The long-term drop in homicides is particularly striking in the nation’s three largest cities – New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, says USA Today. Homicides in New York have dropped 79 percent during the past two decades – from 2,245 in 1990 to 471 in 2009. Chicago is down 46 percent during that period, from 850 to 458. Los Angeles is down 68 percent, from 983 to 312.
The reductions have been so dramatic that violent crime virtually has disappeared from the national political discourse. “It certainly did not emerge in the (November) midterm elections, and it hasn’t been an issue of national public concern since at least 2000,” says Carnegie Mellon University criminologist Alfred Blumstein. Among factors in the decline: improved crime-mapping technology that has allowed police to deploy officers more efficiently at a time when many law enforcement resources are being directed toward anti-terror programs; crackdowns on gangs and community outreach programs that are being credited with thwarting serious crimes. There also has been a booming economy for much of the past two decades, and the absence of gang-fueled wars over a drug of the moment, such as the turf battles over crack cocaine that led to unprecedented urban violence in the 1980s and ’90s.