3-1 Is Crime a Recent Development?
Because of the extensive media coverage of high-profile criminalevents, people are routinely heard to say, “Crime is getting worse every day” and “I can remember when it was safe to walk the streets at night,” but their memories may be colored by wishful thinking. Crime and violence have existed in the United States for more than 200 years and the crime rate was much higher 100 years ago than it is today.Crime and violence have been common since the nation was first formed.Guerilla activity was frequent before, during, andafter the Revolutionary War. Bands supporting the British (Tories) and the American revolutionaries engaged in savage attacks on each other, using hit-and-run tactics, burning, and looting.Crime in the Old WestAfter the Civil War, many former Union and Confederate soldiersheaded west with the dream of finding gold or starting a cattle ranch. Some even resorted to murder, theft, and robbery. The notorious John Wesley Hardin (who is alleged to have killed 30 men) studied law in prison and became a practicing attorney before his death. Henry McCarty, better known as the infamous “Billy the Kid,” participated in range wars and may have killed more than 20 people before being gunned down in 1881 by Sheriff Pat Garrett; Billy had just turned 22. Others formed outlaw bands that terrorized the Western territories. There is nomore storied bad man in the history of America than the outlaw Jesse James, who made his living robbing banks and trains. A folk hero, James remained an active outlaw until April 3, 1882, when he was shot in the back by Bob Ford, a fellow gang member, who did the deed in order to claim a $5,000 reward. Folktales aside, James was in fact more of an impulsive killer than a latter-day Robin Hood. In September 1864, during the Civil War, Jesse, riding with the guerilla band led by Bloody Bill Anderson, held up a train in the town of Centralia, Missouri, and helped to kill 22 unarmed Union soldiers on board.