The Crime Conundrum: Essays on Criminal Justice

By Lawrence M. Friedman; George Fisher | Go to book overview
Second, over this two-hundred-year period, New York's homicide rates always have exceeded those of London by a factor of at least five. On the other hand, the rates were matched for a few years in the mid-nineteenth century by those of Liverpool. (See Figure Two.) The comparison reminds us that the U.S. has a long way to go to achieve parity with England and that the divergence is quite well established. A tradition of personal violence as old as ours will probably take decades to combat. The answers will not come easily, nor will there be a simple solution. But the record of European nations shows that it is possible to live with less violence.

Our contemporary analysis of crime depends upon a shared retrospective understanding of what has preceded us. Unconsciously, we use our vision of the past to help frame the present. "Things," we think, are getting better, or, perhaps, they are getting worse. We probably project the future in a similar way, but are never so foolish as to put it in formal terms. If in the future, our life in the U.S. is rocked by disaster, natural or social or political, then we will look back on our current discomforts as on a golden age. Obvious as such disasters are, few of us feel impelled to correct them, even though much retrospective ignorance is inherently correctable. The data reported upon here are being gathered in an effort to clear up one small area of common ignorance about violence.


Notes
1.
Douglas Lee Eckberg, "Estimates of Early 20th Century U.S. Homicide Rates: An Econometric Forecasting Approach", in Demography, Vol. 32, No. 1, February 1995, pp. 1-16.
2.
See Roger Lane, Violent Death in the City: Suicide, Accident, and Murder in Nineteenth Century Philadelphia ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979).
3.
Eric H. Monkkonen, "New York City Homicides: A Research Note", in Social Science History, Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer 1995, pp. 201-14.
4.
Eric A. Johnson and Eric H. Monkkonen, The Civilization of Crime: Violence in Town and Country Since the Middle Ages ( Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), pp. 6-7.
5.
See George P. LeBrun (as told to Edward D. Radin), It's Time to Tell ( New York: Morrow, 1962).
6.
Ira Rosenwaike, Population History of New York City ( Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1972), pp. 16-17.
7.
See Horace V. Redfield, Homicide, North and South, Being a Comparative View of Crime Against the Person in Several Parts of the United States ( Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1880).

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