Whenever there is an act of violence in my community, it’s pretty reliable that people express a belief that things are more dangerous these days. And, just reading national news and related commentary, I think it’s common to think that things are more dangerous these days. I don’t know what the statistics are locally, but I know that – despite how people may feel – violent crime is down over the last 20-30 years. “Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 51% between 1993 and 2018. Using the BJS data, the rate fell 71% during that span.”
I think reasons we don’t feel safer include: 1) Nostalgia softens the rough edges of the past; 2) our brains are wired to amplify current concerns about danger; and 3) we’re exposed to more information — including bad news about violence — than we were in the past. On that last point, I don’t think our brains are wired to distinguish very well between reports of violence in the immediate vicinity and reports of violence that are more distant. In terms of how we feel reports of violence, near and far, just get added to one big bucket of anxiety. Intellectually, we know that there’s a difference, but I don’t know that our minds and bodies readily make that distinction on an emotional level.