As police departments across the state prepare for cutbacks, some wonder whether higher crime rates will be part of the new deficit. The following is part two of a three part series exclusive to by Beige Luciano-Adams. Part one can be read here.

As the economy continues to plummet, many analysts are reminding us that recessions bring desperation – and that desperation leads people to commit crime.

Resurrecting a well-worn argument, Jack Kaiser of the LAEDC says, “When ever the economy gets tough, there will be an upsurge in crime. Over period of time, you’ll see [this] – in burglaries, car theft, things like that.”

Property crimes, which include burglary, larceny, vehicle theft, shoplifting, vandalism and arson, are typically associated with economic downturns. “There’s anecdotal evidence to this effect,” says Kaiser.

But while correlations between crime rates and economic conditions may be drawn, says Dr. Christine Gardiner, the causal relationship has not been proven – and likely can’t be.

“There are so many factors that affect both the economy and crime, that you can’t get a causal link. It’s a lot more complex than that.”

Gardiner says she doesn’t know of any studies that directly link the two factors, but cites a new study published in Scientific American (March 2009) that looks at young males with no more than a high-school education (the demographic most likely to commit property crimes) and links average wages and unemployment rates to increased rates in crime.

But this is an isolated case, she says, not a formula for forecast, adding that having more police on the streets won’t necessarily make us safer.

“Crime rate is not a function of one particular thing, and the number of police per resident or population is not really related to the incidence of crime – there are neighborhood, area factors that go into it,” she says.

Part three of the three-part series will appear exclusively on on Friday, reporting on the differences in crime through the various cities throughout California.