In a recent interview with The Atlantic, long-time NAS board member Barry Latzer discusses his new book The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America. The book offers explanations for the peaks and troughs of crime through his lens as an attorney and professor at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. His analysis is historically informed and complex:
Crime rates started to decline in the mid-1930s, at the same time that the New Deal went into effect. This may seem like cause-and-effect: unemployment and poverty were reduced, so violent crime diminished. But this is not necessarily correct. First, Prohibition ended in 1933, and that helped reduce murder rates. Second, the spate of bank robberies and kidnappings declined, partly because law enforcement apprehended high-profile perpetrators. Third, migration by blacks and Mexicans and immigration by Italians declined dramatically when jobs became unavailable due to the Depression. Finally, there was a severe downturn in the economy in 1937 and 1938, yet violent crime continued to fall. The American public was terribly damaged by the Great Depression—68 percent of Americans were below the poverty line in 1939—but this produced no increase in violent crime.
The entire interview is worth reading.
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