Despite what a majority of Americans believe, violent crime has dropped precipitously in the past two decades, a decline which continues today. As of 2013, the violent crime victimization rate is 71 percent lower than it was in 1994. This is measured by the U.S. National Victimization Survey. The survey reveals that the age range of 12 to 24 year olds is the group most likely to commit crimes. Violent crime rates among this group fell 78 percent since the mid-nineties.

Public Opinion in Syracuse

In large cities in particular we’ve seen dramatic drops in violent crimes. Washington D.C., for instance, has seen a 76 percent decrease in murders and Los Angeles a 90 percent decrease. This is eye opening news to Americans. In a Gallop poll a majority of adults said that crime is on the rise. In a 2013 poll, Americans said that the number of gun crimes exceeds what it was two decades ago. In questionnaires, New York City steadily comes in second for the country’s most violent city, but in reality New York has half the violent crime rate of Dallas and Houston (which are routinely thought of as the safest large cities).

Reasons for the Drop in Syracuse

Experts can’t seem to agree on the reason for decreases in violent crime. In an article written for Forbes, Neil Howe sets out the different theories and then debunks them. The prosperity theory states that crime rates drop when the economy is doing well and rise when the economy is tanking. Howe points out that during our most recent recession violent crime continued to decrease, so the prosperity argument doesn’t work. The incarceration theory argues that violent crime is down because we have so many of the bad people currently incarcerated, and thus unable to commit street crimes. But this doesn’t hold up either. In states where they have decreased their jail and prison populations, crime continues to drop. And finally the death penalty argument: some experts opine that the death penalty deters people from committing murder. Not really. Crime rates were at some of the highest points during the same period that states were utilizing the death penalty more than they currently do.


The fact that violent crime is down suggests that police and prosecutors have more time and resources to go after those who commit offenses. The additional resources and effort place a defendant at a marked disadvantage from periods when prosecutors were overwhelmed with cases. Today, perhaps more than ever, defendants need expert legal representation to deal with their criminal charges.