We have jailed too many young men. There are too many instances of bad policing. How can we create a future with less crime and fewer inmates? Edward Glaeser reviews ‘Uneasy Peace’ by Patrick Sharkey.
As 2017 came to a close, early projections indicated that America’s overall murder rate for the year was poised to fall, ending a two-year upward trend in American homicide. Among the country’s largest 30 cities, however, the results were roughly split between cities like New York, where the murder rate fell, and places such as Baltimore, where the number increased.
Patrick Sharkey’s insightful and engaging “Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence” helps us take stock of the past 50 years of crime in America. Mr. Sharkey is a sociologist at New York University and provides an excellent introduction to America’s up-and-down urban-violence roller-coaster ride. Most important, he offers an antidote to those who think that the police are more the problem than the solution. He urges a middle way for fighting violence, combining neighborhood self-regulation with more effective, more socially astute policing.
The book asks three questions. Why has crime declined so much since the 1990s? How big were the benefits from that decline? How should we reform crime fighting in the shadow of mass incarceration, the Black Lives Matter movement and the high murder rates in cities like Chicago and Detroit?
Crime waves and their reduction can be roughly attributed to two causes: the presence of easy targets; and the supply of crime-prone individuals, such as the “superpredators” made famous by John DiIulio. Mr. Sharkey wisely emphasizes changes in the costs and difficulties of crime rather than any fundamental changes in human nature.
Edward L. Glaeser is the Glimp professor of economics at Harvard University, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and contributing editor at City Journal.