New reports have revealed a surprisingly happy fact about crime (or the lack thereof) in America. Experts don’t know what to make of these findings, except for the fact that it does show some positive change.
Police departments in major cities across the United States are arresting fewer people for low-level crimes.
A number of statistical studies show that misdemeanor arrest rates have fallen in several major cities. New York City’s misdemeanor arrest totals have fallen by 50 percent since 2010. Specifically, rates of arrest of African-American men have fallen in Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Durham, North Carolina over the last decade as well.
These findings conflict with the general thinking many major cities have a problem with over-policing.
Some experts think that the rise of the internet is encouraging people to socialize online instead of in-person where crimes might occur. Other experts believe the decrease in arrests is thanks to changes in crime prevention that lead to the police focusing on large crime hot spots rather than sweeping misdemeanor offenses across an entire city.
Jeremy Travis, a former president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, told The Wall Street Journal, “The enforcement powers of the police are being used far less often. [It is a] very deep reset of the fundamental relationship between police and public.”
Jose L. Lopez took over as police chief of Durham in 2007 and retired in 2015. He encouraged his officers to avoid making a misdemeanor arrest when they could issue a warning first. “We weren’t looking to make arrests,” Lopez said. “The job of a police officer is to guard and make the community safe. The job isn’t to put people in jail.”
The police officers of Seattle have made a similar change to focus on helping people rather than only putting them in prison.
“We were locking people up for minors things,” Christopher Fisher, chief strategy officer at the Seattle Police Department, told The Wall Street Journal. “There started to be a realization that you were often exacerbating the problem.”