The Myth of the Good Ol’ Days

With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, and its ability to push high-profile case after high-profile case to the front of our collective conscious, it is no wonder that one age-old fear feels more well-founded than ever: Being alive today is less safe than is used to be.

If one considers only the seemingly never-ending deluge of mass violence and sensationalized tragedies, then the case would seem open and shut. But is it really?

A look at the numbers reveals that no matter how many heart-sinking acts of violence swallow up news coverage, it isn’t enough to topple realistic, statistical trends. Only if we mistake prominence for prevalence does the claim that things are worse make sense.

Statistics released by the FBI show violent crime rates are at near-historic lows. Property crime has dropped by 30.6 percent since 1991. Violent crime, which includes murder, rape, robbery and assault, has fallen by 38 percent since 1992.

Homicide rates are currently at a 40-year low, and nearly as low as they have been in the last century, and less than half than what the rates were at the highest point.

murderratesImage Source

I can only think of two ways that being alive today is realistically worse than it was 50 or 100 years ago.

  1. Acts of mass murder are more common, according to University of Alabama criminologist Dr. Adam Lankford.

    “Counting only random mass murders with at least two casualties, Lankford found that 179 such crimes occurred between 1966 and 2010, an average rate of 3.97 per year. From 1966 to 1980, there were 20 mass killings for a rate of 0.75 per year, but in the 1980s the rate doubled to 1.8 per year, tripled in the 1990s to 5.4, and went up 160% in the 2000s to 8.7 per year. The rate could easily reach 10 per year during the present decade. If one counts attempted mass murders, the rate is about 26 per year.”
    – Matt Bewig (AllGov.com)

  2. One’s personal tragedy is drastically more open to a national audience of nosy onlookers’ rubbernecking.

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