WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- The tragic death of Australian baseball player Christopher Lane has put violence in the U.S. under the international microscope, but experts said the country has become a safer place than in years past.
Lane, studying at a university in the state of Oklahoma on a baseball scholarship, was shot dead less than two weeks ago by three teens while going for an afternoon jog. One of the teens said they were "bored" that day, so they decided to kill a random stranger, according to police.
The murder was followed by calls from former Australian deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer for Aussie tourists to boycott the U.S. in light of Lane's murder.
Experts said such tragedies are increasingly rare, as violent crime in the U.S. is at a low point and murder victims tend to know their killers.
"This story has gained so much traction because it's becoming increasingly unusual," said John Roman, senior fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a non-partisan American think tank based in Washington D.C..
"It's horrible and it's a tragedy and it's unconscionable what these kids did, but (safety in the U.S.) really is getting better," he told Xinhua.
He noted that ironically, while there are more out-of-wedlock births today than there were 30 years ago -- in 2011, 36 percent of all births were to unwed mothers -- crime numbers are actually falling in most cities.
Studies show that children from such backgrounds gravitate at a much higher rate toward violence than their peers, but oddly, the violence is down.
So how has this happened?
Roman said topping the list of reasons is that the U.S. incarcerates people at four times the rate of 30 years ago. In addition, many of the housing projects dotting inner city landscapes through the 1970s and 1980s -- densely populated cesspools of violence -- have been torn down, causing crime to recede after a spike in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The numbers tell the story. Washington D.C. in 1991 saw nearly 500 murder cases, but last year there were 82 murders in the nation's capital, Roman noted.
Similar trends can be found in New York and other cities nationwide, such as Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Diego. In New York, the year of 2012 saw murder rates hit an all-time low at 414, a dramatic decline from levels in the early 1990s that were commonly around 2,000 per year.
"If you're under 40 in the United States, you've never been safer than you are today," Roman said.
Another set of cities have not reached the same level of success, such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit. But they are still safer than in decades past, Roman said.
Philadelphia is a case study of this second group of cities. Though violence in Philadelphia in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania has followed the national downward trend, the city is still rough.
A Philadelphia police officer who worked more than a decade in the city's most dangerous neighborhoods told Xinhua that heavier incarceration rates make a city safer.
If Philadelphia adopted such tactics, crime would drop, he said.
"Word would spread quick on the street ... If you make punishment harsh on all violent crime, then there definitely will be a drop in crime," he told Xinhua on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the press.