Statistics released today in the FBI’s Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report indicate that the number of violent crimes reported in the first six months of 2011 declined 6.4 percent when compared with figures from the first six months of 2010. The number of property crimes decreased 3.7 percent for the same time frame. The report is based on information from more than 12,500 law enforcement agencies that submitted three to six comparable months of data to the FBI in the first six months of 2010 and 2011.It continues to amaze me the number of criminologists and other experts who profess "puzzlement" over declining crime rates and recession/depression (coming from what seems an obvious correlation: when times get tough, people get desperate and turn to crime).
All four offenses in the violent crime category—murder and nonnegligent homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—decreased when data from the first six months of 2011 and the first six months of 2010 were compared. The number of murders declined 5.7 percent, and the number of rapes decreased 5.1 percent. Robbery declined 7.7 percent, and aggravated assault decreased 5.9 percent.
All three categories of property crime—burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft—showed declines in the number of offenses from January to June 2011 when compared with data for the same months of 2010. The number of burglary offenses declined 2.2 percent, larceny-theft dropped 4.0 percent, and motor vehicle theft fell 5.0 percent.
In fact, when you look at crime rates during other economic downturns, crime actually went down during the Great Depression, the Great Recession of the early 1980's, and the downturn in the early 2000's. As I've written previously, "surges in crime always come after economic downturns, not during," when good times return and the portion of the population left behind gets truly desperate. You see this in the spike in crime during the late 1930's early 1940's, the surge in the mid-late 80's, and a brief uptick in 2003-2004.
Again, I'm not predicting a surge in crime once this recession ends, but it would certainly not be out of the ordinary if it did happen.
In the meantime, let's acknowledge the good news: crime, both violent and property, are at historically low rates. We may be broke, but at least we're safer.