Do U.S. Crime Rates Rise as Economy Falls?
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's Laura Sullivan reports.
LAURA SULLIVAN: Criminologists love trends. The economy goes bad, robberies go up. Drugs flood the street, people turn up dead. But for almost five years now crime in U.S. cities has defied logic.
DAVID KENNEDY: You get some that are down dramatically, some that are even, and some that are dramatically worse.
SULLIVAN: David Kennedy directs the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John J. College of Criminal Justice. He says crime has become a local phenomenon. One year, violence in St. Louis spikes, Chicago enjoys a record low. Then it flips. Or take one city. A few years ago Cincinnati seemed headed towards a spiral of violence, now its murder rate's been cut almost in half. The reason, Kennedy says, depends on each individual place, which makes finding national solutions difficult.
KENNEDY: If you're in Orlando and your homicide rate doubled, you don't really care that it's been offset by Omaha. The fact is we're in the middle of a slow motion train wreck.
SULLIVAN: The biggest problem with localized violence is that its effects are often felt statewide or nationally. There are prison costs and overcrowding, failing educational efforts and increasing gang violence. Effects, Kennedy says, can be hard to see and harder to quantify.
KENNEDY: We're just so used to it. We're used to these side effects. The only question we're asking is, is it getting worse. That a place that's terrible but not moving is OK. And that's - that's ridiculous.
SULLIVAN: Criminologist Alfred Blumstein at Carnegie Mellon University says a list of warning flags is even longer than that.
ALFRED BLUMSTEIN: The increasing outsourcing of jobs, low education, the diversion of police to dealing with terror incidents and the reduction of federal money, certainly doesn't bode well and could be a precursor.
SULLIVAN: Laura Sullivan, NPR News, Washington.
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