Saturday, April 17, 2010

Don't Discount Impact of Economy on Crime

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that crime in Florida reached a 39-year low in 2009, declining by 6.4 percent compared with the year before. In spite of a sputtering economy and an unemployment rate that closed at 10 percent nationwide, 11.7 percent in Florida — crime fell.

Although some experts have predicted that the sour economy would increase crime rates, the result is a mixed bag. In some places like New York and Los Angeles, homicide, the truest indicator of crime rates, is on the rise. In other cities like Tampa, Florida crime rates fell in 2009. Tampa, with an unemployment rate of 12.4, realized a 15.8 drop in crime, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

There is one thing analysts seem to agree upon: Unemployment has an effect on crime—it's positive.

According to the Times, "Crime depends on opportunity: houses left unattended, cars parked with valuables inside, helpless pedestrians wandering around alone in the middle of the night, and so on," said Christopher Bruce, president of the International Association of Crime Analysis. "Recessions inherently reduce opportunity. Fewer people are shopping and dining and thus leaving their cars in parking lots. Fewer people are out at nightclubs and bars, making things more difficult for burglars."

However, not all the news was good in Florida. The economy has had an indirect impact on resources available to combat domestic violence. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Report, reflected a stunning 15.6 percent increase in domestic violence-related murders and a 71.4 percent increase in domestic violence manslaughters. The domestic violence-related murders account for one out of every five murders in the state.

The Florida Times Union reported that domestic violence centers are facing a $3.8 million cut in funding. Last year, Florida’s 42 certified domestic violence centers were forced to turn away more than 7,100 victims in need of emergency shelter due to a lack of beds.

“Florida’s domestic violence centers will be forced to shut down shelters, decrease services, and reduce bed space if the Florida Legislature doesn’t provide the means to address this deficit,” said Tiffany Carr, President of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

My Take

A poor economy has an impact on crime in many different ways. The loss of tax revenue affects police manpower, investigative resources, prison security, parole supervision, victim services and court scheduling. The longer the economy stagnates the more likely the collective lack of resources will begin to effect the long term safety and security of our neighborhoods and communities.

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