Seems obvious. I'm not saying times of plenty are crime free. Some crimes may actually increase then - like theft when there is more around to steal. But overall, a worsening economy is bad news for crime and violence.
A California friend recently sent an LA Times article, "Crime and Economy Don't Tell the Whole Story" by James Q. Wilson (a renowned and well published scholar).
See the LA Times story
His conclusion? "Everyone knows that there is more crime in economically depressed inner-city neighborhoods than in affluent suburbs. That fact leads naturally to the assumption that if a community becomes more prosperous, crime rates will go down, and if income levels decline, crime rates go up...A lot of other factors affect the crime rate as well. It often goes up when the population gets younger, and when drug abuse becomes more common. Murder rates are profoundly influenced, at least in big cities, by gang activity."
So I have a question: How long do we wait for research to "tell" us what to do?
I've not compared the number of Crips or Bloods gang members living in Beverly Hills versus South Central LA. But I'll bet the south-centrals of the world lose every time! And my crime mapper friends will tell us, when you look at crime rates in cities, skid row looks much worse than elsewhere. (Apologies to South Central where I hear they've been working to make things better).
I love research and believe it can tell us plenty. But there is an ethical line in the sand. Can we really wait?