Bad economy = increased crime? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Bad economy = increased crime?

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By Cade Fowler - bio | email

July 22, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - It's an all too familiar sight over recent months - surveillance video capturing criminals in the act - armed robbers holding up businesses at gunpoint to score cash. While this is certainly not a new trend in criminal activity, it comes at a time when the economy isn't doing so well.

"Typically, the economy goes in cycles, and it looks like we're on a downward trend right now," says Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton College.

Johnson says a recent study conducted by 3 major universities shows a link between crime rates and local labor markets. The key player in this study: wage earnings.

He says, "When you think about what's happening to the wages for low skilled workers, it's been on a downward trend. And they've seen some definite relationships between crime rates. Not just crime rates, but property crime rates. This same relationship does not exist for rape or murder because that's not dealing with monetary gain."

Law enforcement across southwest Georgia has been dealing with a rash of property crimes, many of which involve copper thefts. But even on the national level, experts say unemployment, foreclosures, and credit defaults are possible motivating factors behind an increase in the number of bank robberies in major U.S. cities. Even Jerome Lowe, the confessed Bandana Bandit, admitted to police he carried out his crime spree because he needed the money.

But is there a solution to this trend before the problem grows worse?

Johnson says, "Some potential solutions could include wage subsidies, expansion of the earned income tax credit, programs aimed at not just focusing on students going to college but also vocational training and technical skills. Hopefully, this will pick up wages in the low wage market and make it less profitable for them to engage in criminal activity."

While the issue has been debated for decades, some argue there are several contributing factors such as police presence that lead to an increase or decrease in crime.

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