A positive development often prompts a two-part question: What caused the improvement and is additional progress possible?
Violent crime in the United States dropped in 2010, two federal agencies reported recently.
The FBI reported a 6 percent drop in violent crime, the fourth consecutive annual decline, and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported a 12 percent drop. The discrepancy is attributed to differing categories of crimes and reporting procedures.
In addition to the violent crime numbers, the FBI also found a 2.7 percent decline in property crimes, the eighth consecutive annual decrease.
What caused the improvement?
Although no definitive answer is possible, criminal justice experts credit increases in: community policing, incarceration rates and prevention efforts, including alarms. They also cite an aging population and crackdowns on gang activity.
In Jefferson City, Police Chief Roger Schroeder said although violent crime mirrored the national trend and decreased in 2010, property crimes increased last year.
He also said projections for this year indicate violent crime will increase to 2007-09 levels and property crimes will drop to previous rates.
"This is a stable community," the chief said, "and, despite fluctuations, the crime rate remains fairly constant."
He said some of the factors that drive crime are alcohol and drug abuse, stress, emotional instability and desperation.
And, Schroeder said, law enforcement has responded with prevention and protection initiatives including: community action teams in neighborhoods; school resource officers; patrol officers in traffic units; and a drug task force.
The chief also emphasized the importance of the public contribution by residents who observe unusual behavior and alert officers.
"Although it's difficult to put a dent in personal crimes among people who know each other," Schroeder said, "we can minimize random crimes of opportunity."
We all play a vital role in reducing crime locally and, by extension, nationally.
Lock your cars and homes, be vigilant and report suspicious activity. With your help, additional progress is possible.