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Two Interesting Theories on Falling Crime Rates

| December 5, 2011

The St. Petersburg Times reports on two criminologists with somewhat novel explanations for falling crime rates in a turbulent economy.

As a bit of background, this year, violent crime is down six percent nationwide, while property crime has dropped almost three percent. Crime has fallen in those categories for four and eight years consecutively, respectively. And Texas, for example, has hit its lowest crime rate since 1973. This has researchers confused, as crime is usually believed to increase or decrease inversely with the strength of the economy, and this economic downturn has produced high levels of unemployment and poverty, which usually bring about increased crime rates.

So a new explanation is needed, and this article discusses two novel hypotheses.

The first proffered explanation is that low inflation, which keeps the prices of goods down, has decreased demand and customers for underground illegal markets. The theory is that the market for stolen or illegal goods is not as robust when retailers are dealing with low prices.

The second proffered explanation is that technology has had a demonstrable impact on crime. Websites creating legal secondhand markets (think Craigslist, Etsy, and Ebay), along with GPS and security tracking mechanisms in almost every high-tech device from automobiles to cell phones has decreased the ease of crime.

Other theories mentioned in the article include an increased rate of people staying at home (decreasing possible break-in risks) and an aging population.

Whatever the answer, it is important to keep searching for cohesive evidence indicating why crime rates rise and fall, because that evidence will guide the strategies we use to tackle difficult law enforcement and corrections conundrums.


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