Big Cities Are Safer Than Ever: US Crime at Lowest Level in 40 Years

Big cities = crime-filled cesspool. That’s the stereotype I grew up with; it was enforced by cop shows, crime dramas, and the incessant urgings of my parents to put my wallet in my front pocket whenever I entered any city larger than the 20,000-person town I grew up in. Not to mention that around the time I was 10, in the early 1990s, crime in US cities had reached pretty scary peaks.

But no more. New studies have found that crime around the nation is way down, especially in cities with populations over 1 million. The Atlantic reports:

Crime — both property crime and violent crime — is down to its lowest level in 40 years, especially in America’s biggest cities, according to newly released data from the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report. The data was collected from January through December 2010 and breaks out metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas as well as cities of various sizes. For the fourth year in a row, there has been yet another substantial decline in crime: 5.5 percent fewer murders, forcible rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults were reported in 2010 than in 2009; property crimes fell by 2.8 percent over the same period and reported arsons dropped by 8.3 percent. “In all regions, the country appears to be safer,” reports the New York Times. “The odds of being murdered or robbed are now less than half of what they were in the early 1990s, when violent crime peaked in the United States.”

This is really good news for one major reason — cities are the key to sustainable living. Dense, urban areas do wonders to decrease the resource consumption and carbon footprint for those who live in them. Grist’s Dave Roberts has a good piece on the importance of cities, so read that for more — but suffice to say that living closer to everything (food, goods, transportation), generally everything we do more efficient. Cities have the added benefit of encouraging walking and other healthier forms of personal transportation. In other words, if we want to lessen our burden on the planet — something that will be all-important in an ever-crowding world — we’re going to have to move into more cities.

But none of that matters if we don’t want to live in them. So that’s why it’s great news both that crime is drastically down in cities, and that young people are flocking to them in larger numbers than ever.

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Photo credit: Trodel via Flickr/CC BY-SA

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant is a founding editor of the Utopianist.. When he's not helming the Utopianist, he is TreeHugger's politics writer, contributes the Getting Samy Out of Burma column to, and freelances for the likes of Salon and Paste. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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