According the most recent annual report from the Department of Public Safety, Texas experienced a drop in both violent and non-violent crime rates across the board last year. This is newsworthy on its own, but it is particularly notable that the drop in crime coincides with a statewide drop in incarceration, and an increase in unemployment.
Statewide, violent crime fell 8.3% and non-violent crime fell 5.7%. Specifically, robbery fell a stunning 14.9% and rape fell by 9.2%. Adult arrests dropped 4.6% and juvenile arrests dropped a huge 9.3%.
Dallas is an especially interesting case study. In 2005, Dallas was given the FBI’s “most unsafe city in America” distinction, but it responded by abandoning its tough-on-crime approach. Now, in the DPS report, Dallas led the state with a 10.2% drop in crime – and Big D is currently #52 on the FBI’s list. Grits for Breakfast, a website that follows criminal justice developments in Texas, observes that numbers like this are “calling into question quite a few assumptions about incarceration and crime.”
Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, Austin, and El Paso all saw declines in crime rate as well, all coupled with lower incarceration rates than previous years. Meanwhile Round Rock, which stubbornly adheres to the antiquated “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” approach, saw an 8% increase in crime.
-H. Joel SimmonsResearch Fellow, Center for Effective Justice