Where crime rates still remain high
Nationwide, crime has declined for six straight years, yet there areproblem pockets.
SALT LAKE CITY — It's the larceny capital of the United States.
It has more methamphetamine laboratories, per capita, than any other city in the nation.
And it is the biggest city in a state that has seen crime rise 14.5 percent since 1993 - while the country as a whole has witnessed a 10.2 percent drop.
It is Salt Lake City, one of a handful of large cities that has stubbornly refused to follow America's six-year crime decline.
The reasons are as varied as the places themselves - from economic depression in Baltimore to a flourishing drug trade here. And now these cities are looking to other towns that have turned their crime rates around, hoping to duplicate these successes.
For the time being, though, residents here are concerned by the state's upward march in national crime statistics. The Beehive state now has the ninth-highest crime rate, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
THE rise of meth labs, say experts, undoubtedly plays a role. Illegal drug use has long been tied to violent crimes, says Karen Duffala, a criminologist at the University of Denver.
And lawmakers are beginning to take notice. "If we're leading the country in meth, then why is it taking us so long to do something about it?" asks state Rep. John Swallow, whose legislative colleagues were lukewarm in agreeing to develop a plan.
Recently, the model of choice has been New York City. By putting more police on the streets and standing firm on a no-tolerance policy for even minor crimes, it has cut crime by 50 percent during the past five years.
New Orleans, too, has made a turnaround. It has managed a 37 percent reduction in murders over three years. "Four years ago, New Orleans was the nation's leader in murders and violent crime," says Terry Ebbert of the New Orleans Police Foundation. "Today we have a dramatically different picture."
Then again, New Orleans had nowhere to go but up. "It had a phenomenally rotten police department, where the police were committing the crimes, and then it brought in a new police chief," says Alfred Blumstein, a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Success stories like New Orleans have helped push murders in the United States to a 30-year low. But cities such as Baltimore and Gary, Ind., continue to have problems. "Homicide has stayed consistently high [in Baltimore] because of the economic situation of its citizens," says Jeffrey Senese, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore. With high unemployment comes dissatisfaction, anger, heavy drinking, and crime, he says. "There are more opportunities to engage in crime against one another."
Indeed, crime experts say the golden economy may be a primary reason that US crime has dropped. "My guess is that the booming economy has helped reduce crime rates in many cities," says Roland Chilton, a criminology professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Still, there's a way to go. "Look at crime statistics in the '40s and '50s. Today, they are astronomically higher," says Mr. Senese. "They are headed in the right direction, but at a very slow rate."
Most dangerous American cities
The Morgan Quitno Press, an independent research company, rates cities based on six violent-crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, burglary, motor-vehicle theft:, and aggravated assault.
1. Gary, Ind.
2. Camden, N.J.
5. St. Louis
6. New Orleans
7. Richmond, Va.
10. Newark, N.J.