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Trends in Crime Revisited

NCJ Number
Simon Field
Date Published
38 pages
This reappraisal and further development of research first published by the British Home Office in 1990 (Field, 1990) explores a range of factors that might be linked to recorded crime trends.
The earlier study concluded that rates of property crime are closely tied to economic growth; when consumption is increasing rapidly, property crime growth tends to slow down or reverse. The opposite is true during economic recessions. The explanation advanced was one of motivation; as people are better off financially, as indicated by their spending, they are less likely to be attracted to criminal methods of obtaining goods. A number of new developments have made these findings ripe for reappraisal. The new research shows that over the long term thefts and burglaries are linked to the stock of crime opportunities, represented by the sum of real consumers' expenditure in each of the last 4 years. For every 1-percent increase in the stock, burglary and theft increase by approximately 2 percent. Thefts and burglaries are associated with the numbers of young males. For every 1-percent increase in the number of males aged 15 and 20, burglary and theft increase by approximately 1 percent. Although the explanation advanced provides a powerful historical explanation of property crime trends, applicable over half a century, and in broad terms replicable in relation to property crime trends in the United States, it should not be viewed as involving an unchanging mechanical linkage between economic growth, criminal opportunities, and acquisitive crime. 7 figures and 7 references