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Recession and crime

Published: 
Friday, January 1, 2016

Gripping our minds now should be, will the recessionary period ahead lead to an increase in crime and insecurity? While many people will want to say yes, a review of the criminology literature gives mixed results. That is, some scholars have shown that for some economies, crimes increased during a recession; for others they decreased. 

If we go with the former set of findings, many economists suggest that in a recession many companies and individuals as well as the state cut expenditure to weather the stormy days by having reductions in staff, investments and in other areas of activities. 

Generally, the theory proposes that with unemployment, some turn to crime to cope. Do we have an adequate unemployment social welfare system for such people and their families to clog this opening? 

In the United Kingdom in 2014 and the United States of America in 2009, as they experienced their recessions, there were increases in shoplifting, muggings, robberies, burglaries, theft from vehicles and even domestic abuse—even though social safety systems exist. Writers refer to these as “recession-related crimes.”

In a recession, companies, people and the state may want to cut on their security and safety systems to reduce costs. However, given what we know is coming, should they still make these cuts? No. In fact, the opposite should take place. That is, companies, individuals and the state should be beefing-up their security and safety systems to counter-attack any attack on their property and person. And, critical, staff should be trained and re-tooled for the days ahead.   

Companies, people and the state can opt for more efficient security and safety measures during a recession but not a reduction in measures. There are many cutting edge systems that can be used and personnel should be quickly and professionally trained to handle these. 

Strategically, people in organisations who are not currently directly involved in security and safety may now position themselves to take advantage of additional responsibilities and be trained to do so. Having additional skill-sets can play a key role in being “kept on” by employers for the times ahead. A good way to start is by being able to secure the assets and people. 

Further, given that many street crimes like muggings, petty theft, robberies etc, may be on the cards, companies, the state and individuals on their own may also wish to be trained in personal safety and self defence techniques so that they may be able to counter many recession-related crimes.

Some companies may unwisely wish to tamper with their Occupational Health, Safety and Environment systems in a recessionary period to cut costs. This should not be done. You do not want injuries and hazards to occur in your workplaces in a recession that may eventually cost your company much more in the long run if you have to take corrective and compensatory action. As the saying goes, “you don’t want the candle to cost more than the funeral.” You can strive for more efficient ways of doing things without compromising safety and security of property and people. And, adequate and appropriate training will certainly contribute to this.

In a recession, the police and by extension the Government, for example, have to be very careful to manage crime levels. A little spike in crime can lead to an increase in the fear of crime especially in communities that once had low levels of such fear. This psychological balancing of actual crimes and fear of crime is such a delicate affair that serious consideration should be placed here.

A recession may lead some to engage in drug trafficking and gang-related crimes. Further, white-collar crimes and corruption may be other criminal spin-offs of a recession period. A strong focus should be placed here as well. Cybercrime can become more pronounced.  

The big question now is: if we know all of this is on the cards, what can the various authorities do? We have to put things in place to reduce the impact of a recession on crime potentials. The entire public and private security and safety apparatus should be getting into gear now. 

We also know that the Carnival season also produces a spike in certain crimes. This phenomenon is now coinciding with a recession. Should we expect a further increase in crimes for this period? 

Citizens have to more vigilant on the safety and security of their homes and person. They must have plans not to the point of being paranoid though, but to have a peace of mind that things are in place. 

Person-related crimes like domestic violence and other forms of abuse may accompany a recession as people become frustrated. Unfortunately, it is a reality as to how some people react to bad situations. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) as well as free and confidential state counselling should be in place. A national campaign to reduce the stigma of seeking guidance and assistance should be instituted. Religious groups and NGOs should also assist in keeping citizens on the right track. 

In a recession, cuts are necessary. We need to be very careful where they are made. 

The Miami Dade College School of Justice and the CISPS are hosting an international practical training on Surveillance and Counter-Surveillance from January 13-15, 2016. Contact us for further information on this and other courses at 223-6999, 223-6968; mailto:[email protected]

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