The Myth of Violence in the Old West

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In his article "The Myth of Violence in the Old West," Roger D. McGrath attempts to refute the myth that the old west was much more crime ridden compared to American cities today. McGrath argues that while the old west was violent, the violence that occurred was very different from what goes on today. Two of the most common crimes today, robbery and burglary, were hardly of any consequence. To prove this point McGrath compares crime rates of major cities today to Bodie, one of the most notorious towns in the old west. Bodie was in fact violent, but acts of violence didn't affect most people. The old, the young, the weak, and women were usually not harmed, because most violent acts happened between willing combatants, such as gamblers, miners, and the like. McGrath points out that during the boom years of Bodie, there were only ten robberies on individuals and eleven robberies on stage coaches. This converts to a rate of eighty-four robberies per 100,000 citizens per year. This is well below the United States average of 243 in 1980, and greatly less than New York at 1,140, Miami at 995 and Los Angeles at 628. McGrath believes that this crime was deterred in Bodie because most citizens of the town were always armed and had no second thoughts of shooting the person trying to rob them. Due to this, burglary rates in Bodie were also comparatively very low, the town was at a rate of 128, compared to Miami in 1980 at 3,282, New York at 2,661, Los Angeles at 2,602, and the United States national average at 1,668. However, Bodie had one area of crime that was much higher compared to crimes of today. Thirty-one citizens of Bodie were murdered during its boom years, this converts into a homicide rate of 116, which is staggeringly high compared to the rates of today's cities. Miami had the highest rate in 1980 at 32.7, Las Vegas came next at 23.4, and many cities came in at zero. The National average in 1980 was only at 10.2. Most of those homicides were...
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