OK, So Where's That Crime Uptick?

Data Sources: Nat'l Bureau Economic Research/ Disaster Center

Data Sources: Nat'l Bureau Economic Research/ Disaster Center

Remember back in the September ’08 to March ’09 period when every day you’d read stories about people stocking up on safes and guns?    There were stories about police forces in major cities drilling to be ready for mass unrest.

The prevailing wisdom was that as the recession built in intensity and joblessness trended toward 10%, the crime wave would spike nationwide.  So far, yes the economy has gotten worse, but we haven’t quite arrived at the Lord of the Flies era just yet.

Below is a look at how our current recession’s crime stats compare to the stats of other periods of economic hardship.  The crime rates are based on total/population from the beginning of each recession (Series 1) to the end (Series 2).

Recession and Crimes Chart


1. July ’81 – November ’82 (16 months) -4.54% drop in crime
2. July ’90 – March ’91 (8 months) +1.33% rise in crime
3. March ’01 – November ’01 (8 months) +0.92% in crime
4. December ’07 – Present (18 months so far) -1.4% in crime

*series 1 is beginning of recession
**series 2 is end of recession

Unfortunately for the survivalists and vigilante crowd, crime is actually dropping nationwide.  Without getting into sub-categories, overall, it appears that since the official start of the recession (December 2007) until now, crime has actually dropped in America by about 1.4% and is not even half of what it was during the previous 3 recessions.

This data is even more interesting in light of the fact that this recession has gone on for a longer period than the previous 3, double the amount of time so far than each of the prior 2!

We can chalk up this lighter-than-expected crime rate to a number of factors, many cite the drop in major Northeastern cities offsetting the general increase in crime in the South, for example.

Others possible factors include:

  • Crime prevention programs are working
  • Higher gun ownership and eased carry laws have had a positive effect
  • The Crack Epidemic of the 1980’s/1990’s skews the data negative

I wouldn’t exactly tell anyone to put their newly purchased safe on Craigslist just yet, but for whatever the reason, the current recession has not generated the wave of civil unrest and lawlessness that many were predicting just a few short months ago.

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