4There Is Suddenly Plenty of Drugs for Everyone
It's perfectly natural to think "More drugs = more crime." Illegal drugs are, by definition, sold by criminals. More drugs equals more criminals, which equals more crime, right? But it's not that simple.
People kill each other over drugs for the same reason they kill each other over oil, or diamonds: because they're worth a huge amount of money. In 1988, the cocaine trade was worth an estimated $140 billion. If that doesn't drive home how blow-crazy America was during the late '80s, we'll put it another way: Cocaine was worth 2 percent of the entire U.S. GDP. And only, like, a third of that can be pinned on Robin Williams. At around the same time, America's murder rate reached its highest level in recorded history -- and almost none of that can be blamed on Robin Williams.
Fashion is always the first victim.
But when the mid-'90s rolled around, coke dropped in value faster than hammer pants. By 1994, the price of blow was at its lowest point ever and, holy shit would you look at that, the murder rate dropped by 50 percent as well.
This baffled the DEA, who'd been busting coke dealers left and right in the hopes of making the drug less accessible (and thus more expensive). But it appears that all they actually succeeded in doing was forcing drug lords to smuggle smarter and diversify. Then in came meth, which anybody can make in their garage for a few bucks, and a new jump in popularity for pain pills. And, if high school economics taught us anything besides how to sleep with our eyes open, it's that introducing more choice into a market lowers prices.
"Keep three degrees of separation between you and the product, and never carry more than you can swallow."
That means that, suddenly, the profit margins for street-level dealers really started to ... blow. So-called "minimum wage dealers" made as little as 50 bucks a month, which probably isn't enough to shoot someone over, and sure as hell isn't worth taking a bullet over. Turf wars disappeared, violent crime rates dropped, poor cocaine found itself relegated to the bargain bin and addicts suddenly had extra cash to spend on ... well, probably more drugs.
"My long term goals involve finding somewhere to sleep without being peed on."
This does not, obviously, mean that the key to utopia is to create a world where the very streets are paved with meth. It just appears that such a world would feature fewer drive-by shootings.
3Gangsters Getting Geekier
For as long as cities have been a thing, groups of disaffected youngsters have banded together to murder other groups of disaffected youngsters. Gangs are responsible for a lot of violence and property crime, is what we're saying. So when we hear statistics reporting a 10 percent drop in violent crime nationwide or a 23 percent drop in LA homicides, it's only natural to assume that there are fewer gang members on the streets. But in reality, gang numbers have risen to an estimated 1.4 million gangsters in 33,000 distinct gangs as of 2011.
How does that work? Isn't street crime the entire point of having a "gang"? Are these new gangs making their money by having dance-offs like West Side Story?
Well, they're still committing crimes -- they're just not the kind that require shanking a dude. Today's gangs have apparently discovered that the digital age offers crime that is simultaneously less risky and more profitable than pushing dope and capping asses. While crimes like counterfeiting, bank/credit card fraud and identity theft have spiked over the last several years, gang-related violent crime continues to fall from LA to Raleigh and from Santa Barbara to San Castle. Los Angeles civil rights lawyer Connie Rice says gang-related cybercrime rose by 1,500 percent in LA from 2009 to 2010 alone. It's not exactly a win-win, but it sure as hell beats drive-by shootings or ganking people because they wore the wrong color shirt in the wrong neighborhood.
"That's twice in one week you've worn sweatpants. Now you don't get to eat lunch with us."
The money is a big factor in this, but the disparity in punishments matters as well: Armed robbery will land you seven years in prison and maybe get you shot in the face, while you can make just as much cash stealing someone's identity and only do a few months of time. Plus, no one can shoot you in the face over the Internet (not until the U.S. Patent Office finally approves our application).
The video conference helped.
And since 95 percent of financial crimes go unreported, your average geeky gangster has pretty goddamn good odds of getting away with it.