Are We Living in More Dangerous Times? Part 2

In my previous blog, I asked the question are we living in more dangerous times.  Now I hope you have read my prior blog.  If not, now is the time to go back and read it.  This issue will make a lot more sense if you have read the first part of this blog.  Everywhere you go it seems that people are concerned about the threat of violence and mayhem.  The newspapers provide daily grist for the mill. Each day brings a never ending series of sordid tales of rape, debauchery and brutality to our fellow citizens.  Who do we blame for this? Should we blame anyone or is it all in our imagination?

Let’s look at some statistics which while they are admittedly broad brush strokes (i.e. not your local town data) will still tell us something about the state of crime in our world.  The first statistic is the murder rate.  Now since the population has grown a great deal each year we need to look at the per capital murder rate, that is the rate adjusted for population growth.

REGIONAL MURDER RATES, 2001 – 2011


MURDER RATES PER 100,000 PEOPLE

REGION

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

EXECUTIONS
(As of 1/17/13)
South 5.5 5.6 6.1 6.6 7.0 6.8 6.6 6.6 6.9 6.8 6.7 1080
Midwest 4.5 4.4 4.6 4.8 4.9 5.0 4.9 4.7 4.9 5.1 5.3 155
West 4.2 4.2 4.6 5.0 5.3 5.6 5.8 5.7 5.7 5.7 5.5 82
Northeast 3.9 4.2 3.8 4.2 4.1 4.5 4.4 4.2 4.2 4.1 4.2 4
NATIONAL RATE 4.7 4.8 5.0 5.4 5.6 5.7 5.6 5.5 5.7 5.6 5.6

 The above chart from http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state#nat1970  shows us several facts. Sorry, I could not get the entire chart in this blog. The link above will take you to the actual chart which includes some additional data not able to be seen on the chart above.  Of primary importance is the number of executions for murder by each region.

  1. The murder rate has actually declined from 2001 until 2011.
  2. Executions do not seem to have any impact on homicide rates.  In fact, the reverse looks like it could be supported in that states with fewer executions have a lower homicide rate.
  3. The Northeast looks quite a bit safer than the South.

If you are interested in state and city data, you will find it on this same website.

The next statistics to look at would be the rates for burglary or home break-ins, assaults, car thefts, rapes and violent crime. One could argue, that any one of these statistic is much more likely to leave us feeling nervous and insecure than the murder rate. We all fear the thought of some deviates breaking into our house, assaulting, attacking or raping us.

The following chart is too small to read but if you click on it, you will enlarge it and be able to see the figures more clearly.

Image

Looking at the above chart:  (http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/crimestats)  you can see that from 1992 through 2011, the following happened despite the increase in population:

  1. Violent crime rate dropped from 757.1 per hundred thousand to 386.3
  2. Rape rate dropped from 42.8 per hundred thousand to 26.8
  3. Burglary rate dropped from 1,168 per hundred thousand to 702.2
  4. Vehicle theft rate dropped from 631.6 per hundred thousand to 229.6

If you are interested in regional, city or state data, you can find it at this website or various other websites such as for Arizona:  http://www.azdatapages.com/datacenter/crime/fbi-ucr-crimes.html

Now granted, there are wide spread differences between cities and between states but the overall crime stats are such that at least nationally, most people should feel much safer and more secure.  This is obviously not the case.  The following data was taken from a Poll by CBS in 2009.

Do Americans feel safer now than before 9/11? For many, the answer is no, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll.

Fifty-four percent of Americans say they generally feel safe, but 46 percent say they feel somewhat uneasy or in danger.

Compared with five years ago, 39 percent of Americans say they feel less safe now, compared with only 14 percent who say they feel safer. Forty-six percent say they feel the same.

More also say the threat of terrorism has grown since 9/11 than said so a year ago. Forty-one percent say the threat has increased since the attacks, an 11 percent jump from last year. Just 14 percent say the threat has decreased, while 43 percent say the threat has not changed.

How safe do you feel compared to five years ago?

More Safe
14%
Less Safe
39%
Same
46%

I could not find more recent data for this than 2009, but my guess would be that there has been a continued decline in how safe people feel.  Let us summarize the key points so far.

  1. People feel less safe in the USA than they did years before.
  2. The behavior of most people seems to slide towards more fear of being attacked and the need arm themselves or take other preventative measures: e.g., guard dogs, security systems, gated communities, pistols, concealed weapons, assault rifles, neighborhood watch groups, etc.
  3. The Crime Stats show we are actually safer than anytime in the past 20 years.

Thus, the simple conclusion should be that threat of crime is a growing perception but not a growing fact.  What is the answer for this paradox?  Why are we more afraid, when we should be less afraid? Why are we carrying more weapons, when we do not need to?  Why are we barring our gates, alarming our homes and spending huge amounts on safety, not to mention curtailing our lifestyles, when in reality we should be dancing in the streets?  Perhaps, some areas are more dangerous, some cities have higher crime and indeed some areas should be avoided by the prudent, but on the whole, we are a safer and less violent country than years ago.  So WHY the FEAR?  Is it simply a sign of an aging population or is it the media and news obsession with crime that creates a distorted image in our minds and paralyzes some of us with a fear of becoming the next victim or headline?  Maybe you can send me your thoughts on this question?

Ok, time for questions.

What is behind the increase in fear in our society?  What can we do about it? What do you do in your life to help overcome the fear that seems to surround us? What changes do you think we need to make in this country to reduce the fear and violence in our society?

Life is just beginning.

PS:

I just had to add this PS. After writing this article I was driving to a meeting and heard the following news report on NPR.  Apparently a family making maple syrup in their home was raided when neighbors reported the funny smells and called the police to report the house as a suspected meth lab.  The full report can be found at:  http://www.informationliberation.com/index.php/a/?id=42835

The mother living at the home reportedly gave the SWOT team each a bottle of maple syrup to take home. She then told the reporters that she wanted to invite any of her neighbors to a Pancake Dinner at her home where they could try her maple syrup.

This TRUE story illustrates the “paranoia’ that seems to plague our country today.  No one is safe from “imagining” a fantasy of criminals just waiting to ravage our homes and neighborhood.  Add the “Illegal” immigrants to this potpourri and you have a volatile mixture of fear, xenophobia and hysteria. “Hold it, I see a bunch of young Arab kids grouped together across the street, I need to call Homeland Security, they could be plotting another Arab terrorist attack.”

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Aside

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Pete Raye
    Feb 18, 2013 @ 14:28:48

    I think the source of our fear has many causes. Well crime rates are lower than in previous times, we learn of high crimes immediately due to media today. Media tends to sensationalize any news. So…. Media is somewhat more responsible for our fears. As I age, I feel more vulnerable to violence. I’m less able to defend my self or my family. I recall my Father complaining about my generation. I’m sure his Father complained and on it goes. Bottom line; multiple causes. Pick one, stick with it and you’re right. I sort of like the blind men describing an elephant. Thanks for the thoughts. Pete

    Reply

  2. Karen Shepherd
    May 19, 2013 @ 01:02:03

    Hello John
    Nice to see your new blog. Always value your thoughts. I was wondering if you would like to share your views on ageing in terms of identity? My elderly father passed away recently which in turn made my mother question her own ageing.
    Karen
    Australia

    Reply

  3. Karen Shepherd
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 23:01:27

    Dear John,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write about the death of a loved one. I can see you have considered the value of a partner in your own relationship with Karen. Death does make you re evaluate your own relationships.

    Spending time at my fathers bedside in the months before he passed away allowed me to say goodbye in an orderly fashion and I was prepared to let him go knowing that he would be free from pain and at peace.In a sense I was fortunate to have had that opportunity. But all along I knew that his passing would bring loneliness to my mother and perhaps that is more my grief now and hers. It’s not that he died but it’s the loneliness his passing has created. That is not intended to sound heartless. You write –

    “There is something that evokes sorrow in me that has more to do with loneliness than death..”

    This rang so true when I read this.

    “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Buddha had some wise words.

    I gently use this approach with my own mother trying to shift her thought process. But I acknowledge that no words of mine will truly alter what her mind has to process in its own time. My words will only serve to tell her that she is loved in this moment.

    I find it difficult moving forward trying to deal with my fathers death because of my mothers loneliness, as I live overseas from her. If I were to concentrate on my own needs moving forward would be easier to deal with, as I accept the sadness of my fathers passing.

    To offer something constructive to your blog – in dealing with my own feelings I try to see each day at a time and try not to look at the big picture. I am truly conscious that things are going to get better and that helps my emotional well being. My father passed away 8 weeks ago. I recall thinking to myself at the time of his funeral .. just deal with today and soon I will be able to look back on it. When I look back I know that with each day, I have taken a step forward. It really helped my mindset.

    You quote – 1815 February 5. (to John Vaughn). “…nothing is more incumbent on the old, than to know when they should get out of the way, and relinquish to younger successors the honors they can no longer earn, and the duties they can no longer perform.”

    Vaughan words are so sad to read – that is the circle of life. However, I too think your elderly aunt is a wise one..

    I jokingly asked her if she was not “Old” and she pensively replied “Why I guess I am, I just never think about it.” She lives in the present and maybe that is the elusive secret of happiness or satisfaction.

    Perhaps if my mother were to focus on life in small bites, like living for the day rather than focusing on her life as one big picture – things might fall into place with more meaning and less emotional stress.

    Thank you for your kind words and for exploring this with me..it has been a helpful exercise. Hopefully someone else will find something useful in this.

    Kind regards
    Karen

    Reply

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