Economic Downturns and Crime [December 19, 2011]   [open pdf - 331KB]

"The United States is currently recovering from a broad recession that is considered the longest-lasting economic downturn since World War II. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) determined that the recession officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, followed by a period of recovery. While NBER declared an end to the recession, it has not reported favorable economic conditions or a return to economic strength. The United States remains in a period of recovery--what some have characterized as slow and uneven. Various indicators of economic strength, such as the unemployment rate and foreclosures, reached their worst showings in decades during the recession and the following months. While some newspapers across the country have published stories linking the depressed economy with localized increases in crime, others have reported decreases in crime. The current state of the economy has continued to spark debate concerning whether economic factors can affect crime. Any increase in crime rates during a period of economic uncertainty could exacerbate an already difficult situation for communities across the United States. Congress has voiced concern over this issue and deliberated funding for federal programs that provide support for state and local law enforcement agencies. The 111th Congress passed legislation that authorized over $3 billion in funding for law enforcement assistance. Advocates of increasing funding for state and local law enforcement assistance believe that additional funding is needed for a number of reasons, including that crime rates tend to increase during periods of economic uncertainty and that state law enforcement agencies are facing budget cuts and may be forced to stop hiring new officers or filling vacated positions. Opponents of this funding argue that there is no documented link"

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R40726
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