At first glance, this seems logical: Crime rates should drop during good economic times and rise during bad ones.
But there's little evidence to suggest that good economic times have much effect on crime. Crime rates rose every year between 1955 and 1972, even as the U.S. economy surged, with only a brief, mild recession in the early 1960s. By the time criminals took a breather in the early 1970s, crime rates had increased over 140 percent. Murder rates had risen about 70 percent, rapes more than doubled, and auto theft nearly tripled.
A bad economy doesn't always bring more crime. Crime rates fell about one third between 1934 and 1938 while the nation was struggling to emerge from the Great Depression and weathering another severe economic downturn in 1937 and 1938. Indeed, if the economic theory held, crime should have been soaring.
So it's hard to argue credibly that economic barometers such as the unemployment rate can be used to predict crime rates. But that hasn't stopped some experts from trying.
The economic situation is merely a piece of the puzzle when discussing crime rates. Many hypotheses have been proposed as to why crime has fallen, especially in the United States. Blumstein & Wallman (2006) conclude that a complex interaction between "prisons, drugs, guns, policing, economics," and "demography, including abortion" is the best explanation for the decrease in crime from 2004 to 2014.
To assess criminality and law enforcement's response from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, one must consider many variables, some of which, while having a significant impact on crime, are not readily measurable or applicable pervasively among all locales. Geographic and demographic factors specific to each jurisdiction must be considered and applied if one is going to make an accurate and complete assessment of crime in that jurisdiction.
Several sources of information are available, which may help the responsible researcher explore the many variables that affect crime in a particular locale. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau data would allow a researcher to better understand a locale's population's makeup. The transience of the population, its racial and ethnic makeup, its composition by age and gender, educational levels, and prevalent family structures are all key factors in assessing and comprehending the crime issue.
These are unique times, and data is a critical tool for understanding what has and will probably happen. Overall crime is down 5.3 percent in 25 large American cities relative to the same period in 2019, with violent crime down 2 percent.