Does Recession Mean a Crime Wave is in the Offing?

Does Recession Mean a Crime Wave is in the Offing?

The severe economic recession has brought about the possibility of a crime wave occuring in the future. The soaring unemployment rate may mean that more desparate people will resort to crime to obtain money. At the time of this writing, the official U.S unemployment rate has jumped to about 8.1% (this is the U-3 unemployment rate which does not include the underemployed or those who have stopped looking for work). In California, the unemployment rate is 10.1%. According to some sources, there is typically a ‘lag-time’ of about a year between a significant economic event (e.g. massive bank failures, stock market crash etc.) and an increase in crime. If this theory holds true, then the U.S. might see a crime spike somewhere around Sept. 2009 as the effects of the 2008 crash begin to manifest themselves fully. As usual, there are conflicting studies on this topic, as some studies indicate that a crime increase does not necessarily occur when the economy deteriorates. 

However, recent data indicates a bank robberies in certain cities such as Houston, San Francisco, Albaquerque and New York City skyrocekted in 2008. For example, bank robberies in New York City jumped by 50% over 2007, and Houston experienced a record number of bank robberies.

Funding cutbacks have also hit police agencies as cities struggle to maintain their financial health during the recession. For example, police in Atlanta are being forced to take a day off every other week to save money. In Phoenix, some 250 police officer positions remain unfilled as that city deals with a massive budget crisis. In Sacramento, 100 police department vacancies remain unfilled, and only 1 in 10 property crimes are investigated due to staff shortages.

In Atlanta, burglaries are up 14%, auto thefts are up 17%. In Topeka, KS shoplifiting has increased 5%, in Austin, TX aggravated assault is up 10%.

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