Falling Crime Rates in Big Cities a Key to Sustainable Future


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US Crime Rates Hit Lowest Level in 40 Years
We spill a lot of digital ink here on Treehugger insisting that dense, urban environments are crucial to the future of sustainable living. Lloyd has pointed out the numerous benefits to city living -- it's more efficient, less resource and energy intensive, and, since you're walking more, healthier as well. Moving to a city is one of the surest ways to reduce your carbon burden. But there's one key to unlocking all of the benefits on an even larger scale: People have to want to live in those cities. And in order for people to be attracted to city life, they have to perceive it as safe. Which is why the revelation that crime in cities has plummeted to the lowest levels in 40 years is some seriously good news for sustainability.Writing over at the Atlantic, Richard Florida parses the data released in the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report. "Crime -- both property crime and violent crime -- is down to its lowest level in 40 years, especially in America's biggest cities," he notes. On he goes:

Big cities posted bigger declines than the national average for property crime, which fell 3.9 percent in cities with populations of a million or more compared to 2.8 percent nationally ... Even more striking is the trend in violent crime, which is also down substantially in big cities. These crimes ... fell 5.1 percent in big cities with more than 1 million people. That's better than the decline for the smallest communities, with populations under 10,000 (4.3 percent)

So crime is down, and that's good news to a younger generation of affluent trend-setters that is increasingly seeking to move to denser, walkable communities. But why the decline in crime? And how can it be replicated?

Florida writes that "one factor frequently cited by criminologists is demographics. Crimes are more likely to be committed by young people, so the crime rate drops when the cohort of young people shrinks, as it has in the past few years. Better policing surely helps too, as has urban revitalization, which is bringing relatively prosperous singles, couples, families, and empty nesters into neighborhoods that had been in decline in years past, improving neighborhood quality and safety."

So aging populations, effective crime-fighting and gentrification are believed to be behind the drop in crime -- in other words, neighborhoods that are diverse in age demographics as well as ethnically, that are well-policed, and that benefit from an infusion of affluent settlers bring lower crime rates. As we continue to advocate a more sustainable urban lifestyle, this model should be kept in mind.

More on Sustainable Cities
Are Cities Green, Or Are We Just Pigs in a Factory Farm?
New York City: Sustainable City?

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