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Fewer jobs doesn't equal more crime

Flickr photo by Soon Van

Apparently yet another industry is shrinking amid California’s economic crisis.

Based on figures released last week in Crime in California 2009 report, state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office found that virtually all manner of criminal offenses are in decline. The data documents criminal activity reported to or observed by law enforcement, not necessarily all crime in the Golden State.

In making the announcement, the attorney general highlighted drops in violent crime rates.

However, the most significant change has come in the number of property crimes: 595,813 in California last year, more than 125,000 fewer (17 percent) than in 2005.

This improvement has gained momentum as the state’s economic collapse escalated. California’s unemployment rate has remained in double digits since early 2009, hovering above 12 percent for almost a year.

U.S. Bureau of Labor StatisticsUnemployment in California has more than doubled since 2007.

But increases in armed robbery did not follow increases in jobless Californians. The data shows that economic duress does not necessarily correlate with higher crime rates.

“It seems very common sense that there’d be a connection, especially with property crime,” John R. Hipp, criminology professor at UC Irvine said in an interview with California Watch.

That generally is not the case, Hipp said. Violent crime, in particular, can rise and fall independent of economic conditions. So, too, do property crime rates.

All this reinforces what researchers like Hipp have increasingly found: Crime is not just a symptom of economic and societal ills.

In an article published last month in the journal Social Problems, Hipp argues that crime itself drives societal instability, not just the other way around. 

Neighborhoods with more crime tend to experience increasing levels of residential instability, more concentrated disadvantage, a diminishing retail environment and more African-Americans 10 years later.

Although we find that neighborhoods with more concentrated disadvantage experience increases in violent and property crime, there is no evidence that residential instability or the presence of African-Americans increases crime rates 10 years later.

The decline in property crimes has been driven by the motor vehicle theft category, which has documented 26 percent fewer stolen cars during the past three years. In Los Angeles County alone, police recorded a drop of almost 10,000 thefts (17 percent) from 2008 to 2009.

Rates of robbery and burglary have changed little in recent years.

Filed under: Public Safety, Daily Report

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