Last week, we told readers the good news about how Louisville’s murder rate seems to be declining . Only 51 people were murdered in Derby City during 2011, compared to 54 last year, 65 in 2009, and 71 in 2008. Unfortunately, 49% of 2011’s murders remain unsolved (an increase over 2010’s unsolved rate of 39%, 2009’s rate of 35%, and 2008’s rate of 28%.)
But before you get the idea into your head that unarmed nocturnal perambulations about our fair city might be agreeable, you need some additional information: The crime rate in America averages about 42 crimes per square mile, annually. In Kentucky, that rate is only 2 crimes per square mile; in Louisville, it’s 146 . Louisville is a dangerous place in which to live.
According to cityrating.com , the per capita violent crime rate for Louisville Metro is higher than the national violent crime rate average by 39.03% and the city property crime rate in Louisville Metro is higher than the national property crime rate average by 41.64%. Louisville’s violent crime rate is higher than the violent crime rate in Kentucky by 130.83% and the city’s property crime rate is higher than the property crime rate in Kentucky by 71.14%.
Louisville’s final figures for 2011 are not yet in, put preliminary estimates indicate that we’re not yet ready to return to the nostalgic days of yesteryear, when folks left their doors and windows unlocked:
2011 Crime Incidents
Aggravated Assault 2,303
Forcible Rape 267
Larceny and Theft 20,446
Motor Vehicle Theft 2,034
Murder and Manslaughter 75
Crime Rate (Total Incidents) 33,657
Property Crime 30,404
Violent Crime 4,501
Mark Twain is reported to have said, "When the end of the world comes I want to be in Kentucky, because there it will come 20 years later.” He must have been thinking of Louisville when he said that. He would probably not be surprised to learn that the nationwide decline in criminal behavior has been a little slow to arrive here in River City.
Criminal activity is definitely on the decline in America, and murders are happily leading this decline. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report  late last year on homicide trends in the United States between 1980 and 2010, showing that homicide nationwide have declined to the lowest point in four decades.
Between 1991 and 2010, the homicide rate in the United States fell 51 percent, from 9.8 per 100,000 residents to 4.8 per 100,000 (Louisville’s rate is about 17 per 100k). Property crimes such as burglary also fell sharply during that period; auto theft, once the bane of urban life, dropped an astonishing 64 percent. And FBI data released Dec. 19 show that the trends continued in the first half of 2011. With luck, the United States could soon equal its lowest homicide rate of the modern era: 4.0 per 100,000, recorded in 1957.
The report says that most murders are intra-racial - the victimization rate for blacks was 6 times higher than for whites, while the offending rate for blacks was almost 8 times higher than the rate for whites - and the number of homicides known to be caused by gang violence has quadrupled since 1980.
Liberals are having a difficult time adjusting to this good news. Charles Lane, writing in the Washington Post  last month, observed that “Crime’s continued decline during the Great Recession undercuts the liberal myth that hard times force people into illegal activity… Contrary to liberal belief, incarcerating more criminals for longer periods probably helped reduce crime.” “Probably?”
So, just as Kentucky’s liberal state government is giving early release today to 1,000 persistent felony offenders , we can all ponder the reasons why the national decline in crime rates is so slow coming to the Bluegrass State.
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions). Crime charts from LMPD and U.S. Dept. Justice.