Across the U.S., statistics indicate the crumbling economy is likely to fuel growth in the national crime rate, says the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. A jump in property crimes seems to occur when unemployment or poverty rates increase, said a Virginia study by Debbie Roberts of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. Violent and drug-related crimes also may escalate in times of recession, but less so than property crimes, including burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
The rate of increase depends on several factors, including police department size and residents’ participation in social programs, said criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri in St. Louis: “You’ll see increases happen in some areas, but not across the board.” A higher crime rate can’t be attributed only to crimes by people who have fallen on hard times, said Robert McCrie of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. McCrie said crime escalated in cities in the 1960s and 1970s because police were underfunded. Rosenfeld and McCrie pointed to the Great Depression as a major anomaly in the recession-crime correlation. From 1930 to 1932, in the early years of the Great Depression, there was a spike in crime because of turf battles between bootleggers and disorderly conduct among their customers, McCrie said. With the end of Prohibition in 1933, however, crime rates began to drop.