We’ve talked before about how the recession has pushed more people into a life of crime. Well, according to the Associated Press, in some areas, the recession has actually reduced the number of home burglaries, by 35% in some places. Why? Most burglaries occur during the day when people are at work, but as more and more unemployed people stay home, there are fewer empty houses to target. Police departments across North America have noticed a spike in calls from neighbors about strange cars and suspicious activity. Take the story of one unemployed man in Bellevue, Washington. He was home while burglars were ransacking his house, so he snuck outside, drove their getaway van to a friend’s house, and called the police!
Still, overall police departments are very surprised by the drop in burglaries. Crime expert Richard Rosenfeld points out that during every recession since the 1950s, property thefts always rose dramatically. With city budget cuts reducing the number of police officers on patrol, he expected an increase in burglaries, not a decrease, especially in big cities like Los Angeles, Boston and Phoenix. It’s not just people staying home that’s reducing crime. More and more neighborhoods are forming “block watch” groups. According to the National Sheriffs’ Association website, the number of neighborhood watch groups has quadrupled to more than 50,000 groups in the last two years. Another reason for the drop in home burglaries: The falling prices of copper and other scrap metal, which means, thieves are less likely to strip copper wiring and plumbing from houses and construction sites.
Yes, fewer people are stealing, but if you’d like to reduce the crime stats in your neighborhood, start your own neighborhood watch group! It does work. In Virginia, for example, statistics show neighborhoods with crime watch programs have crime rates 40% lower than those neighborhoods without them. To start your own group – or join an existing one, go to USAOnWatch.org.