Majorities of Americans report being fearful of criminal victimization even though crime is decreasing, says the Urban Institute’s John Roman. Much of what the public has been told about crime in the popular media is not true, he says. In a blog post, Roman explores ten popular crime myths. Crime overall is not getting worse, he says: “I f you are under 40, on average you are safer now than you have ever been.” A few other myths: Criminal investigators have enormous data systems at their fingertips that track virtually everything about all of us. In fact, police do have access to lots of data, but typically use it to find a known suspect rather than identify an unknown suspect.
It’s a myth that forensic examiners (CSIs) investigate crimes, carry weapons, and can process complex crimes in minutes. “The typical piece of DNA collected from a crime scene takes months to process (if it is at all) and the civilian processing it is different from the evidence collector.” Under one percent of all serious crimes are solved by DNA and fingerprints do only slightly better. Fingerprint matches are entirely subjective and we have no idea whether the cliché that all fingerprints are unique is actually true, Roman says. There is no epidemic of children being kidnapped from their homes in the dead of night. The FBI estimates that in 2008 a total of 155 children were kidnapped by strangers, thus a child is about 5 times more likely to drown than be kidnapped. Serial killers may account for one percent of the nation’s annual 15,000 homicides.