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Silicon Valley Bucks Property-Crime Trend

Publication Date: 
July 29, 2010
Source: 
The Wall Street Journal
Author: 
Bobby White

Professor Robert Weisberg is quoted in the Wall Street Journal on the correlation between increases in property crime in Silicon Valley and the recession. Bobby White reports:

Property crime decreased in many cities in the Bay Area and across the U.S. last year, but not in some Silicon Valley communities.

Incidents of property crime such as auto theft, larceny and burglary decreased 4.9% nationwide last year, the seventh consecutive year a decline was reported, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But cities such as Sunnyvale, Mountain View and San Jose experienced increases in property crime. City officials say the weak economy is partly to blame for the jump, but some experts say a direct link is difficult to establish.

Mountain View reported an 8% increase in property crime in 2009 compared with 2008. As part of that increase, the city reported an 8% rise in burglaries, with 253 reported incidents, and a 15% increase in motor vehicle thefts, at 165 reported incidents.

...

Robert Weisberg, a criminal law professor at Stanford University, says the increases in property crime might not be recession-related. The contrast between San Francisco and Oakland property-crime drops and the increases reported by some Silicon Valley cities suggest a more complex dynamic, he says. "There is a tendency to assume people steal more because they're desperate for money," says Mr. Weisberg. "But long-term statistical analysis does not bear that out. It's much more complicated than that and difficult to pin down."

Mr. Weisberg says it would take a drastic rise in unemployment rates or big drop in police staffing to serve as a recession-related reason. He says drops or increases in property crime might hinge on shifts in neighborhood patterns such as the addition of a security patrol for a new housing development or a civic group discontinuing outreach programs.