In "Homicide and Suicide in America, 1900-1998," I pointed out that the low homicide rate in the early 1900s is thought by some to be an artifact due to incomplete data.(1) Reasons were listed to indicate that the homicide rate really was much lower 100 years ago. Another reason is as follows: In 1902 Americans spent $13 per capita (in 1999 dollars) for police protection, both public and private, while in 1996 we spent $207 per capita.(2) If violent crime really is no more frequent today, why are we spending 16 times more for protection against it?
One might ask how high our homicide rate would be now if we spent as little on protection as we did a century ago. One might also ask how much more productive it would be to spend more time teaching our children ethical values, rather than to spend more money putting them in jail. Answering these questions is not easy, but at least they should be asked.
David C. Stolinsky, MD
Los Angeles, CA
1. Stolinsky DC. Homicide and suicide in America, 1900-1998. Medical Sentinel 2001;6(1):20-24.
2. Caplow T, Hicks L, Wattenberg BJ. The First Measured Century. Washington: AEI Press, 2001; 221.
Correspondence originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2001;6(2);37-39. Copyright©2001 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).