Police: Bad economy may breed crime

It's too early to tell if the economy is a major factor in Chicago's rising crime, officials say, but already one police unit is focusing on areas hit hardest by the financial meltdown.

"Abandoned buildings breed crime," police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Officers in the Troubled Buildings Unit have been identifying abandoned properties, patrolling them to keep gangs, vandals and other criminals out and getting the city involved in dealing with the owners, Bond said.

"All cities will be faced with some crimes of opportunity as a result of a downtrodden economy, and we are addressing them," Bond said, adding that police don't know yet how much of a role the meltdown is playing.

Bank robberies peaked in '06

Citywide, crime was up 3 percent this year through October, compared to the same period of 2007. Murder rose 16 percent, robbery 9 percent, burglary 5 percent and theft 3 percent.

Retailers have reported a jump in shoplifting.

"Purses and laptops are getting stolen, too," said a major retail center's security chief. "People are desperate."

But FBI spokeswoman Cynthia Yates said she didn't see a correlation between bank robberies and the economy. She pointed out that Chicago area bank heists hit a peak in 2006, when the economy was considered healthy. Holdups have risen as bank locations expanded, she said.

In New York, property crime has actually dropped this year. Burglary fell 6 percent and grand larceny 2 percent through Sunday, compared with the same period of 2007.

Murders are up 6 percent.

from Sun-Times

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