Friday, October 10, 2008

And now the obligatory crash-crime story

Now that we're all broke, we have something else to look forward to: More crime! Or maybe not. This is all debated in the Times today:

Expert opinions differ . . . The last time stocks on Wall Street fell hard, in 1987, crime was exploding, and the city saw historic highs in murders in the following years.

Before that, the fiscal crisis of the 1970s helped lead to the abandonment of neighborhoods, failing schools and startling crime rates: robberies built through those years to a high in 1981, when there were 107,495 of them, for an average of 294 a day. (Last year’s total reported robberies, 21,787, was the lowest figure in modern history.)

“Every recession since the late ’50s has been associated with an increase in crime and, in particular, property crime and robbery, which would be most responsive to changes in economic conditions,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a sociologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Typically, he said, “there is a year lag between the economic change and crime rates.”

Uh. How about New York?

New York, of course, has over the last 15 years seen an extraordinary drop in crime, from the most serious to the mildly irritating. But across all those years, economists and sociologists have debated how much of the success was attributable to new trends in policing and how much to other factors, including a robust economy.

Now, if the dire predictions of economic hardship prove accurate, the city may be poised to find out in a real-time experiment. And it will have to conduct that experiment with thousands fewer police officers than it had in 2001.

For his part, the New York police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, said he did not subscribe to the idea that there was a strong connection between a city’s financial fortunes and its safety. He said he and his top commanders had had informal talks about the current economic conditions and what they might mean for crime, but had set no specific policy changes in motion that are related to economic circumstances.

No comments: