Buy Or Be Stabbed

The global economy is crashing, credit markets are playing ice age, and you consumers have a simple choice: buy things now or prepare to be stabbed next year.

Because we didn’t already have enough to worry about this week, the New York Times took a moment to remind us that recessions and crime go hand-in-hand. Consider:

  • 1970s: New York almost dies, neighborhoods follow.
  • 1987: Stocks crash. The next year, murders soar.

Specifics can be depressing, so let’s turn to cheerful sociologist Richard Rosenfeld for encouragement in broad trends:

“Every recession since the late ’50s has been associated with an increase in crime and, in particular, property crime and robbery, which would be most responsive to changes in economic conditions. Typically, there is a year lag between the economic change and crime rates.”

Nearly 80 police departments say that the subprime meltdown is already boosting crime rates. In Santa Anna, foreclosed homes have been converted to playgrounds for gangs and whores.

New York is enjoying record-low crime rates, even with 4,000 fewer officers than we had eight years ago. Of course, the police department is funded by tax revenue, and New York, more than most, depends on Wall Street for a double-digit chunk of budget grease. Former top cop Bill Bratton said:

Those are tough choices. Where are you going to put the scarce tax dollars? I would advocate it is the wrong thing to do if you start impacting police.

Mayor Bloomberg disagrees and told the police to slash $94 million from this year’s budget. Next year, the cops are set to lose another $192 million.

Of course, these social scientists don’t really know anything. Some think bad times and foreclosures lead to falling wages, unemployment, and crime. Others think crime is caused by the prosperity and gaudiness found in good times. So unlike the countless investors driving us inexorably towards recession and potential stabbings, you can take solace in the uncertainty.

Keeping Wary Eye on Crime as Economy Sinks [The New York Times]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Paul B says:

    When the goblins are at the gate nothing beats a big dog and a well maintained firearm.

  2. laserjobs says:

    Martial Law anyone?

  3. bohemian says:

    “Martial Law anyone?”
    Not funny. There has been an article floating around the net about that. Two things I never want to see in the same sentence: George Bush & martial law.

  4. celer says:

    So I live in what was a nice neighborhood outside of Washington DC, in the boom townhouses were selling in the high 300s. Now they have plummeted to below 200k a piece – along with that crime has sky rocketed. So much so the local police department felt compelled to put a big blinking sign out front for our neighborhood warning not to leave valuables in your cars because it is a high crime area … Of course this doesn’t help our property values. But first hand I have seen the neighborhood change, more cars broken into more drug activity, etc.

    • graceless says:

      @celer: I used to live in Alexandria… sounds a little like my old hood. I rented then, but now, am looking to buy, I like the price you mentioned, where can I get nice townhouse in the beltway for that money? I can do the neighborhood watch thing. I’m not proud.

  5. Trai_Dep says:

    Since Wall Street stole many trillions of dollars then audaciously demanded to be bailed out by us, I think “the kids” are entitled to a bit of ganging, smoking, whoring and other small-scale ne’er do-well-ing.
    Anyone wanna bet some 19-year-old caught selling a dime bag gets more time than DickFuld?

  6. Pinget says:

    As long as we pay for public services with property taxes, police forces will be cut just when we need them most. I don’t know what a better way would be, but this isn’t working.

    • greyer says:

      @Pinget: I’ve always heard property taxes were unfair because those paying often aren’t owners; the assumption that property holders have more stake in the community and use more government resources (and therefore should pay more) doesn’t hold up when large numbers are buying through finance, especially when property values are so volatile and disconnected from the holders’ ability to pay.

      Income tax is supposedly more fair. It fits closer to both the holder’s ability to pay and their probable economic/resource footprint in the community. Seems it would be more stable than what we’re using now and might even increase home ownership, increasing people’s investment in the community’s wellbeing as well.

  7. NotChoinski says:

    As another commenter put it: “Stabbed? I meant shanked. I can’t afford a knife right now.”

  8. homerjay says:

    Good to see you’re with us another weekend, Carey.

  9. snoop-blog says:

    I for one am stocking up on tobacco, guns, alcohol, and drugs. you know, the essentials…

  10. whitecat says:

    But if we go out and buy stuff, we’ll just have more stuff that could be stolen.

  11. azntg says:

    And Bloomberg wanted to run for a third term? Hell no!

  12. ChuckECheese says:

    Let’s not forget arson. Two weeks ago a neighbor’s newish Ford F-150 burned spectacularly in the middle of the night. The car’s owners were the last ones to be roused by the sound of tires exploding, flames roaring, and fire engines blaring. How sad they couldn’t get outside in time to save their truck. Gap insurance to the rescue! Could their house be next?

  13. ramthor says:

    What equities are bucking the market?

    Taser Int’l and Campbell Foods … essentially, guns and canned goods.

    Bunker time?

  14. formerglory says:

    And this is why I’m stocking up on 9mm, .45 ACP, and some good ol’ fashion .357 rounds…

    /glad to live in FL, where CCW is totally legal.

  15. VincentioThersander says:

    “Others think crime is caused by the prosperity and gaudiness found in good times”

    Really? Which social scientist(s) put forth this hypothesis? I’ve never heard of prosperity being convincingly argued for as the cause of crime in social science. In fact, despite a slight uptick in crime during the late 80s-early 90s, crime has been steadily decreasing. Any link between the economy and crime is extremely tenuous and difficult to prove, as historically crime fluctuates independently of the economy. Most social scientists believe that crime is caused by other factors: how likely it is you will get caught and the punishment for being caught (the cost of your crime), how big the reward is (the benefits of crime), and your personal economic opportunity (even when the economy is good there are still people out of work and unable to realize economic gains).

    For more information check out the excellent book “Crime and the American Dream” by Rosenfeld and Messner.

  16. MyPetFly says:

    Good warning to watch your back in the article! One very minor nit to pick – it’s “Santa Ana,” not “Santa Anna,” but again, no big deal.

  17. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The economic situation has made things worse for people who didn’t have that much to begin with. Crime is not excusable, but I see how people may convince themselves that crime is either victimless or that they somehow deserve the money they steal to survive. Frustration-aggression theory states that when people are facing increasing amounts of frustration and stress, aggression is bound to follow. And it makes sense why gangs are formed, why property crime is committed. Even acts of destruction, such as arson, become aggressive outlets for frustration and stress. Sometimes, it’s not about the money. It’s about watching everything that you can’t have burn to the ground.

    • BlazerUnit says:

      @IHaveAFreezeRay: Would you believe that there are people who STILL can’t connect these dots? When undereducated and under-employed people start getting desperate, they’re quick to resort to less than lawful means to stay afloat.

      From the ‘thugs’ jacking cars and selling crack, to the ‘hicks’ thieving copper and dealing ectasy–a lack of education and economic opportunity are the quickest (and most predictable) indicators of potential mayhem.

  18. idx says:

    I’m glad that I live in New Orleans where the crime is already bad!

  19. MrFrankenstein says:

    given that I hail from South Africa, where I was used to living with serious crime and violence – the concerns about ‘crime’ here are no big deal in comparison. What people call ‘crime’ here is generally so nickel and dime, it wouldn’t even make the papers in SA unless it involved multiple homicide with juicy torture details for the tabloids.

    (SA’s daily average murder rate is officially around 50 -80 murders a DAY, unofficially, easily around 120+ – higher per capita than the US) and that’s not counting the millions of annual rapes, assaults, burglaries etc etc).

  20. varro says:

    Why risk sticking up a possibly-armed homeowner when you can steal anything made of metal?

    Seriously, thieves on the West Coast have even stolen bronze statues out of public parks, cut them up in a meth-fueled craze, and sold them to scrap metal dealers.

  21. banmojo says:

    thanks for the tip – will be investing in bulletproof clothing methinks (already have the guns and ccw permit).

    the pisser is that the downward spiral will continue – we now have over 2 million americans behind bars, and this # is clearly going to go up. each one costs tax payers anywhere from 40,000 to 120,000 bucks/year, depending on what #s you believe in. do the f$#@ing math. it’s obscene. every prisoner is a potential source of extremely cheap labor, if the system is designed to make it so.

    no reason they can’t grow their own food, make their own clothing, educate themselves and be their own teachers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, etc etc.

    people, seriously, 80 billion dollars (MINIMUM!!) a year is a whole lotta money to be paying towards these bums. make ’em take care of themselves, in fact MAKE THEM TURN A PROFIT!!

    sorry for getting off topic – y’all take care to protect yourselves in these dangerous days to come!!


    • alstein says:

      @banmojo: Prohibited by international human rights treaties, for good reasons.

      If prisoners were profitable, governments would have an incentive to imprison innocents.

  22. Sian says:

    The Firearms industry is in for a serious uptick in sales.

  23. roguemarvel says:

    I work in Santa Ana. Just another reason to consider looking for a new job… if I could even find one