Although the three largest cities–New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago–continue to see falling crime rates, they’re almost alone, says analyst Eli Lehrer in The Weekly Standard. Last year, violent crime rose in over 70 percent of American cities with more than 100,000 residents. Why is crime up? Lehrer says two commonly cited factors, demographics and the economy, don’t explain much. The economy is healthy, and the last time the population of young men rose, 1995-2000, crime fell.
Lehrer cites three factors: “flagging federal leadership, prison neglect, and the growth of inner-city ‘street’ culture.” On the first point, he says the best police leaders miss the sense that the federal government cares about crime and thinks about policing. The U.S also is paying a price for its inability to reintegrate convicts into society; in an era of “get tough” zealotry, most states have cut funding for such efforts. As for cultural factors, Lehrer quotes University of Pennsylvania sociologist Elijah Anderson as citing “intense alienation” in some areas–“and it’s gotten worse.” He contends that increased immigration–both legal and illegal–has also helped to displace young African-American males “who look like criminals” and thus “don’t get hired” when they make efforts to join the legitimate economy.