Quick answer to the question a lot of commenters have brought up: Are crimes against children down so dramatically simply because there are fewer children left outside to be victimized? And doesn’t that prove that we SHOULD keep our kids cooped up?
Very reasonable questions. But no: Keeping kids cooped up is not the cause of the crime decline — and so it’s not what we need to be doing.
The head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, David Finkelhor, points out that ALL crime has been declining since the early ‘90s – property crimes, assault, sex crimes against adults AND children. Something is driving ALL crime down, and Finkelhor pegs these factors:
* More policing.
* More aggressive prosecution of wrongdoers.
*Less tolerance of abuse in the family. You know how nowadays, if your kid goes to school with a black eye, the nurse or social worker probes to find out what happened? That kind of intervention is bringing more abuse to the attention of the authorities, who investigate and, when necessary, prosecute.
*Cell phones. These are a crime fighting tool two ways: First, we can use them to report any crime, anywhere – and even take pictures. Second? Criminals know this.
*Psychiatric meds. Finkelhor calls this the “sleeper” reason crime is down. More and more troubled people are being prescribed medicine to quell their demons. When the criminally insane feel less insane, they are also less criminal. Also, as Finkelhor points out, some of the medicine has a libido-dampening effect, too.
Taken together, these factors have contributed to the stunning drop in crime. A drop my book likens to “a graph of Hummer sales, Miami condo prices or birthday cards to Bernie Madoff. An unbelievably dramatic jackknife down.”
It’s not just kids who are safer, it’s everyone. So rather than keeping kids locked inside, we should feel less leery about sending them back out. Nationally, we are back to the crime rate of 1970. If you were a kid any time after that, in the ‘70s or ‘80s, times are actually safer now (even though, I know, I know – that’s hard to believe). I’m happy to talk about why it SEEMS so much less safe another time.
But for now — thanks for asking!
Meantime, if you are anywhere near the Park Slope Barnes & Noble on Wednesday night, May 6, at 7 p.m. I am doing a reading of my book: “Free-Range Kids.” (What a surprising title!) Love to see you there! The address is: 267 Seventh Ave. in Brooklyn. Bye! — Lenore