There's been a much-observed tendency to link periods of rising economic distress with increasing crime rates.
But we may have to rethink that, given the pattern in the national data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In 2009, for the third straight year and during the Great Recession, crime rates fell.
The FBI reports that its preliminary numbers indicate the national violent crime rate fell 5.5. percent. Meanwhile, the property crime rate fell by 4.9 percent. You would think the lack of jobs would mean more burglaries or strong-arm robberies as some people turned to crime to get money. But that just hasn't been the case.
From the FBI's press release on the report:
All four categories of violent crime declined overall compared to 2008: robbery, 8.1 percent; murder, 7.2 percent; aggravated assault, 4.2 percent; and forcible rape, 3.1 percent. Violent crime declined 4.0 percent in metropolitan counties and 3.0 percent in nonmetropolitan counties.
The largest decrease in murders—7.5 percent—was in cities with populations ranging from 500,000 to 999,999. The only increases in murders were found in cities of 25,000 to 49,999 (up 5.3 percent) and non-metropolitan counties (up 1.8 percent).
All overall categories of property crime also decreased when compared to 2008. Motor vehicle theft was down 17.2 percent; larceny-theft, 4.2 percent; and burglaries, 1.7 percent. Motor vehicle theft, which experienced the largest decrease in a single property crime category by far, fell significantly in all four regions of the country—down 18.5 percent in the Midwest, down 17.5 percent in both the Northeast and the West, and down 16.3 percent in the South.
Arson declined across the board, with reported decreases across all population groups and all four regions of the country—11.6 percent in the West, 10.6 percent in the South, 9.2 percent in the Midwest, and 8.6 percent in the Northeast.