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Crime Plunges and the Myth of Minorities on Death Row

Overall trends in crime have been favorable. Property and violent crimes are dramatically down. Despite the often spouted belief that minorities are the major resident of death row, less than half the population is made up of minorities.Total property crimes in the United States have fallen dramatically from 519.9 per one thousand households in 1973 to 154 per one thousand households in 2005. This class includes household burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft. This happened while our population has continued to rise.

1. Household burglary is defined by the Bureau of Justice Statistics as “unlawful or forcible entry or attempted entry of a residence. This crime usually, but not always, involves theft. The illegal entry may be by force, such as breaking a window or slashing a screen, or may be without force by entering through an unlocked door or an open window. As long as the person entering has no legal right to be present in the structure a burglary has occurred. Furthermore, the structure need not be the house itself for a burglary to take place; illegal entry of a garage, shed, or any other structure on the premises also constitutes household burglary. If breaking and entering occurs in a hotel or vacation residence, it is still classified as a burglary for the household whose member or members were staying there at the time the entry occurred.” These crimes have fallen 73% from 110 in 1973 to 29.5 in 2005 per one thousand households.

2. Theft is defined as “completed or attempted theft of property or cash without personal contact. Incidents involving theft of property from within the sample household would be classified as theft if the offender has a legal right to be in the house (such as a maid, delivery person, or guest). If the offender has no legal right to be in the house, the incident would be classified as a burglary.” This crime has fallen a whooping 98% from 390.8 in 1973 to 8.4 in 2005.

3. Motor vehicle theft defined as “stealing or unauthorized taking of a motor vehicle, an automobile, truck, motorcycle, or any other motorized vehicle legally allowed on public roads and highways. Includes attempted thefts.” These crimes were at 19.1 in 1973, peaked in 1991 at 22.2, and fell to 8.4 in 2005. That is a 44% fall from 1973 rates.

Total serious violent crime, “the estimated number of homicides of persons age 12 and older recorded by police plus the number of rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults from the victimization survey whether or not they were reported to the police,” fell significantly from 3,589,800 in 1973 to 1,823,400 in 2005. Showing a more proactive response to crime during this same period arrests were up from 392,700 in 1973 to 603.500 in 2005.

Another interesting trend is the balance of minorities and whites sentenced to death. In 1968 there were 243 white, and 271 black prisoners sentenced to death, just over half (52%) of the prisoners being black or other minority. This ratio fell to 1802 whites and 1426 minorities in 2006 making whites 55% of the population. In 1972 the balance was the closed to half and half in 1972 when 167 prisoners were white and 167 were minorities.

Source: US Justice Department Office of Justice Programs, “Bureau of Crime Statistics:
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