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Falling Crime Rates Have Changed American Cities

The drop in crime in cities has extended American life expectancies, especially those of black men, and brought more wealthy people into urban areas.
January 18, 2018, 8am PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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American cities have become less violent in few decades, but Patrick Sharkey argues the causes and outcomes of this change are often misunderstood. In terms of the outcomes, falling crime rates have brought wealthy people into areas they had not lived in before and made some towns more tourist-friendly, but more importantly, the decline in violence has had a pronounced effect on American life expectancy, particularly for African Americans. "We found that the national decline in the homicide rate since [1991] has increased the life expectancy of black men by roughly nine months," Patrick Sharkey writes in the New York Times.

What caused this drop in crime is disputed. While Sharkey concedes that some of the drop in crime comes from problematic policing practices that put more Americans in jail, an under appreciated factor in making cities safer was the growth in anti-violence non-profits. "In a typical city with 100,000 people each additional nonprofit devoted to confronting violence led to a roughly 1 percent drop in the city's murder rate," Sharkey writes. He contends that these groups working directly with the community and law enforcement have the capacity to do yet more to curb violence and could be part of "a new model for combating urban violence." 

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Published on Saturday, January 13, 2018 in The New York Times
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