Blumstein’s main thesis of his paper is that since 1993 we have had a steady decrease in crime rates that in turn should lead to a lower incarceration rate. Part two of the thesis is that we need to investigate the statistics to narrow down the reason for the downward fall, so that we can continue the trend.
Several reasons Blumstein gives for the reduction in crime rates include, the restriction of weapons, a decrease in the control of the drug trade on crime, and the changing of demographics. The first reason for the decrease in crime is the decrease in the availability of weapons. The Brady Act, in 1994, exacted the 5-day waiting period for purchasing handguns. However, guns are still available through illegal means. Another way that the use of handguns is controlled is through police departments “stop and frisk” policies. Police officers can use pretext stops which allow them to investigate whether occupants of a vehicle or carrying handguns. Another part of stop and frisk could be patrolling on foot, and making contact with pedestrians who may be carrying firearms. Blumstein argues that when the availability of handguns, or the threat of arrest from carrying a handgun, crimes involving handguns decreases.
Blumstein marks another reason for a drop in the crime rate: crack cocaine. When crack cocaine was introduced in the 1980’s, it had a trickle-down effect on crime rates. The use of drugs, and the threat of robbery, led individuals, whether dealers or users, to carry weapons. The carrying of weapons led to citizens (even those not involved in drugs) carrying guns for their own protection. By more individuals carrying weapons, it led to a higher crime rate. However, by 1993 the use of crack had decrease for two reasons, according to Blumstein. One is that crack became an undesirable drug. Although it is a very addicting drug, the rumor of the less desirable drug led to less new users. The second reason is that because there were less new users, there was less need for street dealers, which led to less weapons, and a lowered crime rate.
The last reason that is given for the drop in the crime rate since 1993 is the shift in demographics. The population of younger people, who would be most of the issue for crime, had lowered. With this decrease in younger population, it is safe to assume that crime rates for areas with the biggest reduction would have the biggest reduction in crime rates.
The thesis laid out by Blumstein in this article has validity. I agree with the fact that we can learn about trends that lead to lower crime rates by investigating the overall effect of crime. Although this can only be done after the fact, there is a chance that if we can pinpoint specific ways of crime reduction, we may be able to combat crime overall.