When it comes to crime, as New York City goes, so goes the nation. Or so some experts believe. The nation's largest city has seen dramatic drops in violent crime through most of the '90s. Homicides, for instance, went from 2,245 in 1990 to 633 last year.
New York's drop-off has been mirrored around the country, with nearly every category of crime showing statistical declines.
This year, however, the city is registering a slight increase in murders, and that has some criminologists speculating that not only New York's but the whole country's crime rate may have bottomed out and is about to rise again.
What lies behind that gloomy forecast is a belief, based on historical research, that crime is cyclical - that it will go up just as surely as it has gone down. A major factor in that thinking is the assumption that any increase in the youth population drives up crime. The country faces just such a demographic uptick.
Without disparaging the experts' analysis, we'd like to suggest that it doesn't have to be so. In New York, a lot of credit has been given to more thorough police methods. Everything that has worked along those lines, including an emphasis on reining in petty crime to foster a safer environment, can be sustained.
Moreover, the efforts in every part of the land to give youths some alternatives to gang ties, to make schools more engaging, to address violence within families, can be sustained and strengthened.
Crime needn't be accepted as a fluctuating given, like the tides. Human behavior is subject to moral and spiritual influences that can change individual lives and, gradually, lead to permanent improvements in human society.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society