It seems that violence is a commonly-excepted for of entertainment in the United States. You can regularly find grotesque pictures of severed heads and limbs on just about every major network’s prime-time programming. Gruesome, grisly murders seem to dominate the airways, and the ratings can be amazing. The worst offender, in my opinion, is TV news. It’s seemingly impossible to watch even a few minutes of coverage without a full story (or at least an annoying scrolling text message) talking about someone who was “brutally murdered”. It’s effective, though. I know many people who are terrified of living in the United States.
Forbes.com attempts to put some of this in perspective in America’s Most Murderous Cities:
Americans are accustomed to turning on the local TV news and seeing images of mayhem and murder. The world outside, it would seem, is a violent, wrathful, dangerous place.
Of course, television doesn’t always tell the whole story. The average American is 36 times more likely to die from heart disease than be murdered, six times more likely to die in an accident and four times more likely to die from Alzheimer’s disease, according to data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
But homicide does result in many thousands of deaths every year. And a comparison of the 72 American cities with a population over 250,000, using data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, reveals that some places are definitely more murderous than others.
The focus of the article is on ranking the most dangerous cities (if you have the patience for one of those web-based slideshows, you can see the statistics in In Pictures- America’s Most Murderous Cities).
While the details might be interesting to some, I think the overall conclusion is much more important. As a whole, Americans are far more scared of everything today. We have the past and current sensationalism related to date-rape drugs, stalkers, pedophiles, sex offenders and, of course, good old-fashioned murders (serial killers get bonus points). The facts, however, show that we’re actually far safer today than we have been in the past. From the article’s conclusion:
It’s important to note that even though some cities may have comparatively high murder rates, crime is, on the average, down in the U.S over the last two decades. Over that period, the homicide rate in the U.S. has fallen from a 1991 peak of 9.8 murders per 100,000 people, to just 5.7 in 2006.
There’s always some chance that any one of us will be the victim of a violent crime – that’s just part of existing in a society with other human beings. I’d argue, however, that people living in fear are losing out every single day. You won’t see those victims on the news – they’re on the wrong side of the television screen.