Last week the FBI released its preliminary crime report for 2010, showing--once again--a decline in violent crime (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault). The rate of violent crime today is lower than at any time since the early 1970s, and nobody can figure out why. With the large millennial generation now in the most crime-prone age group (40 percent of people arrested are aged 15 to 24) and unemployment stubbornly high, most believed crime would rise rather than fall.
Some say crime is down because so many criminals have been locked up. Others say crime is down because policing has become smarter and more effective. But the steep decline in crime throughout the United States begs for a deeper, sociological explanation.
This is what I think caused the decline in crime: helicopter parents. Yes, you can thank those obnoxious, overbearing parents because--over the past few decades--they have succeeded in transforming the teenage and young adult milieu. The rate of violent crime peaked in 1991. The young adults of that year were born in the late 1960s and early 1970s--just before the baby-boom generation became the nation's parents en masse. Boomers had fewer children and focused more on the success of each one, keeping their teenagers busy with supervised after-school activities. At age 18, they shipped them off to college where they spent their free time drinking and hooking up rather than hanging out on street corners. When they graduated from college into a job market that, by all accounts, should be turning the desperately unemployed into criminals, boomers welcomed them back into their homes and kept them out of trouble.
Surprise. The baby-boom generation managed to do something right.