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9 Criminology & Pub. Pol'y 693 (2010)
Property Crime - Yes; Violence - No: Comment on Lauritsen and Heimer

handle is hein.journals/crpp9 and id is 701 raw text is: POLICY ESSAY
Property crime-yes; violence-no
Comment on Lauritsen and Heimer
Philip J. Cook
Duke University
or 150 years, empirical criminologists have analyzed the relationship between general
economic conditions and crime. The evidence is consistent that property crime, including
robbery, is mildly countercyclical (with at least one exception-auto theft). The evidence
with respect to violent crime is less clear but points to little or no relationship. Lauritsen and
Heimer's (2010, this issue) contribution is to refocus the discussion on victimization rates rather
than on commission rates and to disaggregate by ethnicity. They find evidence that nonlethal
violent victimization is countercyclical for Black and Latino males, but that result is limited
to crimes committed by strangers and to robberies (as opposed to aggravated assaults). It is
reasonable to interpret their article as confirming earlier findings.
In this essay, I provide a brief sketch of the mechanisms that in principle could generate a
relationship between the business cycle and crime followed by a few highlights from the history
of empirical research on this subject. I report results from my own research, past and current, and
then go on to discuss the distinction between victimization and perpetration. I conclude with
a short homily on why we should be interested in this line of inquiry. A key point throughout
this commentary is that business cycles are extremely complex experiments with many crime-
related variables changing simultaneously (or nearly so).
Mechanisms and Findings
The history of all advanced economies has been characterized by secular economic growth with
an overlay of short-term cycles. The profound changes in technology, standard of living, culture,
and routine activities associated with long-term economic growth affect criminal opportunities
and behavior in a variety of ways, and no theoretical basis exists for predicting the net effect.
Even the short-term fluctuations in socioeconomic conditions associated with the business
Direct correspondence to Philip J. Cook, Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy, Durham, NC 27708
(e-mail: pcook@duke.edu).
© 2010 American Society of Criminology 693
Giminology er Public Policy * Volume 9 * Issue 4

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