Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The shrouded narrative

While the media fixates on mass violence, violent crime rates plummet nationwide.

By Jon Overton

A story is buried beneath the rubble from emotional explosions of the Boston Marathon bombing, Sandy Hook shooting and other national tragedies. It is a shrouded narrative that the media generally neglects to tell us.

Crime is not getting worse year after year.

Nevertheless, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll, 68 percent of Americans believe there is more nationwide crime than in the prior year and this general trend has been ongoing ever since the early 2000s.

A 2011 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that from 1992 to 2010, homicide victimization rates fell by more than half. Another report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics also showed that over the same period, violent crime rates fell by over 70 percent. Granted, there was an uptick in violent crime from 2010 to 2011, but overall, violent crime in the United States has plummeted.

This is great news, but what about mass shootings?

James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University published a chart in 2012 based on data compiled by the FBI and it showed no noticeable trend in the number of mass shootings, the number of offenders, or even the number of victims in the United States from 1980 to 2010.

Of course we should empathize with victims of homicide and violent crime, but we should also recognize that mass shootings are extremely rare and crime rates are collapsing.

Before busting out the champagne to celebrate declining violent crime and homicide rates, a disturbing trend also exists.

As of 2008, African Americans are six times more likely to be victims of homicide than white Americans and are also seven times more likely than white Americans to commit homicide. Although both victimization and offending rates fell roughly in half from 1991 to 2000, they have generally remained constant with small fluctuations since then.

In short, according to the data, African Americans are both more likely to commit and be victims of homicide than white Americans.

It comes down, at least in part, to racial segregation. Sorry, we still haven’t beaten back that pesky little bugger yet.

According to a 2010 study in the American Sociological Review, much of the higher violent crime rate among African Americans is because they’re more likely to live in poverty and due to residential segregation, frequently end up in impoverished ghettos.

The study read, “A high level of residential segregation may translate into elevated violence because it impedes employment networks and weakens attachment to the labor force, which may increase the likelihood that people turn to illegal activities, including violence, for income.”

Enacting stricter gun control measures is all well and good, but as the events over the last few months have shown, that won’t happen anytime soon. The real problem does not appear to be an uptick in gun violence per se, but rather the stark disparity in homicide rates between African Americans and white Americans.

The falling violent crime and homicide rates fit poorly with the media’s narrative of crazed gun-toting murderers on every street corner and the homicide racial gap is terribly awkward to discuss. Both narratives are blanketed beneath a shroud of bombastic blather, creating a fictional world that fits the mainstream media’s preferred version of the truth.

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