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The Recession's Impact on Crime and Especially Children

The current economic crisis has already had an impact on the crime problem.  Cases of reported runaway youth have been rising, stemming directly from the current crisis.  Many states have been releasing prisoners by the hundreds, if not thousands, in order to save money.  For the first time since 1972 we saw a reduction in the overall prison population in 2009. A survey of 233 police departments by the Police Executive Research Forum in early 2009 found that 43 percent of the departments "reported rising levels of what they felt were recession-related crimes."  The report also noted that there was a general expectation that as the recession worsens, crime is likely to continue going up, as predicted by previous recessions in U.S. history.  

Several reports have noted that children will be negatively affected by the recession as it will increase the likelihood that they will be living under the poverty level, which in turn may increase the likelihood of doing poorly in school and dropping out, which in turn often leads to crime. One report found that about 1 out of 7 children are living with an unemployed parent. This report noted that: "Children whose parents are unemployed are at increased risk for experiencing poverty, homelessness and child abuse." Also, children who enter poverty during a recession are very likely to drop out of school. Further, child poverty has reached 22% and one recent report notes that: "Half of the poor are now classified as in 'extreme poverty' -- described as living in families earning below 50 percent of the poverty line.  The percent of children who are food insecure also increased to 18 percent in 2010.  This growth translates into an additional 750,000 children nationwide who are malnourished. Reliance on food stamps increased by 24 percent between August 2008 and August 2009, with the number of children benefitting them growing from nearly 30 million to 37 million."  The 2010 Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI) created by the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) predicted that the effects of the recession will likely include: (1) a decline in Pre-Kindergarten enrollment; (2) an increase in the rate of those between the ages of 16 and 19 who are "detached" from mainstream institutions because they are not in school and do not have a job; and (3) an increase in "risky behavior" (violence, drugs, etc.). The report also predicted that the proportion of children living in poverty will rise to 21% in 2010 and that more than one-fourth of all children will be living with a parent that is unemployed.  The key finding here is the decline in pre-kindergarten enrollment as this is a leading predictor of child development in the early years, including delinquent behavior. 

Keywords: crime trends, Randall Shelden, victims, youth

Posted in Blog, Social Justice

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