SAN DIEGO -- In the last two decades, California's immigrant population has seen its fastest growth ever. A new study is linking this demographic trend with a drastic a drop in crime rates.
The findings in a report from U.C. Berkeley are not new. Other research studies from the last five years reveal that immigrants are under-represented in Calif. prisons compared to their representation in the overall population.
"Criminologists have historically found that first generation immigrants have much lower rates of crime than similarly situated people in terms of socioeconomics," says Barry Krisberg, author of the most recent study and criminologist at Cal Berkeley's School of Law. "You know, to say that immigration reduces crime is an interesting theory, but I didn't have the data to prove that."
But Krisberg did find that counties closest to the border experience a correlation between an increase in immigration and a decrease in crime. In San Diego County, the violent crime rate has declined by 58 percent since 1991, according to data from the Department of Justice. At the same time, the number of immigrants in San Diego has increased.
Krisberg warns against current political campaigns depicting undocumented immigrants as criminals. His study suggests that efforts to reduce immigration or to increase enforcement would not have a big impact on public safety.