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.















(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  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.


Looking at the above chart:  (  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:

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
Less Safe

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.


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:

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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