaller GenX was aging into them, but the millenial generation is HUGE, and crime is still dropping.

  112. 112
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    “I don’t know what caused the precipitous drop in murder rates but I’m struck by how unaware the public is of this phenomenon:”

    You live in certain urban areas drug dealers are killing each other as enthusiastically as before. But I would like to see the street price of drugs graphed next to the murder rate.

  113. 113
    AHH onna Droid says:

    @scav: This is a staggering ignorant epitaph on an era that saw such horrors as the children’s crusade and the invention of grenades and biological warfare (hurling bubonic plague infected corpses into siege towns).

  114. 114
    nastybrutishntall says:

    @the Conster: Of course, a 100 day course of antibiotics will probably engender chronic health issues (autoimmune, GI & allergic) in a number of the treated. So it could be a wash in the long-run in terms of quality of life for a large minority. But it’s a fascinating finding.

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