Five Crime Myths
are at least five major myths about crime that exercise a powerful
influence over criminal justice policy, despite the fact that they are
demonstrably false. They are:
Myth 1: Street Crime Is Increasing
Reality: As studies have shown, street crime dropped slightly. In the
last twenty years, robbery has dropped 17 percent, forcible rape dropped
30 percent, and murder has stayed the same. Overall, rates for most
categories of crime have been either stable or slightly declining.
Myth 2: Street Crime Is More Violent Today
Reality: Street crime is no more violent today that it has been in
other periods in American history. The serious violent crime rate for
the United States stands 16 percent below its peak level of the
mid-1970s. In the mid-1800s, several cities were convulsed by urban
riots far deadlier that those in Los Angeles in 1992. Juvenile gangs
commonly beat and mutilated Chinese immigrants in San Francisco in the
late 1800s. Homicide was the eleventh leading cause of death in 1952.
Today, it is tenth. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of contemporary
crime is nonviolent. Injuries occur in just 3 percent of all reported
Myth 3: More Police Officers Are Being Killed
Reality: Policing is highly stressful, but it is not the most dangerous
line of work. Farmers are twice as likely as police officers to be
killed on the job. Largely because of bulletproof vests, killing of law
enforcement officers dropped by half. Police officers spend most of
their time doing routine administrative tasks or in peaceful contact
with civilians. Most officers spend their entire careers without
fighting a street battle with firearms.
Myth 4: Street Crime Costs More Than Corporate Crime
Reality: Corporate crime, like the savings and loan scandal, costs
Americans far more than street crime. According to the Justice
Department, all personal crimes and household crimes cost approximately
$19.1 billion. The comparable cost of white-collar crime is between $130
billion and $472 billion -- seven to twenty-five times as much as
street crime. Moreover, many more people die from pollution that from
homicide. There are six times as many work-related deaths as homicides.
Myth 5: Criminals Are Different from the Rest of Us
Reality: Actually, criminals are not that different from the rest of
us. Many Americans admit to having committed a crime punishable by a
jail sentence sometime in their lives. These crimes include failing to
report income, filing a false expense report, drunk driving, illegal
drug use, stealing, and spousal assault.