May 18, 2010

"The people who grew up afraid to go in parks at night now supervise their own children with fanatical attention..."

"... even though crime rates have plummeted. It’s as if they’re responding to the sense of menace they felt while young, not the actual conditions of today."

55 comments:

MadisonMan said...

I catastrophize all the time when my kids are out of sight -- but only when they're at variance from the routine. So when they spent the weekend in the big city? I imagined all sorts of horrors befalling them. But I don't supervise them, or pass on my own insecurities, I hope. And I'm always telling myself to stop catastrophizing.

Day-to-day stuff? That doesn't phase me at all.

I come from a long line of worriers. Back to my grandmother -- at least -- and she was born in '00. I'd say things were relatively safe back then in Waukesha, where her Dad was a Doctor.

So maybe those parents back in the 70s should have tried harder to keep childhood idyllic for their kids. That's one of my goals. I probably err too much to that side.

Treacle said...

What if the falling crime rate has something to do with people being fanatical about protecting their kids?

ironrailsironweights said...

It could be the heir-and-the-spare concept at work. Today's smaller families mean that parents are less willing to take chances with their children's safety.

Peter

Kirby Olson said...

Brooks says it's because religion is on the increase that safety is actually rising. Or at least he implies that, I think:

"And despite all expectations, it’s actually more religious now."

In other words, people have some clue how to behave, rather than to just act "naturally," whatever those darned hippies meant by such an absurd notion.

Pogo said...

Crime rates are falling?
Bullshit.
Our local Chief of Police makes the same claim, and subtly tut-tuts the rising fear of gang violence in our town of 90K.

Who are you going to believe, the Chief's slide show, or your own lying eyes?

Crime reporting by the police is falling/failing.
From Instapundit this morning;
'Last March, a study from Molloy college suggested that NYPD higher-ups were pressuring police officers to under-report or reclassify serious crimes to juke the city’s crime stats. At about the same time, an NYPD officer released a few recordings in which his commanding officers can be heard telling rank-and-file cops that they’re required to meet a minimum number of arrests and citations each month. Both stories were played down by NYPD and its supporters.

The new recordings obtained by the Village Voice reinforce both sets of allegations made last March. The implications are pretty startling: As a matter of policy, NYPD seems to be encouraging its officers to harass innocent people, even to the point of arresting and detaining them for non-crimes (the city had a record 570,000 stop-and-frisk searches last year). At the same time, the department may be pressuring some officers and citizens to downgrade actual crimes–even serious ones–or to not report them at all.
"

Same thing has been happening in Britain for 20 years.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

MadMan said: I catastrophize all the time when my kids are out of sight...

I don't have kids yet, but I do this all the time about my husband, the dog, my parents, etc. Hubby's late getting home- must have been in a car wreck; phone rings- mentally make a list of all of the people who could be dead; etc.

I've always worried that, with kids, I'll just go nuts from it.

Calypso Facto said...

Because the behavior is so widespread, I can't believe it has to do with being a New York child of the 70s. I think it's more the constant bombardment by fictional tv violence and hyperventilating news-tainers that creates an unrealistic threat picture in most minds.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Probably has something to do with letting sexual predators out of prison so they can go out and sexually assault and murder some more innocent people.

Superdad said...

It probably had more to do with the 24 hour news cycle. Check out this blog and the bloggers book. The blogger, a reporter by trade, has taken on the canard that the world is a more dangerous place than "when we were kids."

http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

TMink said...

We also know much more about sexual abuse and abductions than we once did. I do not know if this is happening more or we just know more about it, but abductions, while rare, are certainly frightening.

Trey

MadisonMan said...

I've always worried that, with kids, I'll just go nuts from it.

Maintain your sense of humor and learn to recognize what you're doing. And learn to say, internally, Stop Catastrophizing!!!

Calypso Facto said...

I wouldn't doubt there's some "damn lies and statistics" going on, Pogo, but I think it would be hard to game, say, murder arrests, which are high visibility. Across the US, murder arrests have declined from almost 25,000 in 1991 to about 16,000 in 2008, or from a rate of 9.8 per 100,000 to 5.4 per 100,000.

Again, I think increased hazard is a mass media induced perception.

Pogo said...

I don't know about "the world", but my city is certainly more dangerous in the last 20 years.

We have murders and drive-by shootings and kids attacked on bike paths and old people robbed in brazen downtown hotel hallway robberies.

Never had this sort of thing before. Not until we imported Chicago and Somali and Mexican thugs, built homeless shelters, and built post-prison housing for sex offenders.

Perhaps a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, but there it is.

themightypuck said...

Pogo,

Are you seriously trying to argue that your personal perceptions trump statistics re crime? I'm not saying you are wrong but it would be pretty dumb for anyone to believe you.

Pogo said...

"Across the US, murder arrests have declined from almost 25,000 in 1991 to about 16,000 in 2008, or from a rate of 9.8 per 100,000 to 5.4 per 100,000. "

More thugs in prison = fewer murders.

But ever since I read that UK cops were under-reporting crimes, and experienced myself the local police advising against 'filing a report' for robbery etc., I no longer trust "official figures" very much.

Like health care stats, there is considerable incentive for public officials to lie and distort.

Pogo said...

"Are you seriously trying to argue that your personal perceptions trump statistics re crime?"
I'm not just saying it.

Read Oh, You Mean Those Quotas by Radley Balko.
"At the same time, additional allegations charged higher-ups in the department with actively discouraging crime victims from reporting crimes—as well as downgrading felonies to misdemeanors—in order to make the city's crime statistics look better.

...the statistical manipulation extends beyond property crimes. Journalist Debbie Nathan, who was sexually assaulted in a city park last February, says that she was shocked to learn that the officers who wrote up her report classified the crime as a misdemeanor. It was later upgraded to a felony, but only after Nathan went to the district attorney.
"


"I'm not saying you are wrong but it would be pretty dumb for anyone to believe you."
Well, of course you're saying that, but that's your right.

I might be wrong, but I live in a town that had no murders in 10 years to having 5 per year, and from no gangs to many gangs.

Yet supposedly things are safer.

former law student said...

Is David Brooks talking about his native upper west side of Manhattan, the city as a whole, or "the American city." Manhattan provincialism has lured him into the fallacy of the unrepresentative sample. My experience visiting Milwaukee during the 1970s -- say to go to Amateur Electronic Supply, or one of Milwaukee's innumerable summer festivals -- was quite the opposite of Brooks' dire tales of his home turf.

Further, Brooks has failed to address other popular theories -- news coverage of crime across the country as if it had happened next door -- ditto for every child tragedy -- and parental guilt about handing off their children for others to raise.

Quayle said...

Yes, thank goodness to democrats....

Oh - wait - I guess it was really Reagan and Rudy that restored most of the order in our society, following the 70s.

AllenS said...

University of Madison Crime

Dust Bunny Queen said...

From my personal observations, I think the decline and rise in fear has to do with the lack of 'neighborhood' and 'neighborlyness' (if there is such a term.


Now I don't want to get all Hillary and it takes a village on you but....

In days of yore, when we as children were sent out to play, all day long..... there were people all around you in the neighborhood who knew who you are, probably knew your parent's parents, knew where you lived, were willing to report you if they felt you were in danger or causing problems, were willing and able to chastize you if you were getting into trouble

("Hey you kids, you'd better get out of there! Wait until your parents hear about this!".

It was like the whole neighborhood could act and did act as defacto parents.

Today, people maintain their distance from each other. It isn't anyone's problem or repsonsibility if there is danger to your child or even to other people in the area.

Don't get involved because you might get sued, get in trouble yourself. These are the lessons that society has taught from the 1970's forward.

former law student said...

AllenS: I love the icons.

The crimes are cumulative over almost two years -- it's not that last night was a crime wave.

paul a'barge said...

Hmm, let's see
(1) first comes "fanatical" enforcement of the law
(2) then comes "fanatical protection of one's children
(3) then the crime rates fall
(4) then some moron (named David Brooks) wonders why parents are all "fanatical" and all about protecting their children.

WTF?

Is this guy a complete, drooling, raving imbecile? Is 1+1 beyond this mutt's capacity? Is the world so upside down now that a certifiable moron like this gets a job splooging his incomprehensible nonsense in the NYTimes?

Just wow.

Pogo said...

"Don't get involved because you might get sued, get in trouble yourself. These are the lessons that society has taught from the 1970's forward."

Good point, DBQ. Part of the sense of increased personal fear may be because we are more alone than in the past.

edutcher said...

I'd like to know where Brooks thinks the inspiration for "West Side Story" came from (and, no, I don't mean 'Romeo and Juliet'). From the early- to mid-50s on, once the social engineers started calling the tune, life in most big cities made Beirut in the 70s look tame.

Of course, people are afraid for their kids. Hell, they're afraid for themselves.

"The crime wave killed off the hippie movement."

I remember those days. The hippie movement had died in most places, including Hashbury, but the Village tried to soldier bravely on. Well, a little good comes out of everything.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

From my personal observations, I think the decline and rise in fear has to do with the lack of 'neighborhood' and 'neighborliness' (if there is such a term.

There is, you just missed the 'i'. Excellent point, BTW.

dbp said...

I have experienced the opposite effect. When I was young, we all played over a large area and were hardly ever under adult supervision. And now the friends and siblings I played with won't let their children out of their sight for a single moment.

Joe said...

The most intriguing theory I've heard of the reduction of the crime rates is the removal of lead from gasoline and, to a lesser degree, lead abatement in housing.

The high levels of lead exposure to children in [mostly] eastern cities in the first half of the 20th century was nothing short of astonishing. One effect of high lead exposure in children is anti-social behavior.

Calypso Facto said...

How come you know so much about Madison crimes, Allen? And come to think of it...is that avatar of yours a mug shot?!? ;)

MadisonMan said...

Don't get involved because you might get sued, get in trouble yourself. These are the lessons that society has taught from the 1970's forward.

Do you actually know anyone that has been sued for doing the right thing with respect to someone else's child? I do not.

On the other hand, I am routinely comparing notes about what's going on with my kid and with other kids with the other kids' parents -- seeking out information from other parents who do, after all, have eyes and see things. I have never been threatened with anything but thanks. And you know what? If a parent expressed umbrage about receiving information about their kid? I'd be all over them, asking them why their heads are up their asses. But I'd be polite about it because, above all, I'm a polite Midwesterner.

Richard Dolan said...

It's true, as Brooks says, that NYC is a lot safer, and feels a lot safer, than it did in the '70s. But street crime remains a crime of opportunity, and it hasn't disappeared.

There's nothing crazy about trying to make sure that your kids don't become some perp's opportunity-of-the-day, particularly since kids can be pretty dumb about flashing their iPods and fancy cell phones in all the wrong places. And if the parents are recycling the old wisdom of 'once burned, twice shy' based on their memories of rougher times, I don't think they have anything to apologize about. Crime is down and cities are safer, but that's just a relative judgment against a bad baseline. Human nature hasn't changed a bit.

Joe said...

(2) then comes "fanatical protection of one's children
(3) then the crime rates fall


The crime rates fell first by well over a decade.

Brooks is an idiot, but idiot can be right once in a while. The levels of violence in the late 60s and early 70s in eastern cities, such as New York, was startling. Several movies during that time period capture the essence of this and now seem horribly out-of-place.

All that said, the overprotectiveness of parents largely comes for 24x7 news cycle. I'm constantly amazed at what stories get on the local news, all, it seems, designed to frighten the shit out of people. If a story can't be found locally, they head off to another state or even country to find stories to scare you. (And when a genuinely scary story comes out, the news, local and national, beat it to death.)

This isn't just theory; several studies have found that people's perception of crime and violence in their locales is higher than the actual rates, often by quite a bit.

themightypuck said...

@Pogo,

I'll give you that shenanigans are plausible but I tend to shy away from conspiracy theories. I would expect it would be much harder today to reverse "hide the decline" than it was 50 years ago.

Gabriel Hanna said...

I'll tell you this: my wife and I felt a lot safer, after dark, in East River Park in Manhattan (in 2008) than we ever have after dark in Seattle on the waterfront or in San Francisco.

In Manhattan we hardly even saw bums.

Everything I saw in movies about New York City when I was a kid appears to be wrong now.

Cops in NYC may well be massaging the statistics but that does not mean that crime now compares at all to the 70s.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Do you actually know anyone that has been sued for doing the right thing with respect to someone else's child? I do not.


Not personally.

People have been trained to not get involved with others because you might get in trouble yourself.

I was asked this question in a pre hire interview. The purpose was, I suppose, to see what level of personal responsiblity and personal risk you would take on.

The interviewer later said that the answers were very very different depending on whether you were a man or woman and whether you resided in a large urban area or a small town.

Question: "You are in a crowded mall and you see a very young child alone, seemingly lost and crying. What do you do?"

How many of you guys would, in the back of your mind, be worried about the possiblity of being accused of child molestation or other predatory behaviour in this scenario? Be honest.

themightypuck said...

The other thing about crime perception is the rising standard of living. People who work in coal mines probably don't worry as much about getting mugged on the way home as people who work in offices, regardless of the actual risk.

Largo said...

Ooooh, midnight in the ghetto street...
A desperate boy, he wants somethin' t' eat...
('Cause he's dead on his feet)
...
A baby on the floor, eatin' paint off the wall...
(How's he gonna grow tall?)
...
"Have a Kung-Fu Christmas!">

AllenS said...

Thank you for your reading comprehension, fls. Calypso Facto, I applied for a passport card last year and that was the picture that the Somerset, WI. post office took. So, yeah, I guess it is a mug shot.

themightypuck said...

When we were kids the whole point of NYC was that it was scary. Same with Las Vegas.

jayne_cobb said...

I always laugh when I see parents freak out about such things.

When I was growing up we used to play flashlight tag with the neighbors (often between 15 and 10 at a time).

There were roughly 15 houses with connecting yards in which to hide, and games would last for two hours or so. If you found a good hiding place you could sit there for 20 or 30 minutes before having to move.

We used to take this game so seriously that we would wear as much black clothing as possible. It would be 80 or 90 degrees out and we'd be wearing ski masks and sweatshirts.

The only major risk was that you would occasionally get clothes-lined by a volleyball net while fleeing from the person who was it.

Pogo said...

"Do you actually know anyone that has been sued for doing the right thing with respect to someone else's child? I do not."

I was, by my next door neighbor, when I yelled at their kids for torturing their dog (threw it in a large plastic pool and poked it with sticks so it couldn't get out). Their Dad went ballistic ("You can't tell my kids what to do yadda yadda").

Got a letter from their lawyer about a month later, something about my harassing them. My brother the Hahvad lawyer metaphorically beat the shit out of their lawyer and it went away.

But yeah, it happens.

reader_iam said...

MM: Your grandmother was born the same year as my son? ; )

(Said son--also born in '00--likes to tweak us about date references. The smart ass. Sometimes I wish I'd given him a strange name rather than one which while not all that common in the U.S., is still utterly ordinary.)

Pogo said...

The authors William Strauss and Neil Howe in Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 and in The Fourth Turning posit that the trend toward over or hyper-protection of children is a cyclical thing, coming every 4th generation.

MadisonMan said...

Question: "You are in a crowded mall and you see a very young child alone, seemingly lost and crying. What do you do?"

I would crouch down and ask if I could help the kid find their Mom or Dad.

Accused of enticement or molestation in the middle of a mall? Extremely unlikely, and evidence from the video cams spread around any Mall would be in my favor.

Note: The question presupposed I am actually at a mall. Not very likely at all :)

former law student said...

Allen S: Next time, why not label your link as "University of Madison Crime, A Recent History," because I'm not sure what the point is of learning someone was shot on a particular street corner two years ago.

Unless you're dialing in coordinates in your time machine. Hmmm...

If you have a time machine, this graph may be useful:
http://www.quitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/nothing-happened.jpg

former law student said...

when I yelled at their kids for torturing their dog

See the inutility of going through informal channels? Your neighbor obviously would have preferred that you called the cops.

You should present him with a copy of HRC's "It Takes a Village"

Pogo said...

"Your neighbor obviously would have preferred that you called the cops."

Heh.
They would have preferred the dog torture to continue as long as they wanted.

AllenS said...

fls,

The site is called ucrime.com/wi/university+of+wisconsin-madison. Whether it's ten years old, ten days old, or ten hours old, when you get to the site, you'll need to figure it out. All on your own.

TMink said...

Statistics are great in describing 1000 people, but not so good at 100, and really bad at an individual.

And then there are some statistics that are just complete fabrications: consider drunk driving fatality statistics.

Here in Tennessee, automobile accident deaths are considered a consequence of drunk driving if any person in any of the vehicles tests positive for any substance. So if I am driving a tipsy friend home and am hit by a man who is texting, all the resulting fatalities would be counted as more alcohol related deaths. When they are most certainly not.

Even given this huge statistical lie, Tennessee had 386 so called drunk driving fatalities in 2008. Tennessee had an official population of 6.3 million that year. By comparison, 836 people committed suicide then.

So just because it is a statistic is not very informative. Knowing why data is included in a statistic can be very enlightening indeed.

Trey

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I was, by my next door neighbor, when I yelled at their kids for torturing their dog (threw it in a large plastic pool and poked it with sticks so it couldn't get out).

Get a bow and some arrows and use the pool as target practice in the middle of the night. Ditch the bow and arrow set somewhere. Pool punctured. Dog safe. Neighbors pissed off.

Satisfaction guaranteed.

LordSomber said...

The problem isn't "kids these days." It's parents.

JAL said...

Brooks: Yet eventually crime was reduced, and the neighborhoods were restored.

He should write a book. Really. ONE sentence to one of the most radical shifts in city life imaginable.

Hubby and I used to commute into NYC in the last 60s early 70s.

My purse was stolen out of my car in broad daylight in 1975 while I stood with my broken down car (on the way to see my baby in NICU at NY-Cornell).

In the mid 1990s I took my then 8 year old daughter into NYC four times (we lived in the South by then) and using public transportation -- subways, bus, feet and train -- did the city with her and never felt unsafe. (Went to upper West Side, the Village and many places in between.)

Tell us David Brooks what the difference was?

JAL said...

Anybody remember the book

"Where Did You GO?" "Out." "What Did you Do?" "Nothing."

We have a generation that is clueless about that.

They aren't allowed to go out, much less, do nothing.

BAS said...

Where are the kids who weren't afraid of the dark at the park? The boogie man got them, that's where. So I will take my children home.

chr1 said...

Dionysian hippies?

I really don't like hippies.

But living in Seattle where the smell of patchouli still hangs over the sound, Brooks' sociological murals wear a little thin.

Maybe he can write a series of fiscally responsible, morally inspired tales wherein bobos, green yuppies, and righteous liberals see the err of their ways reflected in tales of true crime, caught between drug-running rapists and bloated Rangel like reps.

CatherineM said...

I think a lot of you make good points. NYC sucked through the 70s (when I lived in the burbs with total freedom - never needed a lock on my bike) until the early 1990s (I moved into NYC in 88). I mean, remember all of the "No Radio in Car" signs? That alone is a distant memory. Along with omnipresent grafiti.

However, helicopter parenting is everywhere, and very few of those people lived in NYC in the 1970s.

I do think it's "to catch a predator" and all of those shows. In reality, children are usually harmed by family members, not strangers.

CatherineM said...

I have to mention, my grandmother was nearly kidnapped off of her stoop in 1907 at the age of 4. My widower great-grandfather was watching from the window as she walked away with a stranger. He promised my grandmother a toy. She remembered it vividly because her father was so upset and unaware of the danger, she was upset she didn't get a toy.

I tell this story to my friends who think "things used to be so different" in the old days.