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Inside the FBI report: The recession is hard on criminals, too.

The FBI report showing plunging rates of violent and property crime is really just another indication of tough economic times. In a nutshell, there's a lot less worth stealing.

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It's official: It's a tough time to be a criminal in America.

As new FBI crime figures point out, property crimes, murder, rape, and arson all plunged in the first six months of 2010 – some would say counterintuitively – even as unemployment and hard times hit communities from coast to coast.

The idea that the crime rate is, if not a leading indicator, at least a trailing indicator of the economy has gripped criminologists studying the Great Recession. At the same time that consumers purchase fewer true luxury items, a glut of "lightweight durables" means lower resale prices for hot computers and wide-screen TVs. And having more male residents of households hanging on the porch instead of at work makes the risk-benefit analysis of crime less appealing in recessionary times.

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"When the economy goes down, there's less to steal, people are home more, and they get drunk in bars less," says Marcus Felson, a criminologist at Texas State University, in San Marcos.


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