Pickpockets, shoplifters, car thieves, and burglars are lurking with increasing frequency in South Florida, and the teetering economy is a big reason why, the Miami Herald reports. Property crimes are on a steady rise in Florida for the first time in 16 years, and experts say it’s likely to stay that way until several months after the economy gets back on track. Crime historically has gone up during times of economic slowdowns, said University of Miami sociologist Amie Nielsen.
The effects are being felt in neighborhoods throughout South Florida. More homeowner associations are forming crime watches to help protect their blocks, said Carmen Caldwell of the Citizens Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Homes in foreclosure have become targets for criminals who use them to squat or to steal copper piping to resell to scrapyards, Caldwell said. Her group urges residents to keep their eyes open and to call police at the first sign of suspicious activity. ”A police officer can drive through a neighborhood 100 times, but he or she doesn’t really know the intricacies like the neighbors do — the hiding places, the cars that don’t belong, those things,” she said.