Diane Dimond 2019

Diane Dimond

There are some who believe America is going to hell in a handbasket.

I am not one of them.

From my perch in the world of crime and justice, I find more than 686,000 reasons to be thankful. That’s the number of full-time law enforcement officers in the United States: 686,665 sworn officers, to quote the latest statistics, who go out every day to help keep us safe.

I know it is popular among some groups to distrust police. It is clear that not everyone who wears a badge is perfect. But when things go wrong, this is the force that doesn’t hesitate to go into a dangerous situation determined to make sure the problem doesn’t spread into the public at large.

By the way, on average, about 85 working officers are killed every year, and that doesn’t include those who die from on-the-job accidents.

The daily life-and-death work these folks do has helped reduce America’s crime rate. It is true that some U.S. cities remain more dangerous than others. St. Louis; Detroit; Baltimore; Memphis, Tennessee; and Kansas City, Missouri, have high rates of violent crime. So do Albuquerque, New Mexico; Cleveland; Indianapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; and the California cities of Stockton, Oakland and San Bernardino.

But FBI statistics show that in 2018, the overall U.S. violent crime rate fell nearly 4% compared with the year before. The property crime rate went down just shy of 7% during that time. These percentages may seem small, but any improvement is good in my book.

Part of the reason the crime rate is in decline is the aging of our population. Criminologists have long reported that younger people commit most of the crime, so as the under-30 crowd gradually ages out of their prime crime years, the rate goes down. But a multitude of advances in technology have also helped keep criminals in check.

Tech advances have given law enforcement the ability to more quickly scan crime databases and social media feeds to ferret out suspects’ motives and match their identities to crime scene photos. Departments now have an improved ability to read license plates from afar, identify specific gang tattoos and receive reports on real-time gunshots for faster response to crime scenes. And the FBI as well as hundreds of state and local public safety agencies are using high-powered drones to help solve crimes.

Critics worry about privacy issues as these technologies are increasingly adopted. I worry more about what the criminal element does.

And did you know a specially designed LED flashlight has been developed to stop fleeing criminals in their tracks? It emits nausea-inducing, multicolored flashing lights that cause a suspect to immediately vomit or become disoriented by vertigo for easier arrest. And then there’s something the Brits developed called SmartWater, a solution containing a unique chemical code that can be sprayed on your valuables. In case of theft, the marked items can be identified by their invisible “barcode” and returned to the rightful owner. All sorts of other crime-deterrent technologies are being developed to help keep you and your family safe.

Here’s another encouraging statistic: We learned this year that the seemingly out-of-control U.S. drug death rate has begun to slow down. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the number of Americans dying of a prescription drug overdose declined by 5%. For families overwhelmed by a loved one’s addiction to painkillers, this is a small but optimistic development. Solving the drug-dependency problem in this country isn’t going to come overnight, but that doesn’t mean baby steps toward resolution shouldn’t be applauded. Fewer people incapacitated by narcotic drugs is a good thing.

That said, the CDC also reports that overdose deaths from street drugs such as fentanyl, synthetic opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine are still on the rise. It is clear more needs to be done to stop criminal drug dealers and help cure the addicted. Fewer drug addicts equals fewer crimes committed as a means to pay for their next fix.

Stay safe everyone, and remain hopeful.

To find out more about Diane Dimond, visit her website at www.dianedimond.com.

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