If communities get too smug about the falling crime rate, it won’t continue falling, editorializes USA Today. Experts trying to explain the drop cite a range of factors – large-scale incarceration, better policing and police technology, an aging society, among other things – without any real sense of how much of a role each factor plays or how they interact.
While crime is down overall, it is not down across the board or in all places. Crime among young, African-American men – many of them without strong male role models in their lives – has not dropped much. This suggests that certain inner-city pockets could regenerate a broader contagion unless difficult sociological problems are addressed. With the economy wreaking havoc on state and local budgets, the temptation to cut policing and crime prevention programs is strong. States have experimented with shortening prisoner terms. USA Today endorses that “if it merely affects non-violent criminals caught up in excessive mandatory sentence programs enacted when crime was big political theater. But early release programs for violent offenders, designed to save money, appear shortsighted and counterproductive.”