Criminal Justice Paper on Unemployment and Crime

Unemployment and Crime

Global nations can affirm that unemployment and crime rates are contentious issues positively related. The relationship between the two issues is based on the cost-benefit analysis as unemployment causes unemployment, which encourages the affected individuals to engage in criminal behaviors to earn a living. According to Friedman, Grawert, and Cullen (2016), people divide their time between legal and risky illegal activities. Legal income generating activities, however, have been scarce. Consequently, the potential gains from criminal and risky behaviors have been more frequent. Thus, unemployment is more contributing factor towards increase in crime rates than vice versa (Friedman et al., 2016). This report will, therefore, focus on how unemployment has a causal effect on social and economic crime rates. Consequently, it will discuss mitigating factors with regard to unemployment and crime rates.

Unemployment vs. Crime Rates

Crimes can be economic and social in nature. Economic crimes refer to illegal activities committed by people motivated to attain pecuniary gains. Conversely, social crimes are risky, unlawful, and unethical behaviors perpetrated by people keen to attain monetary and social gains. The link between unemployment and crime rates can, therefore, be supported by economic theory. The economic theory predicts that criminals compare costs and benefits of crime. Thus, crime rates increase if unemployment rates are also high as people engage in social and economic crimes to attain both economic and non-economic gains (Friedman et al., 2016).

In 2015, the Brennan Center analyzed crime data from various cities. The analysis affirmed that crime rates including robbery and murder are high among cities recording high unemployment rates, especially among the youths. Cities including Chicago and Washington D.C. recorded relatively high unemployment rates affirming that people in large urban regions are safer during the day than at night. Police departments also projected overall crime rates among the cities leading to the following results (Sentencing Project, 2015). Foremost, crime rates in 2015 and 2016 remained relatively high, especially in Chicago. The police departments claimed violent crime rates are likely to increase in 2017 in large urban areas including Los Angeles. The departments also asserted that murder rates might increase in future in areas such as Washington D.C., Baltimore, Houston, and New York. Based on the analysis, it was evident that Chicago has been recording significantly high crime rates since 2014. The city is also expected to record an increase in crime rates. Although the causes remain unclear, unemployment, high concentration of poverty, and an increase in risky and illegal gang activities have also contributed (Friedman et al., 2016).

Across the United States, more than one million people have been incarcerated in either state or federal prisons and jails. The incarcerated individuals include adults and delinquent youths. People with a history of violating the law from communities of color and diverse sexual preferences are victims and are disproportionally affected. For example, people previously found guilty of misdemeanor offenses are more likely to create an array of lifelong barriers hindering them to attain socioeconomic gains successfully and legally (Sentencing Project, 2015). Consequently, they engage in criminal activities, especially drug peddling and gang-related activities for quick monetary gains. The crimes, however, encourage the perpetrators to carry illegal weapons such as guns and knives as the unethical activities mainly undertaken at night. As a result, they are likely to either shoot or stab an innocent person in the streets as they strive to earn a living while engaging in illegal street activities. Thus, such individuals can be arrested and found guilty of various offenses as they were keen in ensuring unemployment does not lead to poverty by engaging in crime (Friedman et al., 2016).

Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles are among cities with higher poverty and socioeconomic disadvantages due to high unemployment rates. For example, a household can record a declining income level. The individuals within the household are, therefore, vulnerable to short-term and local income shocks and crises. Consequently, they are likely to embrace illegal activities guarantying economic gains. For example, young men in the household can join a gang whereby they commit various offenses for economic gains that can sustain the family. Conversely, young women can engage in sexual offenses and drug peddling in attempts to attain monetary gains crucial in sustaining the household (Friedman et al., 2016).

In Chicago, gang violence has been on the rise. Consequently, murder rates have been increasing with homicide perpetrators and victims being drawn from disproportional areas across Chicago. Firearm offenders in large cities are often gang members. Gang-related crimes can be challenging to solve as police departments often feel threatened. Thus, the police officers refrain from arresting either gang members or fail from convincing victims and witnesses to provide the proof needed to incarcerate the criminals. More so, the questioned can deny witnessing crime perpetrators engaging in any form of illegal activities as gangs are intimidating and dangerous. As a result, gang-related criminal activities across major cities in the country increase as the members feel confident that they can earn a living by engaging in illegal activities that police officers are not willing to investigate or prevent (Friedman et al., 2016).

Law enforcement officers have been witnessing profound tensions with the public. Police departments rely on support and cooperation from members of the community in maintaining law and order. For example, police officers rely on tips in solving crimes in the community. The tips are also vital in identifying measures the police officers can implement before the crime has been committed (Friedman et al., 2016).

Members of the community across the United States, however, distrust police officers making it hard for the administrators to solve and prevent crimes. The tensions and distrust levels between the police and the public have also encouraged crime rates to increase. This has led several police officers to either embrace illegal policies or quit their jobs as the high crime rates have led to police departmental heads to threaten their job securities. Thus, crime rates have attributed to police officers losing their jobs. They have also encouraged police officers to embrace corruption and unethical activities in attempts to maintain their job and peace with gang members (Sentencing Project, 2015). For example, police officers can opt to allow a gang to continue with criminal activities in the community provided if the members assist them in solving offenses committed by rival gangs. Thus, the criminals and law administrative officers are keen on maintaining their income generating opportunities to avoid being unemployed. The lack of job security can, therefore, encourage people to engage in crime (Friedman et al., 2016).


A report by the Sentencing Project asserts that criminal records are indicators of lifelong barriers to socioeconomic insecurities. Thus, criminal records should be applied in indicating that unemployment encourages people to engage in illegal activities for socioeconomic gains. Barriers to education, employment, and housing should, therefore, be removed to embrace socioeconomic developments. For example, persons that have served jail time should be embraced in the community. They should be provided with job opportunities to discourage them from going back in crime. Anti-poverty policies ensuring every citizen attains social and economic prosperity should be implemented. The policies can break down economic security barriers ensuring households are living above the poverty line without engaging in illegal income generating activities (Sentencing Project, 2015).

Changes in economic conditions can also increase crime rates. Inflation and oil-price shocks are some of the economic conditions that have accounted for changes and increase in crime propensity across the United States. They encourage people to engage in violent and dishonest crimes such as drug peddling to avoid unemployment elasticity for efficiency gains. The government should, therefore, ensure economic conditions to discourage citizens to embrace crimes. For example, the government should ensure citizens are able to fulfill their taxation responsibilities. Consequently, the citizens are not likely to engage in economic and social crimes to supplement their income and fulfill their taxation responsibilities (Sentencing Project, 2015).

Unemployment rate is a complicating factor encouraging people to engage in risky, illegal, and dishonest crimes. People without the opportunity to earn an income commit economic crimes including fraud, robbery, burglary, and car conversion. Conversely, social crimes including property damage and abuse offenses, dishonesty, administrative, and sexual crimes are perpetrated by people neither looking nor willing to sustain income-generating projects as they believe that it is impossible to overcome income inequalities. Thus, perpetrators are encouraged to engage in the criminal activities to reduce income inequalities. As a result, families, communities, and the nation’s economy ought to implement policies ensuring people  access job opportunities. Consequently, criminal activities can decrease, and the country can be safe either at night or during the day as gangs and individual offenders no longer rule the streets in attempts to earn a living.



Friedman, M., Grawert, A., & Cullen, J. (2016). Crimes in 2016: A preliminary analysis. Retrieved from Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law

Sentencing Project (2015). Americans with criminal records: Poverty and opportunity profile. Retrieved from