In the economic downturn, police officers in many cities report a surge in property crime. At the same time, many are being forced to improvise because the recession is shrinking the finances of local governments, including police departments, reports the New York Times. In Columbia, S.C., the state with the second-highest U.S. unemployment rate, property crimes rose 14 percent last year. “Burglaries, auto breaks, anything pawnable gets stolen,” Officer George Potash said.
When the economy falters, local governments fail to add enough police officers, which indirectly elevates crime, said criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. Columbia has long recorded crime rates running two and three times the national average. The city’s police chief, T. C. Carter, has won the confidence of city leaders and police officers on the beat with his plans to expand the police force and heighten its presence. On his watch last year, violent crime dropped by 22 percent compared with 2007. Carter is encountering resistance from city government on his hopes to add 189 officers over the next five years – 87 investigators and 102 patrol officers.