Apparently there has been an increase in crime against property and naturally people are linking it to the recession. But this argument is based on the supply of criminals. On the other hand there's less to steal. So do we have any proper evidence?
About 5 years ago some of us did a report for the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform (which seemed to sink without a trace funnily enough). We found no evidence of labour market effects but as spending rises one gets more lucrative but fewer crimes. Details of a working paper version below:
An Econometric Analysis of Burglary In Ireland
K.Denny, C.Harmon & R.Lydon
This paper outlines an econometric model of the level of burglary in Ireland between 1952 and 1998. We explain the evolution of the trend in Burglary in terms of demographic factors: in this case the share of young males in the population, the macro-economy in the form of consumer expenditure and two characteristics of the criminal justice system : the detection rate for these crimes and the size of the prison population. The share of young males is associated with higher levels of these crimes. Imprisonment and detection act as powerful forces for reducing crimes, the effects of aggregate consumption are more difficult to pin down but we show that higher spending is associated with more lucrative but probably fewer crimes. One somewhat surprising result is that we were unable to find any robust effect from direct measures of labour market activity such as unemployment rates or wage levels.