Crime rates have been declining throughout the United States for years. Scholars agree that only a small portion of the decline can be attributed to the increase in incarceration, but they debate endlessly about what caused the rest of the drop. One possibility is improvements in policing. The removal of lead from many commonly used consumer products has also been suggested as a factor. Yet another possibility is sensible community corrections strategies targeted at reducing recidivism. Broad changes in American culture, although they are difficult to quantify, are also a possibility. (As James Q. Wilson wrote in 2011, “[t]he cultural argument may strike some as vague, but writers have relied on it in the past to explain both the Great Depression’s fall in crime and the explosion of crime during the sixties. In the first period, on this view, people took self-control seriously; in the second, self-expression—at society’s cost—became more prevalent. It is a plausible case.”)
Whatever the reason may be, crime continues to drop. Many predicted that current economic troubles — particularly the high unemployment rates of recent years — would lead to a national rise in crime, but crime rates have nevertheless continued to fall. These infographics provide striking visualizations of the decline.