The advice is everywhere — Facebook, emails, TV news — warning people to protect their kids from danger.

Increasingly, parents fear letting their kids walk to school, even in bucolic southern Minnesota. 

Never mind that stranger abductions are incredibly rare.

The Justice Department did a detailed study estimating that about 250 children were abducted by strangers in 1988 with numbers declining to 115 a decade later.

Cars and bathtubs are far, far more likely to kill a child than an abductor.

There are about 200 Amber Alerts issued each year and supporters say about 400 children have been saved by the alert system.

The claim is deeply misleading. A criminologist’s study at the University of Nevada determined that despite all the drama and urgency created by Amber Alerts, they played no role in the eventual return of abducted children.

As well-intentioned as it may be, Amber Alert has only fueled irrational fears while doing virtually no good.

It’s part of the unrelenting interconnectivity people have and the dizzying amount of crime and fearful news generated every day.

Crime has steadily dropped, in large part because it’s just a lot harder to get away with things than it was 30 years ago, thanks to DNA banks, nationwide police data bases and security cameras.

In Minnesota in 1990 there were 306 violent crimes and 93 robberies per 100,000 people.

By 2000 violent crime had fallen to 280 and robbery to 75 per 100,000.

Since then the rates have steadily declined, with 221 violent crimes and 63 robberies per 100,000 in 2011.

The trends are the same for categories such as property crimes, auto theft and burglaries.

Listen to or read any news outlet or website — including this one — and it’s hard not to fear venturing out of your house.

But the crime and danger grist mill is a vicious circle: Crime stories invariably get more page views than virtually all other news. More demand spurs more supply of mayhem and profiles of the Thug of The Day.

It’s not likely to change.

The only thing people are drawn more to on the Internet than crime news are cat videos.

I guess a cat burglar video would be the Holy Grail for for web hits.


Tim Krohn is a Free Press staff writer. He can be contacted at 344-6383 or

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