Why is crime falling? Here’s 15 possible reasons.

Earlier this week, I did a posting about the dramatically falling levels of most crimes across many developed countries. I explained that nobody was sure of the explanation.

In today’s “Observer” newspaper, political columnist Andrew Rawnsley devotes his weekly piece to the subject and floats no less than 15 possible reasons:

  1. The reduction of lead in petrol. (Lead in the atmosphere deforms the brain.)
  2. The proliferation of CCTV. (Criminals know they are much more likely to be watched.)
  3. Car immobilisers and home alarms. (It has got harder to commit a crime.)
  4. The steep decline in the cost of consumer goods such as televisions. (A lot of stuff that used to be stolen really isn’t worth nicking any more.)
  5. The much bigger size of consumer goods such as televisions. (It ain’t easy to get a 40-inch plasma screen through a window.)
  6. More liberal abortion laws. (The controversial theory advanced by the authors of “Freakonomics” who argued that making it easier to get an abortion has diminished the number of children born into the underclass.)
  7. An ageing population. (Most crime is committed by young men and most of their victims are other young men. Fewer young men means less crime.)
  8. Rising numbers of women. (They are much less likely to commit crime than men. The proportion of the population that is female is going up.)
  9. A more feminised society. (Men are becoming less larcenous and dangerous under the moderating influence of the more law-abiding sex.)
  10. A more middle-class society. (The middle classes do commit crime, but it is much more likely to be non-violent.)
  11. More immigrants. (Immigrants are less likely to commit crime than the indigenous population.).
  12. Home computer games. (Give young men an alternative to vandalising, robbing and fighting.)
  13. Easy access to hardcore porn on the internet. (Gives young men another alternative to vandalising, robbing and fighting.)
  14. Cheap gyms. (Give young men somewhere else to work off their surplus testosterone.)
  15. Social media. (It has civilised people and made them more tolerant. If you are reading this online, you can test this proposition by going to the comments section and seeing how civilised that is.)


  • Danny

    The “Have nots” in the developed countries have a lot more than they ever did, thus reducing the wealth differentials and jealousy.

  • Suzan Crewe

    I believe part of the decrease can be attributed to the Summer Olympics. The games were done well, and provided all Brits with a sense of accomplishment and, more importantly for young male criminals, a sense of inclusion. The lack of societal inclusion seems to be a common thread among young male criminals in conflict with the law. The only down side of this theory is that the decrease will therefore be transitory as the effect of the games wears off.

  • Roger Darlington

    Hi, Danny.

    It is true that the ‘have nots’ have more than they did, but it is not true – at least in countries like the UK and the USA – that wealth differentials are narrowing. In fact, the opposite is happening with serious consequences for a whole range of social outcomes, as explained in the book “The Spirit Level” which I have reviewed here.

    Hi, Suzan.

    In fact, decreases in crime long precede the holding of the Olympic Games in the UK and apply to many developed countries that have never hosted the Games, so something more profound, more long-lasting and more wide-ranging seems to be going on.

  • Gareth

    What a great thing to be able to brag about, hopefully my time for that will come and it won’t just be based on government fiddling, maybe I should become part of point 11. Got a spare room Roger? 😉

    Another thing, out here, alarms and immobilisers don’t seem to offer much of a deterant. The criminals know more about anti-theft devices than the manufacturers (pity they don’t get an honest minimum wage job) and house alarms, well, if you can smash, grab and leave before armed response get there or the homeowner arms himself, you’re away scot free and if you aren’t, what better practise for point 12. Maybe the games are making the developed nations youth lazy? Could be an interesting point.

  • Roger Darlington

    Hi, Gareth.

    I was in South Africa in 2004, starting in Johannesburg, and wrote this in my account of the holiday:

    “Of course, Johannesburg has a fearsome reputation for street and house crime, but our guide was keen to emphasize that things are not as bad as they are portrayed and that they are slowly improving as the police crack down. However, this reassurance was somewhat undermined when we drew up to a vantage point overlooking the city and found a black man lying full stretch in the road, totally still except for the blood oozing from his head. We learned that he had been attempting to burglar a house and the police had shot him dead.”


    PS My son is on a visit to Johannesburg this week. I hope that he stays safe.


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