According to the FBI there is a resurgence of violent crime. The Bureau’s Uniform Crime Report indicates a 4% increase in homicides, assaults and other violent offenses during the first six months of 2006 compared with 2005. Perhaps more alarming is a 10% increase in robberies which criminologists sometimes regard as a bellwether of future trends. 2005 represented a 2.5% increase in violent crime compared with 2004 so there does seem to be a trend.
What could be the cause? Local law enforcement officials are critical of the Bush Administration’s focus on homeland security at the expense of traditional crime fighting. Demographically there is also an increase in the number of young men more inclined to commit crime.
I know the knee jerk response from conservatives will be to focus on our “culture of death.” True, culture does play an important part in crime. One can become jaded to violence through popular culture as well as a political culture that promotes endless war. I hope however that economic causes will not be overlooked in coming years. Young men with marginal skills are finding it more difficult to survive and have less hope.
If this trend continues one can expect conservatives will attempt to exploit crime as a wedge. It’s worked for them before and they’re losing ground on a range of other issues including fiscal responsibility, national security, values and global warming. With more Democrats controlling governorships and state legislatures it is likely conservatives will appeal to populist fear and distort the real causes of crime. Fear mongering through gay bashing, stoking anger against immigrants and paranoia about terrorists hiding underneath your pillow only goes so far after awhile.