Combating violence

July 25, 2013

Most Americans probably believe that society has become more dangerous over the past 30 years — and certainly that homicide rates among young people have risen. The fear of such violence has been fomented, at least in part, by a barrage of sometimes sensational media coverage focused on mass shootings, gangs, and urban violence.

Shortsighted politicians have exploited these fears. They have enacted a range of failed tough-on-crime measures, such as imposing mandatory minimum sentences and eliminating parole.

Despite the hype, the facts on violence and public safety offer hope. The homicide rate for older children and young adults is at its lowest point in at least 30 years, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention….

No one knows why homicides have dropped, though not steadily, over the past three decades. Theories — some of them bizarre — include the availability of legalized abortion, reductions in the amount of lead that children are exposed to, and even improved trauma care that boosts survival rates.

The United States remains one of the world’s most violent nations. Firearms were used in nearly 80 percent of all homicides over the past three decades.

Young African-Americans continue to be killed at rates nearly four times higher than the average for all young people. Moreover, progress for all groups appears to be slowing.

As communities and states combat violence, reason and pragmatism must guide their efforts — not exaggerated fears or the failed policies of the past.

— The (Toledo) Blade