How Economic Trends Impact Property Crime

How Economic Trends Impact Property Crime 

How do economic trends affect crime trends? 

Economic factors have a major impact on property crime trends. Most assume that declining unemployment rates are the greatest contributing factor. However, studies show that inflation has the greatest correlation to increased property crime trends. In comparison to unemployment rates, supply chain disruptions due to inflation create the biggest opportunity for cargo theft. 

Why does crime increase during economic downturns? 

When the cost of goods rises due to inflation, so does the profit potential from stealing and reselling them. Opportunistic criminals start seeing dollar signs. 

Historically, there have been instances where economic downturns, typically accompanied by inflation, have been associated with an uptick in property crime. For example, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, property crime rates rose as people struggled with economic hardship. 

Crime Trends Seen with Economic Downturns 

With a declining economy, crime trends often emerge. For example, the items most stolen, the types of theft or targets, and the inability to control it. This next section discusses some of the trends that have been on the rise in recent years. 

Vehicles and the Essentials Become Major Targets 

Necessities like food and beverage are some of the hardest items hit during a struggling economy. This comes as no surprise when most people are struggling to make ends meet and provide for their families. 

However, it is not all thieves trying to feed their loved ones, as you might have guessed. Refrigerated freightliners are being targeted by the type of trailers they have because of what they are assumed to be carrying, such as seafood, red meat, poultry, and other valuable perishables. 

Vehicle thefts have also steadily been on the rise since 2019. In 2023, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported a record-breaking year for automobile theft with over 1 million vehicles stolen. The state with the most recorded vehicle thefts in 2023 was California and The District of Columbia experienced 3x the national average. Criminals are using much more sophisticated methods to carry out their thefts, which means security measures need to level up. 

Increased Cargo Theft 

Currently, cargo and trailers/storage containers are being hit harder than warehouses or facilities. Most warehouses and facilities have more security measures and precautions while cargo trucks are not as secure. 

Highly populated cities that are near major ports like Los Angeles, Miami, Savannah, and so on, have huge targets on their backs. Large cities near railways are also highly affected. 

Cargo and storage containers are historically attractive to thieves. They are hit especially hard when they get backlogged and become slow-moving or are at a complete standstill. They are like sitting ducks for criminals to easily get their hands on and steal expensive contents. When these factors combine with economic downturns, as they typically do, they become even more appealing to thieves. 

For example, in 2021, during the semiconductor shortage, West Coast ports had a surge of criminal activity and cargo container theft due to the backlog of slow-moving cargo. On the east coast, refrigerated trucks carrying essentials like food and beverage were the main targets of opportunistic criminals. 

Law Enforcement Budget Disruptions 

Economic downturns can make it harder for police to get the funding to properly control property crime. The lack of funding can manifest in several ways. 

  1. Budget Cuts: Reduced budgets may result in limitations on hiring new officers, training programs, equipment upgrades, and other resources necessary for effective crime prevention efforts.
  2. Resource Allocation: Police departments may need to reallocate resources to focus on more pressing issues during economic downturns, such as addressing unemployment, poverty, and social unrest.
  3. Staffing Levels: Hiring freezes or layoffs may occur within police departments due to budgetary constraints, leading to decreased staffing levels. This makes it more challenging to conduct proactive patrols, respond promptly to calls, and investigate property crimes effectively.
  4. Technological Advancements: Economic downturns may hinder investments in modern technologies and tools that could enhance law enforcement’s ability to prevent property crime.
  5. Community Policing Programs: Reduced funding may limit the resources available for neighborhood watch programs and other collaborative efforts aimed at preventing property crime.

Key Takeaways about the Effects of the Economy on Property Crime Trends 

The economy, especially when in decline, has a massive impact on property crime trends. Inflation rates being the biggest catalyst for a surge in property crime and theft. The biggest things to note are that food and beverage cargo theft increases, cities near ports are hit the hardest, and police intervention and protection decreases.

It is critical to protect your precious cargo and facilities during these times, so you do not fall victim to opportunistic thieves. To learn more about proactively protecting your business and valuable assets, download our guide on Proactive vs Reactive Security.