Recently released statistics reveal that the rate of violent crimes dropped significantly in the Bay Area in 2010. In fact, according to the SF Chronicle, violent crime rates are the lowest they’ve been in 44 years. To give you an idea of what that really means:
“We haven’t seen crime this low since Dwight Eisenhower was president,” said Barry Krisberg, a criminal justice expert at the UC Berkeley School of Law.
That’s an impressive reduction, and it entails a 10% drop in homicides in major Bay Area cities (yes, that actually does include Oakland).
Why have our cities gotten safer? Well, no one seems to know. Government officials and social scientists are puzzled. 2010 was one of the worst years of the Recession and, historically-speaking, desperate times are an incentive to crime.
Possible explanations include better policing – which seems unlikely, given the massive budget cuts – and the widespread use of technology like iPhones, which allows the average citizen to be more aware of high-risk areas, to more easily share safety information with friends, and to report crimes more efficiently, thereby deterring savvier criminals.
The iPhone explanation certainly holds up. But it’s possible that something less than explicable is at work here. This Recession – with its “wage-less recovery” and larger-than-life metaphysical presence in the media – has taught a lot of people to prioritize intangibles. Relationships, safety, a good night’s sleep – the best things in life are free, and an appreciation of these things may well contribute to a safer society overall.