Posted on January 6, 2022

Will the Crime Wave Soon Crest?

Barry Latzer, Wall Street Journal, January 2, 2022

Across the U.S., 2021 was a bad year for crime. The New York City Police Department reported a 4.1% increase in homicides over 2020. Chicago’s increase was 5% and Los Angeles suffered a 13% rise in killings. The 2021 figures follow a scary 2020, when the nationwide homicide rate (6.5 per 100,000) was the highest in 23 years.

The pandemic, along with dubious criminal-justice system reforms, undoubtedly made things worse. {snip}

But the pandemic won’t last forever, and a backlash already is stirring against reforms that fostered crime. The question is whether the factors cited above are the real reasons for the crime surge, or whether they mask longer-term trends pushing the country toward another 25-year crime wave such as the one that horrified the nation from the late 1960s to the early 1990s.

Thankfully the key factors that caused that wave—which I call a crime tsunami—aren’t present today.

The crime tsunami that began in the late ’60s was driven largely by three factors: large-scale rural-to-urban migration of African-Americans and immigration to big cities of Hispanic populations with high violent-crime rates, massive growth in the youth population, and a weak criminal-justice system. One might throw in a fourth: The crack-cocaine epidemic {snip}

Take immigration. The current immigrant population is characterized by low violent-crime rates. In Los Angeles, for instance, Asians are nearly 12% of the population, but they were only around 2% of the homicide victims in 2021. {snip}

Hispanic immigrants have much higher crime rates than Asians, but their rates aren’t out of proportion to their population numbers. In 2020 native and immigrant Hispanics were 11% of murder suspects and 12% of the victims nationwide, but they made up more than 18% of the U.S. population. By contrast, blacks, who were 13% of the American population, were half of the homicide offenders and 56% of the victims.

Yet a little-noticed migration trend may reduce crime in the next decade: a significant movement of African-Americans out of big cities. If this trend continues, it could portend reductions in crime. Low-income blacks, especially young males, commit a disproportionate amount of the violent crime in this country. That’s why their migration in the ’60s raised crime rates in cities. A recent analysis of census data by Politico found that from 2010 to 2020 nine of the 10 cities with the highest proportions of blacks (Houston was the exception) were losing minority population. {snip}