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Is Inflation Responsible For Rise in Thefts, Robberies?

For the last two years, murders and shootings increased in the U.S., while many other crime types remained flat or fell. So far in 2022, the trends have reversed. It’s a confusing combination. The worst forms of crime have been moving in a different direction from other categories. Both developments have big implications for everyday life: The decline in murder is saving lives, but the rise of street crime has created widespread anxiety and problems in many parts of the U.S., the New York Times reports. Murders in major cities have fallen by four percent so far in 2022, compared with the same period in 2021. Shootings nationwide have fallen two percent. The decreases are not enough to undo the large increases in 2020 and 2021; the murder rate is still 30 percent above its 2019 level. The spike appears to have peaked last year.

COVID disrupted services that helped keep people safe, like policing and addiction treatment programs. The pandemic closed down schools, which left teenagers idle and stressed. This year, the virus’s impact on daily rhythms has waned; the slow return of normalcy has probably helped reduce violent crime. Another factor is the fallout from George Floyd’s murder in 2020. His killing damaged police-community relations and made more people skeptical of working with law enforcement. With more time since Floyd’s death, that effect has receded. Still, property offenses, are rising. Thefts and robberies in major cities increased by around 20 percent in the first half of 2022, the Council on Criminal Justice found. The last major crime wave, from the 1960s through the early ’90s, happened alongside a rise in inflation. That likely was not a coincidence, said Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri St. Louis. How can inflation lead to more crime? People might try to get around higher prices by stealing. A bigger dynamic is also at play, Rosenfeld said: Higher prices can push people to seek cheaper — and potentially stolen — goods at gray markets, such as pawn shops. These purchases effectively boost demand for stolen goods, enticing more thieves and robbers.

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