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)