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.
You don't have to look far to find people claiming that illegal immigrants are wantonly murdering Americans or that they are violent terrorists. But studies have shown that non-citizens born in Mexico but living in America are eight times less likely than male U.S. citizens to be incarcerated. Likewise, the American cities that saw the greatest increase in their illegal immigrant populations from 1990 to 2000 also saw the greatest drops in robbery and homicide.
"Hey, this place looks real nice. Let's try not to fuck it up."
Remember that massive drop in New York City crime rates that Rudy Giuliani liked to take single-handed credit for? Yeah, turns out it might have been in no small part thanks to the steady rise in the immigrant population of the city. Since 1994, America's illegal population has doubled, while violent crime fell 34 percent and property crime fell 26 percent. Eight of the 10 safest large cities in the United States also boast high immigrant populations.
We're crediting Giuliani with that. Who wouldn't want to live in the same country as this adorable little face?
There is almost no way to find out why this is, and this subject is such a political hot button issue that there is almost no way to speculate without your guess being grossly offensive to someone. And guessing is all it is -- some critics say the stats are skewed because the crimes are under-reported, since they tend to happen in neighborhoods full of undocumented immigrants who can't go to the police without fear of getting deported themselves. Or, maybe fear of deportation is motivation enough to just not commit crimes at all. Less cynical types say it's a matter of immigrant neighborhoods being more tightly knit, everybody keeping an eye out, the way we imagine everybody did it in the 1950s. Hell, maybe new immigrants just have a sense of optimism that too many Adam Sandler movies and Kardashian spin-offs have robbed born-and-bred Americans of.
"Come to America, Mavis. This new Shakespearean vulgarity is just the worst."
And if you think those stats are impossible to talk about without triggering a political shitstorm, go tell your neighbors that the crime drop might be partially due to ...
Let's just go ahead and rip this Band-Aid right on off: Economists John Donohue and Steven Levitt (aka the Freakonomics guy) make a compelling case that our massive 20-year plunge in violent crime is partly due to legalized abortion. They note that our crime rate began its decline precisely 18 years after Roe v. Wade -- in other words, right around the time that all those legally aborted fetuses would have reached prime gangbangin' and liquor store robbin' age. Furthermore, they also noted that the states that experienced the sharpest crime drop in the '90s were the ones that performed the most abortions in the '70s and '80s. Their final conclusion?
"Legalized abortion appears to account for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime."
Although we're sure our "stop giving guns to babies" initiative helped.
That's right: According to Donohue and Levitt, as much as half of the recent crime rate cliff drop can be attributed to legalized abortion. There are a few theories as to why this might be the case, each more likely to get us yelled at than the last. Essentially, more abortions mean fewer impoverished, teenaged and single mothers, and studies have shown that kids born into those situations are more likely to turn to crime.
"Your mom's so fat because of a range of socioeconomic disadvantages. I'm sorry, dude."
A bunch of people way smarter than us have come out to both support and slam the theory, and critics make it sound like the proponents are promoting eugenics. But really, even if the conclusions of the study are correct, it doesn't need to change your opinion on abortion. If you think abortion is murder, then "the kid might have grown up to steal your car" argument obviously doesn't suddenly make it OK. Conversely, if you're in favor of legalized abortion, it's because you believe in a woman having that choice, not because you want to exterminate all of society's undesirables in the womb.
See? There's nothing to get upset about at all. We got all worked up over nothing.
Please leave all ire in the comments while we work on that Internet shooting patent.
Robert Evans oversees the article captions and the Cracked workshop moderator team. When he isn't doing either of those things, he writes letters to his conservative parents about the economy, illegal immigration and drug law.
For more of what science says about crime, check out 5 Common Crime Fighting Tactics (Statistics Say Don't Work). Or learn about the 5 Ridiculous Attempts at Crime Fighting (That Worked).