Crime was down again last year, about 5% overall.Â Reporters and some criminologists continue to insist that there’s a puzzle here, because crime ought to go up with unemployment. How that idea fits with the high-crime Roaring Twenties and the low-crime Depression era, or the very peaceful low-growth 1950s and the crime explosion that accompanied the Kennedy-Johnson economic boom no one seems to be able to explain.
Crime is linked to long-term concentrated poverty and deprivation; there’s no evidence that it’s linked to unemployment rates.
Larry Mantle of KPCC’s Air Talk kept insisting that increased incarceration must be a big part of the reason for the crime drop last year, despite the fact that incarceration did not increase last year. When a causal factor generates an effect despite not being present, you know that its causal force must be very strong indeed.
One explanation that appeals to me is that there’s a strong positive feedback built in to crime rates; the fewer crimes, the more cops and the more cells per crime, so crime declines and crime increases both tend to feed on themselves.
But an Air Talk caller offered an explanation that hadn’t occurred to me: Grand Theft Auto. Instead of getting their adrenaline rush from stealing real cars, he said, kids are getting the same rush from stealing virtual cars.
Give that man a grant.