Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s; the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. The victimization rate for other gun crimes plunged in the 1990s, then declined more slowly from 2000 to 2008. The rate appears to be higher in 2011 compared with 2008, but the increase is not statistically significant. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall also dropped in the 1990s before declining more slowly from 2000 to 2010, then ticked up in 2011.
Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% think it is lower.
The whys behind the drop in gun violence (and in crime in general) are more difficult to come by:
There is consensus that demographics played some role: The outsized post-World War II baby boom, which produced a large number of people in the high-crime ages of 15 to 20 in the 1960s and 1970s, helped drive crime up in those years.
A review by the National Academy of Sciences of factors driving recent crime trends (Blumstein and Rosenfeld, 2008) cited a decline in rates in the early 1980s as the young boomers got older, then a flare-up by mid-decade in conjunction with a rising street market for crack cocaine, especially in big cities. It noted recruitment of a younger cohort of drug seller with greater willingness to use guns. By the early 1990s, crack markets withered in part because of lessened demand, and the vibrant national economy made it easier for even low-skilled young people to find jobs rather than get involved in crime.
At the same time, a rising number of people ages 30 and older were incarcerated, due in part to stricter laws, which helped restrain violence among this age group. It is less clear, researchers say, that innovative policing strategies and police crackdowns on use of guns by younger adults played a significant role in reducing crime.
Here are some of the rules students live by at Harper High School in Chicago: Know your geography (whether you join a gang or not, you're in one). Never walk by yourself. Never walk with someone else. If someone shoots, don't run. These are just a few of the exhausting complexities that face the kids at Harper High, where 29 current and former students were shot last year. The reality on the streets leads the kids to one final rule: never go outside. This American Life spent five months at Harper High School. Part one of their report is a must-listen. Within a few minutes of the piece, you'll understand what one of the adults who was interviewed means when he says, "it ain't a fairy tale."
"The man stepped toward him, caught [Trevell] Coleman's eye, and grabbed for the gun. Startled, Coleman squeezed off three shots. The man winced, but didn't make a sound." That was seventeen years ago. Trevell Coleman never knew what happened to the person he shot, but he wanted to find out. From NY Mag: The Man Who Charged Himself with Murder.
In 1986, Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in the apartment that she shared with her husband. The police eliminated the husband and ex-lovers as suspects and the case remained unsolved for 20+ years until a pair of detectives pulled it from the cold case files and looked at the evidence with fresh eyes. Mark Bowden has the story in the latest issue of Vanity Fair.
Soon after the murder, [Sherri's father] Nels was shown sketches of two Latin male suspects, and the burglary theory was explained. There was no way for him to recognize the drawings, and the whole scenario did not make sense to him. He had to wonder about the competence of these detectives. The apartment showed signs of a protracted fight. Mayer estimated that the struggle may have lasted for an hour and a half. How could his daughter have fought off two men for that long?, Nels asked. There was the bite mark on her forearm, which led Mayer's partner, Steve Hooks, to conjecture that the suspect may have been a woman, on the theory that women are biters. But the notion was dismissed. Women don't typically engage in breaking and entering, and fighting men have been known to use their teeth. There was also the bullet wound in the center of Sherri's chest, and the hole and powder burns on the blanket. Mayer told Nels that his daughter had not simply been shot and killed; she had been assassinated. Why would a burglar do that?
Nels asked if they had checked to see if the lady cop had been working that day. Had they examined her, taken pictures of her? The answers were no. No one ever checked up on Lazarus. Mayer or Hooks or someone apparently did talk to her on the phone eventually, and the conversation was enough to close that line of inquiry. There is only one brief entry in the case file that mentions her, recorded on November 19, 1986, more than eight months after the murder. It reads, "John Ruetten called. Verified Stephanie Lazarus, PO [police officer], was former girlfriend."
No arrests were ever made. The evidence of Sherri Rasmussen's murder was packed away in commercial storage.
Update: I forgot to include this with the original post...it's a video of the hour-long interrogation of Stephanie Lazarus, the "lady cop" Nels is referring to.
As Rosenberg dug deeper into the subterranean world of Guatemalan politics, he told friends that he had begun receiving threats himself. One day, Mendizábal says, Rosenberg gave him a phone number to write down -- it was the number that showed up on his caller I.D. when he received the threats.
Rosenberg told friends that his apartment was under surveillance, and that he was being followed. “Whenever he got into the car, he was looking over his shoulder,” his son Eduardo recalled. From his apartment window, Rosenberg could look across the street and see an office where Gustavo Alejos, President Colom’s private secretary, often worked. Rosenberg told Mendizábal that Alejos had called him and warned him to stop investigating the Musas’ murders, or else the same thing might happen to him. Speaking to Musa’s business manager, Rosenberg said of the powerful people he was investigating, “They are going to kill me.” He had a will drawn up.
Anything by Grann is becoming a must-read at this point. (via someone on Twitter, I forget who (sorry!))
The cops also thought it was wrong to drop the case just because a piece-of-shit famous person might be guilty of shooting a piece-of-shit unfamous person in a piece-of-shit part of the city. If prosecutors required every witness to have a pristine record, one detective says, "most of the cases in the city wouldn't be solved." None of the cops doubted for a second that if Harrison was a plumber or a UPS driver instead of a famous athlete, he'd have long since been arrested.
I was drawn into Longo's life through the most improbable of circumstances -- after the murders, while on the lam in Mexico, he took on my identity, even though we'd never met. Starting from this bizarre connection, using charm and guile and a steady stoking of my journalist's natural curiosity (he was innocent, he was framed, he had proof, he would show me), he soon became deeply enmeshed in my own life. In the first year, we exchanged more than a thousand pages of handwritten letters. I wrote a book about him.
After I started a family of my own, I didn't communicate with Longo anymore. But I was not disentangled from him. I remained haunted by Longo, by what he'd done; nearly every day, as I held my own kids, images of his crime -- a child locked in a suitcase, or falling from a bridge, or fighting for air -- would flit through my mind and I'd flinch, as if I'd brushed against a hot burner on the stove.
This a brutal read, fascinating in places (especially the economics of death row part) but I have a hard time wrapping my head around what this guy did and how he feels about it.
Act Two. The Good Son. - A story about a mother who wants to commit suicide and a son who dutifully helps her do it-even though his mother is a happy, healthy, independent person. How did they manage to pull it off? Practice, practice, practice.
Even though I wasn't that familiar with the whole Jim Jones/Jonestown story, I felt like they rushed through the early parts of the story...might have worked better at 2 hours than at 90 minutes. The ending is great, a well-paced mix of personal narrative, photography, audio, and video from the last fateful day of over 900 people. After the movie ended, I was trying to imagine what would happen if Jonestown (or to a lesser extent, the Branch Davidian thing or Heaven's Gate) occurred today. Religious cult leader brainwashes all these people and then kills 900 of them in the South American jungle, including a United States Congressman? CNN, et. al. would got nuts for a start...I don't know if 72 pt. type on their homepage would be enough. The blogosphere would probably go supernova as well.