What’s up with that?



Jay B. Gaskill

As we linger in the dark well of the worst recession in recent memory, many urban jurisdictions are now reporting (San Francisco among them) that we are experiencing an inexplicable drop in murders.

You may doubt this is actually taking place. Here are some links: [Memphis] [New Jersey] [Steep national decline] [Boston] [San Francisco]

Years ago I was invited by the Alameda County Sheriff to address the graduating class of his peace officers; training academy.

My address is posted here:

Among the points I made was this: Crime is not caused by or even strongly correlated with economic poverty. Even in the Great Depression general crime did not go up, Al Capone notwithstanding.

The overall crime rate is sensitive to a number of factors, notably the visible deterrent effect of a welcome police presence and the underlying morality of the non-criminal population (something I’ve called civilization’s ‘moral infrastructure’).

Therefore in the USA, the UK and other cultures and subcultures where the Judeo-Christian ethos (or its moral equivalent) persists whether in its religious or secular forms (think ‘do not steal, lie, murder’ as being generally accepted), then the following principle will tend to govern: Crime operates in an inverse relationship to community. Put another way, “When community is strengthened, crime is depressed” (assuming the baseline moral infrastructure and the implementing law and justice infrastructures are intact).

In the current recession, more families are at home and more people are looking out for each other….and crime goes down.

Francis Fukuyama connected some of these dots in his book, The Great Disruption (1999 – link to Amazon ). He linked crime increases to the disruptive migration patterns that took apart existing networks of social relationships that had constituted our “social capital” when life patterns were more stable. The missing piece in his analysis, in my opinion, was the health – or lack thereof – of the underlying moral framework.

The “moral infrastructure” piece was separately disrupted by a bit of cultural insanity that is just now fading away. This damage to the underlying morality of the non-criminal population was the unintended consequence of an outbreak of postmodern neo-tribal multiculturism. Suddenly legitimacy was given to the perverse notion that thugs who belong to “oppressed” tribes were to be spared as an act of “social consciousness”, and that the beleaguered gendarmes who answered our 911 calls were to be mistrusted because they “work for the ruling class”.

That nonsense has almost run its course. My first indication of the healthy counter-trend took place several years ago in Oakland, California when crime victims and witnesses from “the hood” started showing up. Today, whole neighborhoods of honest, hard working black families in Oakland are demanding more not less police services. That very passion has a benign side effect: Thugs are deterred by an energized population.

Yes, times are tough. But there is a silver lining.


The author, a well known trial and appellate lawyer, served as the Alameda County (CA) Public Defender from 1989-99, then left his “life of crime” to pursue writing and general trouble making. His profile is located at:

Want to escape the dismal headlines? Read: Jay Gaskill’s new thriller, The Stranded Ones. Purchase Information and samples:

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