Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Is There a Link between the Economy and Public Safety?

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Is There a Link between the Economy and Public Safety?

Article excerpt

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)'s recently released Preliminary Annual Unified Crime Report, cities across the country experienced a 2.5 percent drop in violent crimes and a 1.7 percent decrease in property crimes.

These preliminary figures for 2008 show a continuation of the nationwide decline in violent and property crime over the past two decades.

With speculation in the media that the recession might lead to a spike in crime in America's cities and towns, the decrease came as a surprise to some.

NLC staff sat down to discuss the possible impact of the economy on public safety with Dr. Robert Nash Parker, professor of sociology and co-director of the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of California Riverside.

"Variables like unemployment have been shown to be related to crime, but given the previous 10 years, another year of decline can be expected," said Parker. "We're in a severe recession with less people shopping and higher numbers of police available in many cities, mainly due to personnel buildups over the last two decades, so the chances for crime are highly diminished."

Parker did warn that if poverty and unemployment continue to rise, crime could also trend upward. "If higher unemployment becomes chronic, lasting longer and longer, and going higher and higher, and poverty increases, this will push the crime rate upward. But in the first couple of years of a recession like this one, the weight would be on the downward push."

To ensure crime remains low, Parker advised cities to monitor crime data on a real time basis, pay attention to crime patterns, and implement interventions. "Monitoring data in a real-time basis is something many cities don't do. Some cities have set up systems in which data can be mapped the next day. …

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