Surprise: Burglaries Down Despite Downturn : Planet Money Surprisingly, burglaries may be falling during the current downturn, a switch from previous recessions.

Surprise: Burglaries Down Despite Downturn

During recessions, crime tends to rise, especially burglaries and other financial-related offenses. In a big surprise, burglaries are down this year as much as 30% in some cities.

In Los Angeles, the number of burglaries in the first three quarters of 2009 fell 6% compared with 1% during the same period in 2008. In Phoenix, there were 429 fewer burglaries in the first nine months of 2008 -- and 4,000 fewer in the first nine months of this year.

In Boston, the 2,199 burglaries reported in roughly the first nine months of the year is 335 fewer than in the same period last year. In Minneapolis, the number of burglaries reported in roughly the first nine months of the year dropped more than 15 % compared with the same period last year, and more than 25 % compared with that period in 2007.

A national total of this year's burglaries will not be available from the FBI until late next year, but anecdotal evidence suggests total buglaries across the country are likely to fall by year's end. The news is encouraging to say the least: the number of victims per thousand households has dropped from just over 100 thirty-five years ago to under 40 last year, according to the Department of Justice. If that trend continues through this recession, it would mean even further impressive gains.

It's too soon to know why there's been no new crime way, experts say. Some cities are seeing increases. But experts credit better law enforcement training and larger police forces across the country with the trend. Others have suggested that the unemployed are staying home more these days than past recessions because of the severity of the current recession, leading to less break-ins.

Either way, it's a small silver lining to all the bad news these days.