Preliminary figures suggest 2014 will continue a decade-long trend of falling crime rates, especially in major cities once plagued by violent crime, the Washington Post reports. Criminologists say the decrease is linked to several factors, some of which are the product of smart policing, others completely out of authorities' control. “I don't think anyone has a perfect handle on why violence has declined,” said Harold Pollack, co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. “So everyone is a bit nervous that things could turn around.”
Still, the numbers are encouraging: Chicago recorded an all-time high of 504 killings in 2012, but just two years later homicides were down to 392, and the overall crime rate has declined to its lowest level since 1972. Charlotte, N.C., recorded 42 killings last year, the lowest number since Mecklenburg County records began in 1977. Philadelphia’s murder total fell from 322 in 2012 to 245 last year. Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, pointed to four major factors contributing to the falling crime rate: Long prison sentences, improved community policing strategies, a changing drug market that has plunged the cost of heroin near historic lows, reducing crime associated with the drug trade, and and an aging population is less likely to commit crimes. The fastest growing segment of the population is seniors, an age at which far fewer crimes are committed.