When the Las Vegas economy began tanking three years ago, some predicted that crime would spike, says the Las Vegas Sun. In fact, consistent with national trends, Las Vegas crime has drifted downward, even as rates of unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcies have skyrocketed to worst-in-the-nation status. Criminologists and Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie say prognosticators had it wrong from the start, noting that there's never been a clear causal link between economic downturns and crime – especially violent crime. Crime waves hit communities for reasons having nothing to do with the ups and downs of the economy, experts say.
Scholars also note the link between sustained, persistent poverty and high crime rates, evidenced by the hollowed-out industrial cities of the Rust Belt, such as Baltimore and Detroit. Those cities have suffered long-term economic declines, which coincided with, and in turn, led to violent chaos. In general, “Ttere's simply no correlation between crime rates and economic indicators such as unemployment,” says Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, puts it this way: “Crime going up in recessions is one of those things everyone knows is true, but in fact isn't true.”