Crimes Change with Economic Downturn

By: Anne Cutler Email
By: Anne Cutler Email

It could only be described as a massacre. 41 year old Jiverly Wong murders a group of his peers at an Immigration Services Center in Binghamton, New York. Police say he was fired several months ago from the vacume cleaner factory where he worked. Those who knew him say his actions were not a surprise. Wong felt he was being degraded.

"Many people might not normally commit crime, but under a particular form of pressure, some kind of strain in their lives, that might drive them to committing crimes." Criminologist Grant Stitt says the economy can act as a trigger. It may be the final straw for someone with criminal intent, but Stitt says violent crime stemming from the economy is the exception, not the norm. Stitt says, "Logically, it would seem hard economic times would cause an increase in crime, but as criminologists, we don't find that to be the case."

In Reno, that theory holds true. Police have not seen an increase in crime, but rather, a change in how crimes are committed. Reno SWAT Lieutenant Mike Whan says they are getting more violent and criminals seem to have a shorter fuse. "The crime numbers are about the same, we've checked, but the types of crimes and the demeanor of those people involved in the crimes have changed," according to Whan.

That unusual behavior is reflected in recent cases.

In Washoe Valley, home video catches Steve Contreras, also known as Victor Rodriguez, running naked and throwing money in a field. Police say he had just shot two people, killing one of them. In Southern California, Los Angeles police say a father, distraught over losing his job, shot and killed his wife and five children, then committed suicide at their home.

In response to these unique crimes, Reno Police are adapting their officer training. Graphic training videos of officers being killed show how dangerous situations can become in these difficult times. They serve a difficult lesson, but Lieutenant Whan says they may be able to save lives down the road.

Whan says, "We mentally prepare officers and we don't know what's going to happen, but we mentally prepare them to make it safe for the officers."

"The worst cast scenario would be so bad that social order falls apart and people act irrationally," according to Grant Stitt, "it would be similar as to if we had a natural disaster."

While police will be prepared, experts don't except that worst case scenario to happen. Most Americans have the moral compass and community resources to guide them through this economic storm.

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