Crime Down, Despite What You Might Think

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While television news shows and blaring headlines paint a picture of a society that seems to be becoming more violent and criminal, the opposite is actually the case in the United States.

Here's a fine way to start the New Year: with the knowledge that Americans are less likely to be robbed, shot or beaten up now than they have been at any time in the last 25 years.

This relatively rosy picture came to light with the recent release of an annual crime survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a branch of the U.S. Justice Department. The bureau asks 80,000 people 12 and older each year if they have been victims of a crime in the past year.

The bureau's most recent survey reveals that violent crime has continued an annual decline that started in 1991. Statistics show a sharp decline in the homicide rate in particular. Homicides have dropped almost a third since 1991, when there were 9.8 murders per 100,000 people. The figure for 1997 was 6.8 per 100,000.

And according to survey results, only half as many report that they had been a victim of theft or burglary as did back in 1973, when the surveys were initiated.

So where has this good news been? Reported, to be sure, but probably only once by each news outlet and probably not as the lead story. For example, the Dec. 28 New York Times carried the news on page A16.

Readers and TV viewers get the impression that crime is still rampant because every shooting, each major drug bust, gets a headline or video footage of its own. And they happen all year long.

But there's a balance to be struck, which we try to do here at the Roundup. Though good news may not be as compelling as a gang shootout, though it may not sell newspapers or make for dramatic television footage -- it's good, and it's news.

That's why we make it a point to keep our eyes and ears open for all kinds of news, including the good kind -- foster-care heroes, the achievements of our young people, the valuable work of volunteers -- and the reduction in crime.

We're trying to do our part to give you the good and the bad, because our lives are filled with both.

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