According to a new report by the FBI, the number of violent crimes in the USA dropped significantly in 2010, to its lowest level in 40 years. The number was down by 5.5% from 2009, which was in turn down by the same amount compared to 2008. The New York Times reported that experts were “baffled” by the good news:
“Striking,” said Alfred Blumstein, a professor and criminologist at the Heinz C0llege at Carnegie Mellon University, because it came “at a time when everyone anticipated it could be going up because of the recession.”
Viva Leroy Nash
Prof. Blumstein was equally baffled in 2003, when the rate of violent crime touched a 30-year low, with a drop of 54% from 10 years earlier. “The only thing I can think of that can be seen as contributing to a downward trend is some sense of cohesion that’s emerging as a result of the terrorist threat or the terrorist reality,” the Christian Science Monitor quoted him as saying. “Other than that, I don’t see much that should be contributing to this decline.”
Well, with all due respect to the learned professor, there is an explanation – and an obvious one. It’s called the aging of the population.
Despite some colorful outliers like Viva Leroy Nash, pictured above – the oldest inmate on Death Row when he died in 2010 at age 95 – it remains an indisputable fact that most violent crime is committed by young males. As Statistics Canada points out…
The demographic variable that appears to most influence crime is the size of the male population in the crime-prone years of 15-25. As such, it has been argued that the age structure of a society has the most influential effect on the level of crime in a society. In those societies with large proportions of young males, there tends to be a higher crime rate. Conversely, in societies with an aging population, the crime rate tends to be lower. The aging population…has meant that there are proportionately fewer people in this crime-prone age group compared to the late 1960s…when a large portion of the male popoulation was in that age bracket.
What’s interesting, too, is that not only do older citizens commit far fewer crimes, they are also less likely to be victims. A Statistics Canada study in 2005 reported that people under the age of 65 were three times more likely to be the victims of a crime than those 65+. A similar study in the USA, in 2000, reported a 10 to 1 ratio.
It’s not hard to figure out why. Older citizens are much more careful about putting themselves into situations where they can be victimized. They’re not in clubs, they’re not walking the streets late at night, they’re much more cautious. The results are no surprise.
Perhaps all the people crying doom and gloom about the impact of aging on the health care system should be prepared to offset the higher costs by the savings from a dramatically reduced crime rate.