Even since the economy began stalling several years ago, there have been dire warnings that crime would rise. In Southern California, says the Los Angeles Times, crime continues its long decline despite the weak economy. Indeed, 2011 brought new worries about a “double dip recession,” yet streets in many parts of the region were the safest they’ve been in decades. The trend continues to puzzle some criminologists but has reinforced the view of many in law enforcement that factors other than the economy determine the rise or fall of crime.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said crime rates are determined largely by how well police do their job and the “informal social standards” set by communities — that is, what kind of behavior people are willing to tolerate from others. “The driving forces on crime,” Beck said, are ” ‘What is the likelihood the police will catch you?’ and, ‘What would your mother or neighbor think if they knew what you were doing?’ ” The city, along with much of the rest of L.A. County, finished the year with thousands fewer serious crimes than in 2010. “It is deeply puzzling,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a leading criminologist at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. “During past economic recessions, with high unemployment and stagnant incomes, we saw increases in crime. That has not been the case this time.”