Less crime

Date posted: July 26, 2011

It might seem that when unemployment rises crime would rise as well. But national statistics show though that both violent crime and property crime have been falling. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden examines why that’s the case.

“Well … the relationship between crime and the economy has been a long-term, complex one. For example, during the high unemployment of the Great Depression crime rates actually fell. But during the very low unemployment years of the 1960s, crime rates rose.

“So, it’s a complex topic. Sociologists and economists who study recent crime rates say that the decline that we’ve seen … in crime rates even during these very trying economic times is a result of many factors: One, a higher incarceration rate. We have a higher percentage of folks who have broken the law in prison. Number two, and probably more important than many others, technology. Technology is being used today by the police and others to protect against crime and to anticipate crimes like never before.

“Now certainly at a household level, you have those household security systems you can buy. But the police, for example, are increasingly using advanced technology — GPS and other things — to map where crimes take place and deploy their resources in order to prevent those crimes from happening.

“And then lastly, in terms of public policy, some say that the more generous public assistance that we’ve given to unemployed workers in this recession — for example, extending unemployment compensation to about 100 weeks. That’s also provided a monetary base for those folks such that that will mean that they’re less motivated perhaps to engage in illegal activities.”

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