Feb 19, 2009

Is crime on the rise?

Posted by: Marian Salzman In: Uncategorized

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Is the economic crisis encouraging criminal behavior? A recent survey shows 44% of U.S. police agencies report spikes in crime linked to the economy. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is warning law enforcement and citizens to prepare for an increase in petty crimes as well as crooked bureaucrats stemming from the crisis there. The U.N. crime and drug watchdog is saying that money from illicit drug trade may have been used to keep some banks afloat. And online security experts say people are more susceptible to get-rich-quick schemes now, and that criminals are taking advantage.

 

After a massive psychological tremor that brought confidence crashing down around the world, it can feel as if the world has gone from promising to threatening in just a few months.

 

Of course we watch New York for cues. We wonder if America’s largest city will crumble under the pressure, or instead be a model of strength and community for the rest of the country, as it was after 9/11. I recently talked to Crain’s New York about fears that as budgets for municipal services are cut right along with people’s jobs and ability to provide for themselves and their families, the city will revert back to the troubled, crime-ridden days of the 1970s. Mayor Bloomberg vehemently denies the prospect: “We are not going back to the days of losing control of our streets, when crime ran rampant. We’re not going back to days when we stopped picking up our trash and the city started to hollow out, people were leaving, and buildings were burning and foreclosures were all over the place. I do think we’re going to have some difficult times, but I also remain optimistic.”

 

It’s encouraging to hear, but I’ll admit I’m fearful at times. A colleague was recently mugged. I read the horror stories of a Brooklyn bus driver murdered over an unpaid fare, of the hate killing of an unassuming Ecuadorian immigrant as he walked to a friend’s house, and I wonder if these are random terrible acts, or if they are the beginnings of a pattern. It seems to me the power is with the people here, and with the leaders to provide cool, levelheaded, empathetic guidance. We should in fact look back to those days post-9/11. People were fearful, confused, uncertain. But they held strong, kept it together and looked ahead. It wasn’t perfect, but it can be a model of sorts. Maybe people only make really important changes and prove their character and tenacity when circumstances force them to. That time is now.

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