Crime is down in Oregon — but why?

Doug Harcleroad
Senior Policy Advisor
Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance

Major newspapers in Oregon have recently written front page stories telling us that crime is down around the country and in Oregon. These stories are based on the Uniform Crime Reports compiled by the FBI and include seven serious crimes: murder, aggravated assault, forcible rape, robbery, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft (arson is sometimes counted as the 8th crime).

This is good news, and the 2009 numbers continue to show a drop in crime that started in about 1995. This 14-year trend downward is significant, and if it continues, may eventually reach the crime levels of 1960 – which would be a very good thing. More specifically, in 1960 there were about 60 violent crimes per 100,000 people in Oregon. In 2009, there were about 200 violent crimes per 100,000 people in Oregon. So…although the recent 14-year trend in serious violent crime is down in Oregon, we still have a long way to go to reach the safety level of 1960. The reason for this problem is that violent crime in Oregon rose 691% (this is not a typo – 691% is right) between 1960 and 1995. Thus, significant violent crime drops over the last 14 years have not made up for the 691% dramatic rise in Oregon’s violent crime which occurred earlier.

What has caused the 14-year significant drop in crime, and more importantly, what can we do to continue these good results?
• Crime analyst, Terry Smith, has studied the last 4 economic recessions and has observed that crime dropped in each of the recessions. Unfortunately, having recessions is not an acceptable way to reduce crime because of the other negative effects of a recession.

• Thanks to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission and other research groups, we know that individuals, particularly males, between the ages of 15 years and 30-35 years proportionally commit more of the crimes than the other age groups. We also know that this age group, as a proportion of our population, has declined, just as crime has declined over the past 14-15 years. However, regulating our population age groups is not possible or desirable in our free society.

• The significant drop in crime in the 1990s and through 2009, particularly in Oregon, corresponds with many states, including Oregon, passing so-called “get tough on crime” measures. Fortunately, Oregon’s measure was specifically targeted at 16 serious violent crimes; so although more prison space was necessary, it is only for the serious violent offenders.

As state and federal budgets become tighter and tighter, all areas should be looked at for cost savings. In the public safety arena, policymakers need to be careful that they do not undo the gains in lower crime rates of the last 15 years by reducing budgets to levels which will cause the crime rates to start to rise as they did from the 1960s to 1995.

Doug Harcleroad
Senior Policy Advisor

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Posted by at 10:31 | Posted in Measure 37 | 18 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Rupert in Springfield

    Crime is also down in Oregon as well as nationally due to another major factor. The increasingly pro second amendment view in both the populous as well as government, specifically “shall issue” carry permits.

    Violent crime peaked in 1991 and since then 24 states have passed shall issue laws. Since that time there has been a direct correlation in violent crime drop associated with counties that had previously banned the practice.

    Sure, correlation is not causation, but there is a strong link between passing shall issue laws and a drop in crime.

    It will take a long time to reduce violent crime to 1960 levels as it requires both expensive prisons as well as a change in mental attitude.

    Starting in the 1960’s we saw the development of the philosophy of no resistance. If someone approaches you and demands your wallet, hand it over as nothing is worth your life. We also saw this in terms of legal theory. If someone came into your house to rob you, you were obliged to flee rather than defend your property.

    Changing this attitude, which has been singularly destructive, will take time. We see signs of it, with changes to the law no longer requiring residents to retreat rather than defend their home as well as the increase in shall issue laws.

    This is a good thing and I think is half of the solution, along with incarceration, to getting our violent crime rate to 1960 levels.

    • valley p

      “Sure, correlation is not causation, but there is a strong link between passing shall issue laws and a drop in crime.”

      If there is a “strong link,”then the 26 states that have not adopted shall issue carry permits would have experienced LESS decrease in crime.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Quite true idiot.

        If there is a strong correlation with something, then by definition the subset lacking that thing would have an opposite correlation.

        Only you could think that stating the obvious converse of something is at all inspired.

        I’m sure everyone values your perspective from the idiot point of view.

        • Anonymous

          There is an implicit question in vp’s comment, Rupert. You are very clearly an expert on all things, and thankfully for us you also seem to be familiar with the statistics regarding this issue, so perhaps you can answer the question? Has there been less of a decrease in violent crime in states that have not adopted shall issue carry permits?

          • Steve Plunk

            John Lott studied this a few years back in a county by county study and concluded shall issue laws did have an effect on lowering crime. Other academic studies have confirmed his conclusions.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Lott is the most notable on this subject.

            I would have thought even the Dean could be bothered to look it up before a pop off but obviously not.

            Considering that John Lott was the subject of Chuck Schumer making a major fool of himself when Lotts work first became notable in the 90’s you would think Dean would have heard of him.

            Lott has studied this issue continuously for about the last 20 years. The results of his first study, which appeared in “More Guns Less Crime” in the 90’s were a major factor in the spread of “shall issue” legislation. Considering the number of states “shall issue” has occurred in, you would think anyone with interest enough to comment on the issue would be familiar with Lott or at least look up the research before doing a pop off.

            To say Lotts work is notable regarding “shall issue” legislation’s spread would be to severely understate the matter.

            He is brought up in every legislative body dealing with the topic, his studies are not at all hard to read, his work is available in just about every book store and he has been interviewed on TV and on the radio numerous times.

            Thus to be unaware of Lotts work is to say one has absolutely no knowledge of the issue.

            Were one to have any knowledge at all on the matter, one would have heard of Lott and had they checked they would see Lott has shown precisely what Dean stated above.

            So again we see two of the blog fools expose their ignorance on both Lott and their ability to even look something up.

            Two dopey peas in a pod – don’t know what these boobs are good at but as far as research goes investigating the bottom of a bag of Pork Rinds would be about as much of a challenge as these two could handle.

          • Anonymous

            Good morning, jackass. Glad to see your narcissism is still in full bloom.

            “There is no credible evidence that “right-to-carry” laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime.”


          • Steve Plunk

            Just looked at the Ayers paper. It doesn’t refute Lott’s thesis but merely offers alternatives and claims his conclusions can be refuted by changing data “slightly”. That’s a cheap trick. Most of Ayers summary talks about the politicizing of Lott’s work. It’s obvious Ayers was looking to discredit Lott rather than look at the issue from an unbiased point of view.

            There will always be competing studies but I find it interesting many of Lott’s detractors don’t do fresh studies as much as they just try to tear down his peer reviewed study.

          • valley p

            The National Academy findings are as neutral as you can get. They found that there is no demonstrated link between free to carry laws and crime reduction. Period. End of story. End of Rupert’s thesis.

        • valley p

          “Only you could think that stating the obvious converse of something is at all inspired.”

          I only state the obvious for you dear Rupert, because you so often manage to miss it otherwise.

          And congratulations on dodging the issue. I’ll take that as your confirmation that there is no “strong link” between free to carry laws and reduced crime. Maybe not even a weak link.

          • Anonymous

            LOL…I wonder if those who think like valley pee would post a sign in front of their home stating quite clearly that there are no firearms in the residence and the homeowner will not defend the property.

            Rupert makes a very valid point. It is no coincidence that the most crime ridden areas of the country also have the strictest gun control laws. Everyone should read John R. Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >And congratulations on dodging the issue

            What issue idiot?

            The idiot of the blog made a statement of the obvious – I pointed out that it was a statement of the obvious as well as that it was made by the blog idiot.

            Your incompetence at writing a single sentence as a question rather than a statement doesn’t confirm anything regarding “shall issue” permits. All it confirms is your complete and utter idiocy.

            This is the second time you have self affirmed your complete and utter inability to learn anything new. The first being your pontifications about the Wong case and the 14th ammendment having previously admitted you had never read Wong, never intended to but would continue to express opinions about its influence.

            What a silly fool you are this week!

            As a side note – is there anything you do well?

            I mean I have always assumed, and always stated here that you probably know a lot more about forestry and that sort of thing than most here. The reason why I think this is you frequently go on about how much money you make and I would assume it is from that field of endevour. I take you at your word that you are successful in that regard but I am beginning to wonder.

            I actually do think you are a certified idiot in more of a clinical sense – someone who can never find fault in themselves, blames others for even their own inability to ask a question and who has admitted openly that they are comfortable with not learning anything about a topic at all but expressing opinion on it nonetheless

          • valley p

            I’ll take your continued weird ranting as further confirmation that you agree there is no “strong link” between free to carry laws and reduced crime.

    • eagle eye

      It’s not worth getting shot or stabbed to try to keep your wallet. I’ve been there, more than once. If you’re saying resist an armed robbery to keep your money, forget it. If you need to resist to save your life, then do it, but you better have luck on your side.

  • a retired professor

    “so although more prison space was necessary, it is only for the serious violent offenders.”

    Perhaps true, but one thing my friendly acquaintance Doug neglects to mention is that Oregon prison costs are notoriously high by many measures. This is one area where the next Governor should really try to achieve some savings.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Good idea. A review of prison costs as well as possibilities to offset those costs is definitely needed.

    • eagle eye

      A good idea for all public agencies, to see how high or low they are compared to national practices, and look at whether some could have significant efficiencies or cost reductions, or for that matter, increases. There’s quite a lot of variation. I believe you’re right, prisons are way on the high side. The public universities are way on the low side. Most agencies are somewhere in between.

      Something the governor and legislators should be doing all the time, but you never hear anyone talk about this. Some people tried, a dozen years ago or so — both the Cascade Institute and the Oregonian were on the same page on this! — but as far as I know, it didn’t have much impact. Maybe too much for the poor overtaxed brains of our elected officials.

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