If the real world were to live up to our ideals, the judicial process would be a carefully designed and perfectly fair set of procedures aimed at achieving the objective, impartial decisions regarding violations of criminal and civil laws. In fact, the judicial system is neither as excellent as our ideals nor as terrible as our nightmares.
In newspapers, on radio and television, in other sources of information, we regularly encounter information about crimes and criminals. The criminal information is so widespread and so easily assimilated that people easily develop a distorted view of this aspect of our world. The media reminds us daily that crime is a serious problem that threatens any of us; the accessibility heuristic works easily when we make assumptions about the spread of crime and its dangers.
In fact, the record level of crime in the United States, including murder and theft, was recorded in the early 1980s, and since then it has been falling. According to Crime Rates, the total number of crimes fell from 41.2 million in 1981 to 34.4 million in 1991 (2019). FBI Statistics show that the number of offenses of the seven main types (including violent crimes) continued to fall in 1994, the third year in a row (FBI, 2011).
One of the explanations for this is that most violent crimes are committed by young men, and the surge generation (including criminals) has now reached middle age. The bad news and one of the reasons why we think crime is rising rather than decreasing are that the percentage of gun homicides committed by minors is skyrocketing. In fact, over the past decade, the number of teenage killers has tripled. Who are these armed young men? Ames Grawert indicates that boys aged 12 to 15 years in the 1990s had a 1 in 8 chance of becoming a victim of crime, while for people aged 65 years such chances only 1 in 179 (2017).
Thus, the facts concerning crime are extremely complex. In general, the percentage of violent crimes decreases, although the percentage of crimes among adolescents (especially against their peers) increases; but our perception usually simplifies the question by not considering the individual details. It is easier to accept readily available information and believe that the situation with violent crimes has deteriorated compared to previous times. The fact is that we exaggerate the problem based on the media attention to each tragic crime. We easily remember such stories, and it seems to us that similar events occur daily.
FBI. (2011). Crime in the United States by Volume and Rate per 100,000 Inhabitants, 1992–2011. UCR. Retrieved from https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-1
Grawert, A. (2017, April 18). Crime Trends: 1990-2016. BC. Retrieved from https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/crime-trends-1990-2016#targetText=Crime%20is%20often%20driven%20by,by%20an%20estimated%207.8%20percent.
United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2018. (2018). Crime, Punishment, and Ratio of Crime to Punishment Per 100,000 and Rank by Year and between States 1978 -2012. Retrieved from http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm