Friday, January 6, 2012

A safer place to live

In 2006, there were 377 recorded murders in Houston. In 2011 that number dropped to 198 - the lowest per capita number since the early 1960's. The number of violent crimes in the city also declined. Interestingly enough, at the same time the murder rate dropped over 26% from 2010, the economy tanked.

Maybe there's not the relationship we thought between economic conditions and crime. What else might account for the change?

Surely it must be the deterrent effect of the death penalty. That's what the law and order types tell us. You remember the stanza - you let the state kill enough people and the rest of the riff raff will get the message that it just isn't okay to go around killing people.

Only that's not it, either. According to the Texas Execution Information Center, the number of inmates on death row has decreased over the last ten years. Texas murdered fewer inmates in 2011 than in any year since 1996.

I have no idea what accounts for the drop in the city's murder rate. I'm sure there are folks who are combing through data trying to come up with some theory to explain it. For all I know the drought caused the drop. Maybe people throughout the city were more worried about how to maintain some semblance of green in their yards than they were about offing someone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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