How’s life in your urban hellhole?
I kid, of course. People often think of big cities as hotbeds of crime—an impression that the “if it bleeds, it leads” nightly newscasts help to foster. But the reality is very different. Today, the Northwest’s big cities are safer than they’ve been in decades.
Preliminary 2010 statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports suggest that Northwest crime rates are continuing the declines that began decades ago. And over time, the biggest cities have seen particularly sharp drops. Today, Portland and Seattle have slightly lower violent crime rates than some smaller Northwest cities, such as Spokane. And among the nation’s largest cities (those with more than 500,000 residents) Portland and Seattle rank 8th and 10th, respectively, for the lowest reported rates of violent crime.
Of course, regional drops in crime are all part of a larger national trend: crime rates have been falling dramatically in the US since the early 1990s. Much of that shift is simple demographics. As the Baby Boom generation moved out of the crime-prone teens and 20s, crime rates fell. Smaller numbers of young men explain a surprising share of the drop in crime.
But in spite of all this good news, when you ask people about their opinions on crime trends, you hear a different story. According to the University of Albany’s Sourcebook on Crime Statistics, year after year after year, most people say that crime is getting worse. In fact, during the period of the steepest declines, the public got the general direction of crime trends right only once: in 2001, when 41 percent said that crime was increasing, and 43 percent said it was decreasing. What this shows me is that if you want the true crime story, you’ve got to stick to the facts—opinions and hearsay will get you nowhere.
Doesn’t a 1 in 100 or 1 in 200 odds per person per year of a violent crime seem high? Am I interpreting this right?
I think you are interpreting it right. Remember that most violent crimes are committed by people who know one another—often family members, neighbors, coworkers, etc. So the rate of crimes by strangers, which is what most people think of when they think about crime risks, is much much lower than this.
I’m afraind not. You’ve inverted a population measure to create a personal risk ration. It doesn’t work that way. The chart indicates that there are about 5 violent crimes per 1000 people per year in each of the two cities. If crime were spread uniiformly among the populace and you were exempt from having more than one act of violent crime committed against you in a given year, you might interpret that as everyone having an equal one in 200 chance.Sadly, as past Sightline and Northwest Environment Watch work points out violence, especially family violence, does not have any exemptions. Most victims of violent crime are not random strangers, but instead know their attackers, and suffer repeated attacks, even with police intervention.If you are the typical Sightline reader, your odds of violent crime are pretty small, much small than simpleaverages would suggest.
I blame all the establishment media getting their jollies off of crime reporting for the fear & paranoia. That said, most violent crime is likely either by somebody who knows the victim or like when I went thru a gun crime clustered in neighborhoods where illegal drugs, gangs and the like exist.