Is the Spiking Crime Rate in Some Cities a Function of Incarceration?

For the most part, US crime rates remain very low versus 20 years ago. Some major cities, however, are seeing spikes in violent crime. This has gotten some media attention lately.

So what I wonder about is the downward curve in these BJS figures for incarceration. The prison population seems to have peaked around 2009, and then entered a decline. Federal prison population kept rising for a few more years, but is now on a downward curve too.

I'm not sure how much the overall trend of not locking up as many criminals directly leads to more crime, although it's not implausible prima facie. I'm thinking particularly about the failure to enforce the Federal laws on gun carrying by felons. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, whose city has seen the most famous increase in violent crime, has been calling for more robust prosecution of these violations.

It's the one kind of gun control that the NRA has generally completely supported. Instead of trying to prevent law-abiding citizens from having guns, why not prevent criminals from having guns? On the other hand, there is legitimate concern about the mandatory minimum aspect of the Federal law -- especially the way that the offenses can quickly 'stack' so that a first-time offender is treated as a multiple-time offender. A 25 year mandatory minimum sentence is draconian if the offense is just carrying a gun, even if it is while selling drugs or while a convicted felon.

Of course, it may not be that there's one simple fix. It could just be that the society is trending more chaotic and competitive as economic times get harder. If so, increasing prison populations may merely be a band-aid for the real issue.


Eric Blair said...

1. 30 million abortions.
2. video games. (possibly computers in general).
3. 30 million aborted people not having children.

Grim said...

Those are explanations for why the crime rate went down, right? So why is it going back up? People aren't playing fewer video games, and if they're having fewer abortions it's got to be offset by the second-order effect you cite as your #3.

Eric Blair said...

Feguson effect. Basically, the police have stopped policing poor black neighborhoods.

But hey, that's what everybody was told was wanted.

Grim said...

If that's all it is, then it will sort itself out once people decide they want something else. I'm not sure, though. The economy is worse than the official numbers indicate -- a lot has been done to mask that for President Obama's benefit (and Hillary Clinton's).

douglas said...

I'd suggest it's all of these things in varying degree. Pure speculation, but I'd put the economy at the bottom of the list (not to say it's insignificant, but both less a direct factor, and there's less we can do about it in the short term for this purpose directly). Clearly, criminals being put in jail less, and for less time, and in California at least, being released early, has to have an effect, especially if we aren't prosecuting repeat offenders enough. I think Mr. Blair's point about Ferguson is what has made this more of a spike rather than a more typical growth curve.

No matter how you slice it, it's not good, especially for inner city poor folks. Not like the Dems care, so long as they still get the votes.

Ymar Sakar said...

The ring leader girl in the DePaul Chicago free speech raid on Milo's Republican student organization funded/organized speech conference, is the daughter of the one of the Chicago Superintendents, or similarly named bureaucratic support role for the Chicago Police Department.

An interesting web there. If things are going up in Chicago, it's because the activists at the bottom are sponsored and protected by the city's own bureaucrats and police.