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Crime and the economy

Financial recessions doesn’t lead to crime −− at least not directly, according to Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes.

The hardships that come from plummeting stock and job markets won’t make someone rob the corner bodega, but it could lead them to drugs, which, in turn, could lead them to crime, Hynes explained as he spoke at a recent Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce panel that posed a question on many people’s minds: Does an economic crisis mean a spike in crime?

While the fiscal problems in the 1970s led to a sweeping increase in crime, that does not seem to be the case in 2009, mainly because of how we now treat those with addiction, Hynes explained to those gathered at Brooklyn Law School on State Street.

“In the past when we’ve had an economic downturn or a loss of jobs, people who were suffering from these problems usually turned to alcohol or drugs,” Hynes explained in an interview with this paper after the event. “It was the addiction to drugs that ultimately drove the engine of crime in the late seventies and in the eighties, but the city today has a more enlightened approach when it comes to dealing with drug−related crimes.”

Hynes said that rehab and other alternative to incarceration programs that his office currently offer and the proliferation of specialized drug courts have made sure that an increase in drug related crimes can be absorbed and taken care of “at any place in the city or state.”

“We have really gotten aggressive in finding ways to combat drug related crimes,” Hynes said. “It’s had a positive effect.”

NYPD CompStat numbers seem to back Hynes’s claims.

While many would guess that crime would skyrocket in the middle of a recession, cops in Patrol Borough Brooklyn South are seeing a 16 percent drop in felony crime as of May 10, the figures show.

NYPD officials said that most of the crimes continue to be youth−on−youth robberies involving electronics, which they see as crimes of opportunity rather than out−of−work residents turning to a life of crime to feed their families.

Hynes did note that the economic downturn could affect crimes relating to domestic violence, as financial strains affect residential home−life.

Hynes was one of many speakers at the thought−provoking symposium. Other speakers included Criminal Justice Coordinator of the City of New York John Feinblatt, John Jay College of Criminal Justice Distinguished Professor Todd Clear, Executive Director of CAMBA Joanne Oplustil, and Divine Pryor, Deputy Executive Director, Center for NuLeadership and Urban Solutions at Medgar Evers College.

Together, the panelists thoroughly “examined the notion that a down economy leads to an increase in crime, and how businesses are affected,” organizers said.

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