Despite a national decline in violent crime reports compiled by the FBI, across the country, and especially in the South, residents are still alarmed about crime, says the Christian Science Monitor. Many report a surge in property crimes – chiefly break-ins targeting flat-screen TVs. Criminologists have expected crime rates to rise – especially as young unemployed males turn to illegal enterprises for cash during the recession. So far, the pattern seems more akin to what happened during the Great Depression, when crime rates did not spike dramatically despite – or perhaps because of – widespread poverty.
“It’s kind of understood, but without being proven, if you’ve got an economic crisis that you’re likely going to see an upswing in property crimes,” says Stephen Handelman, director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Yet if everybody’s in the same bag, then individual neighborhoods are not necessarily as threatened as when you have sharp disparities in income, as you did in the 1990s.” One reason for the disconnect between perception of crime and the hard stats: Crime, like politics, is local. A 2007 survey by the Center on Media, Crime, and Justice showed that more than 53 percent of Americans said crime was an equal concern to health care and the economy. While people may not have seen crime as a problem generally, they often pointed to crime in their own neighborhood as a major concern.