Property crimes are down since the pandemic began
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Does high unemployment drive up crime? The answer is complicated.
A recent report from the Council on Criminal Justice found property crimes and drug crimes across 28 cities fell a lot during the first eight months of the pandemic, more than 20%
That’s not typical. But neither is the recession caused by COVID-19.
Criminologist Richard Rosenfeld at the University of Missouri-St. Louis authored the new report. He said that all types of crime rates usually go up when the economy is bad. But there are two important exceptions.
“One is the Great Depression. And the other is the Great Recession of 2008-2009, during which crime rates did not rise,” Rosenfeld said.
The reason, he said, is low inflation. Compare that to the dual recessions of the mid-1970s and early ’80s, where inflation skyrocketed, unemployment was high and so was crime.
“When a recession coincides with increases in prices, with inflation, we tend to see crime rises,” Rosenfeld said.
So when things like food or gas get more expensive and people are out of work, there’s more crime, he said. But right now? Inflation is low. And because people are forced to stay in, crimes like home burglaries are a lot harder.
But in some areas, like New York, burglary is rising. Francisco Marte, in the Bronx, oversees an association of bodegas, the small convenience stores that are everywhere in New York. Shooting and robberies in or near bodegas have spiked during the pandemic.
Just a few weeks ago, at one of his locations, “a guy walks in, gets behind the counter and points a knife at the clerk,” Marte said, speaking in Spanish. “The thing is, people are feeling the crisis. There’s no money. People are desperate.”
Rosenfeld’s study found violent crime is up across the country. Homicides grew 34% this fall compared to last year.
John Roman, who studies the economics of crime at the University of Chicago, said rising violent crimes are driven by more than just inflation.
It’s also about “people who have long-term, simmering beefs. Gangs and crews. They’re now all home,” Roman said. “And the people they have disputes with are right there, just a couple of blocks away. And everybody’s got a lot of time on their hands.”
Another factor experts say can’t be ignored is deteriorating community relations with law enforcement. It’s been a year of confrontations over racist policing practices, and many worry that people are hesitating to call for help.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.
What kind of help can small businesses get right now?
A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.
What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?
New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.
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