Do Immigrants Reduce Crime?

On NPR, Joel Rose rebuts the stereotype that immigrant communities mean a higher crime rate.

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Students protesting deportation in June 2012 (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Amid the national discussion on immigration, NPR's Joel Rose debunks the idea that immigrants increase crime.

Elected officials from Pennsylvania to Arizona have argued that undocumented immigrants contribute to higher crime rates, but some social scientists tell a different story. They argue that first-generation immigrants actually make their communities safer — and they point to some of the nation's biggest cities as proof.

Two decades ago, Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood was nicknamed "Gunset Park" because of its high crime rates. Today, the commercial avenues are bustling, and once-empty storefronts are now full of businesses catering to immigrants from Latin America and Asia and their young families.

"When a lot of immigrants come to communities, crime tends to drop," says Philip Kasinitz, who teaches sociology at the City University of New York Graduate Center. "And, of course, it's quite the opposite of what many people think."

Police statistics show that Sunset Park is much safer than it was 20 years ago. Homicides are down more than 90 percent. Crime rates have dropped all over New York City since 1990 — but especially in neighborhoods that have high immigration.

Read Joel Rose's entire article at NPR.

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