"A Wave of Crime."
Crime was on the minds of Americans during the 1950s. They watched it on television nightly; it was fictionalized on The Untouchables, for example, which told weekly stories of the battles between government agents and gangsters; and real accounts were broadcast of the hearings during the U.S. Senate's Kefauver committee investigating organized crime, which was almost as exciting as an episode of The Untouchables. Americans read daily in their newspapers of escalating crime which was witnessed on the streets.
A six-part series titled "Crime in the United States" in Life magazine began, "The nation in the fall of 1957 appears to be threatened by a catastrophic wave of crime." The statistics seemed to tell the story: in 1957 the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported an alltime high level of major crimes for the previous year, up more than 13 percent from 1956 and 40 percent from ten years before. In 1960 a U.S. News & World Report article offered even more-alarming numbers: between 1940 and 1960 the rate of serious crime had more than doubled, up 128 percent.
Challenging the Statistics.
But not all of the experts were convinced. Possible explanations were offered as to why the increase seemed so extreme. Reports from...
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